Want to give Audience-Centered Presentation? Learn these 3 skills.

Exploring Empathy, Responsiveness and Relevance as keys to Audience-Centered Presentation
Daily Quote: ” Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection – or compassionate action.”  Daniel Goleman, Social Intelligence  
The R.A.T.E.R. is a useful tool to measure your ability to be Audience-Center in presenting or public speaking. Your ability to see and relate to, understand and respect the inner world of others, doesn’t mean agreeing with the other person’s perceived experience . For many, empathy is what I’ll call a touchy-feely word. “It’s all about feeling and relating to what others feel , isn’t it? – being compassionate. Does that really have any place in the hard-nosed world of business? One of the problems with empathy is that it is often confused with being ‘soft’ – overly sensitive, compassionate and even emotionally “mushy” or sentimental. It can be associated with tolerating bad performance or bad behavior, which is probably more to do with avoiding conflict than empathy.

Let’s be clear, empathy is simply the ability to comprehend and be respectful of the inner state/experience of others, it does not mean agreeing with the other person’s perceived experience or condoning the actions they take based on their interpretations. It is also not just limited to understanding another’s feelings. Empathy includes an ability to identify and articulate another’s perspective, expectations, wants and needs. Great communicators are empathic because they try to see the world through the eyes of their audience. By doing so they show respect and caring for their audience and when people feel respect they respond. There is an old saying, “I don’t care about what you know until I know that you care.”

As an empathic presenter you need to be  self-aware and sensitive to how their own behavior impacts others.  Empathy is outward and inward looking. Learn to be responsive and respectful as a presenter by identifying audience needs and being “quick on your feet” to provide relevant examples and tell engaging stories about your ideas. Show respect and and empathy your audience will respond in kind.

Self-Coaching Challenge: To get at this topic in short form, I’d ask you to take this self-evaluation to score yourself on a scale of 10, where 1 is awful and 10 is being masterful as a presenter in crafting and demonstrating empathy, relevance and responsiveness toward the audience members.  What follows are three questions about empathy. How do you stack-up?

1. Empathy is Item #1 I work-in to my message when presenting to others? _____

2. I am a full-fledged student of empathy, aiming for the same level of “professional mastery and excellence” that I’d aim for in a specialty like Human Resources, Brand Marketing, Finance or Business Strategy____________.

3. I stop at different times during my presentation to see how the audience is taking–in or understanding my message ________.

 

 

 

 

Daily Quote and Reflection: Using Perseverance to Overcome Obstacles and Negative Thinking

Daily Quote: “Always continue the climb. It is possible for you to do whatever you choose, if you first get to know who you are and are willing to work with a power that is greater than ourselves to do it”.  Ella Wheeler Wilcox

                                                                                                       Another one by Michael Jordan

“Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give-up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it”.

Reflection: Perseverance is not an innate skill you are born with, it is learned and nurtured through life experiences. You can learn to challenge yourself by accepting the notion that sometimes you will make bad choices, take the wrong road or fail at a task or goal you are trying to achieve. The lesson to learn is that you never have to accept these things as enevitable. You have tomorrow to try a new way or learn a skill or task anew.  This called perseverance or resilience. I think it is in the willingness to keep trying that you learn to grow and develop all your potentials. If an activity is to easy there is no growth because you become bored or disinterested. On the other hand if you can find the “learning spot” where an activity pushes you to do more the challenge increases your motivation and energy to push ahead.

It is a habit of the brain. The Perseverance Factor is a practical way for overcoming unexpected failures, challenges, and unlucky setbacks in life. Remember your brain is driven by plasticity and you can increase perseverance and resilience by changing the way you think about problems and difficult obstacles in life. Perseverance or the resilience habit challenges your negative self-talk and basic beliefs that cause us to give-up and quit trying to accomplish our goals. Perseverance has been examined in many research studies in cognitive psychology, particularly the work of Aaron Beck, Father of  Cognitive Behavior Therapy  and Martin Seligman, the Founder of Positive Psychology movement.

Self-Coaching Challenge: How to create “flexible optimism”

Commit to challenge self-criticisms and negative thoughts by using positive self-talk. Try the 5 step cognitive tool of:

STOP-Deep Breathing–Challenge Thinking- Reframe- Act. This is not a feel good quick fix or psycho babble cliché. It works and you need to be patient and persevere when using this CBT tool.

Now think back to an actual situation where your  thoughts  upset you and you end choosing to self-limiting and self-sabotaging behavior and don’t do what you wanted to do. For example: ‘You are on your daily run and see the police ahead involved with some situation and you say yourself this is going to be awful, I’m going to be stopped by them and that worries me…’- (and then you turn and run another way to avoid them. Here is a better way to handle this troubling situation by using what cognitive psychologist call “Thought Stopping”

1. As you notice yourself saying these negative automatic thoughts, you can stop them mid-stream by saying to yourself “STOP”.

2. You might also wear a rubber band around your wrist, giving it a little pull each time you notice you are allowing negative thinking to take over or flood your mind. It will make you more aware of how often, and in what situation, you are having the negative thoughts.

3. Challenge the negative thought: Challenge the thoughts, examine them to see if they’re valid. Ask –‘Where’s the evidence for negative thought? Is there another way to look at it?’. Example: ‘Actually, it’s just the police doing their job, I don’t actually know what’s going to happen, all I can do is be who I am and this is going to be okay because they are protecting our neighborhood

4. Reframe situation and thoughts. For example, say I can cope with this situation if  they stop me and want to talk that is okay. I will be safe.  Don’t torture yourself with negative thoughts just be yourself and say this is okay I seen police do their job before and it doesn’t involve me.

5. Act-Calmly go about your business, Say I can do this I have done it before… 

Summary: STOP–Take a Deep Breath  –Challenge Thinking– Reframe Thinking Using Positive thoughts and then Act. 

Good Luck and let us know how this new approach worked for you.

Choosing Self-Coaching: Means Commitment to Openness and Authenticity

Self-Coaching –Is about discovering your strengths and gifts and taking steps to develop in positive ways to reach your full potential. I make the assumption that you already have the ability, talents and knowledge to reach your full potential but irrational thinking, shame, interference and painful experiences are blocking breakthroughs for living a more daring and fulfilling life. I developed a “process with structure” framework to support your goals and push you to not hold back or let interference block the true self you can become. The Self-Coaching principles and processes are focused on your needs and wants. A lot of people can relate to—the frustrations and emotional baggage of barriers in life, and why it is important to reflect and learn new ways to learn from these experiences, and figuring out a more positive way forward. Self-Coaching provides the opportunity to take a pause in order to really experience what you are feeling and how you can create more effective ways to handle difficult life situations in this modern era of constant communication and stimulation.

Key question in the Self-Coaching process is –How do you go about discovering your true potential and the courage to act upon and share your authentic self? In discussing that we are all infallible human beings One answer is to study and listen to Dr. Berne Brown when she so clearly points us in the right direction for living a more fulfilling life based on vulnerability, courage,  openness and authenticity when she writes, “We need our lives back. It’s time to reclaim the gifts of imperfection—the courage to be real, the compassion we need to love ourselves and others, and the connection that gives true purpose and meaning to life. These are the gifts that bring love, laughter, gratitude, empathy and joy into our lives.”

Daily Quote, Reflection: Belief in Self…Yes, I can.

Daily Quote: “If I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.” Mahatma Gandhi

Reflection: Support and stability are the corner-stones of self-belief.  Think about the people you know who seem to bring out the best in you whenever you talk to them: You feel comfortable talking to them and could go on talking forever. They could be old friends or someone you just met, but the conversation just seems to flow smoothly and naturally.

If you wish you had the natural ability or strengths to perform at a higher level of excellence, don’t despair. Having meaningful and successful performances is something that can be learned, and with focus and deliberative practice, like the Smart-Steps process you can become better at it. The key is belief in your self to perform in difficult situations.

According to Albert Bandura, self-efficacy is “the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations.” In other words, self-efficacy is a person’s belief in his or her ability to succeed in a particular situation. Bandura described these beliefs as determinants of how people think, behave, and feel (1994).

Self-Coaching Challenge:  The right fit at the right time.

Negative Self-Fulfilling Prophecy– don’t get stuck in a negative environment or pigeon whole as such and such like you are negative person or not strong in task implementation or follow-up through or what ever the negative characteristic that has been put on you by others. The key question is whether you want to try to change that prevailing perception…  Everyone has an opinion, and some of them matter and some are inaccurate. And the moment you start believing and worrying about what other people think about your strengths or potential, you’ll be too caught up in defending yourself to find your strengths and positive energy for being successful and reaching your potential. Of course there is value in feedback and constructive criticism but if the overriding view of you is negative and you start to believe it, then failure is almost guaranteed

Unless someone is giving you feedback that’s going to help you grow, ignore it. Some people give “advice” with the result of causing you to stop believing in yourself this can cause harm and almost impossible obstacles to overcome, whether it’s intentionally or unintentionally. You maybe battling an uphill battle of miss-perceptions. Pick and choose who you listen to very carefully, then create a personal development plan for change in the next thirty days.

 

Daily Quote and Reflection: Want more Positive Energy practice Renewal and Recovery

Daily Quote: “The richest, happiest, and most productive lives are characterized by the ability to fully engage in the challenge at hand, but also to disengage periodically and seek renewal”–Dr. James Loehr and Schwarz, The Power of Full Engagement

Reflection:  Dr. Loehr and Scwartz quote reminded me of some of the posts I have written on the power of self-renewal and recovery. It is my opinion that the ideas of engagement, renewal and recovery are all linked to the level of our happiness. So I recommend now an then to take the time to do a personal audit of how you are spending your time and how do these daily activities impact your energy and vitality for living a more productive and higher quality of life.

Self-Coaching Challenge: Identify the best thing you have done for yourself in the last month. It could be as simple as waking-up earlier on Monday – Friday and spending the first 30 min. exercising, eating a great breakfast with the kids and 30 min. of mindfulness or meditating before reporting in for work. If you have difficulty identifying something , then it is even more important for you to STOP and take a look at how you are using your time.

Try this exercise identify how you use your time. We all have only 168 hours per week. This week keep track of how many hours are spent in these life activity categories:

Work ____, Family _______, Exercise______, School or Community Volunteering ________,Sleeping______

Fun and Recreation_________ ( Chatting with Friends, Reading for Pleasure, Music, Reading writing poetry etc_____

Spiritual, Religious ____________ Learning new skills_________Other_________. Total 168.

Reflective questions:

How do you feel about your allotment of time overall– 1 very satisfied to 10 unsatisfied/need changes.

Are there any key activities that are left out of your time allotment review?

What are the changes you are committed to make?

What kind of support will you need to make these changes?

How would the changes improve your quality of life?

When are you going to start making these changes?

Part II: Connecting With Your Audience: Be Caring, Authentic and Responsive

Playbook for “Presenting to Win”

Daily Quote: They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel. Carl Buechner

In a world where communication effectiveness is the critical key to success for team and interpersonal interactions–many of us do not spend enough time on improving our people skills. In essence, my vision is to change the world of presentation one performance and one person at a time. The way I teach it varies from engagement to engagement and person to person. Some of my teaching is one on one coaching, sometimes in small groups and some times to large audience trying to model and demonstrate effective engagement and connection strategies and tactics.

My Presenter’s Playbook to Win: Includes but is not limited to the following principles:

1. Embrace the challenge of the presentation and opportunity to show your best.

2. Trust and believe in your message and ability to deliver it in a memorable way.

3. Get out of worrying about acceptance and results and into the process of connecting with the audience

4. Be audience-centered and focused not self-centered and arrogant.

5. Be prepared to accept surprises and be confident that nothing will upset you on the platform.

6.  Learn to be flexible and open and ready to change at any moment by reading your audience and listening for non-verbal feedback

7. Don’t just “wing it”  learn to love planning, design and deliberative practice.

8.. Love your message and audience–don’t effort or try so hard be authentic. Learn to be in the moment and play to your natural strengths

9. Respect audience attention span and learning capacity.–Don’t over load them with facts , figures and information

10. Remember — Perfection is a killer to spontaneity so be  present in the moment and  have fun doing it. Be audience -centered by being responsive, caring, and saying things that are relevant and interesting to the audience.

Daily Quote, Reflection and Self-Coaching Challenge: 6 Steps for Continuous Personal Change

Daily Quote and Reflection:

First Law of Self-Directed Coaching: ” To achieve personal growth and full potential first requires “self-awareness and acceptance”. Carl Rogers, Father of Client-Center Therapy 

Reflection: I agree with Dr.Rogers statement because if you do not know your self and are reluctant to examine and learn both your strengths and areas needing improvement life is just one activity after another. In addition, acceptance is not a state of passivity or inaction. I am not saying you can’t change the world, right wrongs, or replace evil with good but I like to focus on things I can control, thus making my life more exciting and fun.  Acceptance is, in fact, the first step to successful action. If you don’t fully accept the reality of a situation precisely the way it is, you will have difficulty getting going to change it . Moreover, if you don’t fully accept the situation, you will never really know if the situation needs changing. In the Self-Coaching Challenge I am going to provide a model for you to get going on personal changes.

Self-Coaching Challenge: Creating Your Future in next 30 days: 6 Steps for Continuous Personal Change 

CONTINUOUS CHANGE AND PERSONAL GROWTH MODEL

1. Ask yourself WHY you want to make this personal change

2. ASSESS?  Where your are NOW ( Point A)

3. WHAT? Describe in realistic and specific detail your end goal ( Point B )?

4. HOW? Creating the future (Development Plan)

5. ACTION PLAN: WHO, WHERE, BY WHEN

6. CONTINUOUS LEARNING AND FEEDBACK LOOP: Use a metric to assess your changes. Ask others how you are doing in regard to a specific change goal, like listening. Do they see the changes? Are they experiencing you in new way? What suggestions do they have for you to change even more?  Thank the for the feedback.   

Power of Self-Coaching: Frank Shorter’s Theory and Tips for Running

Frank Shorter, winner of the gold medal in the Olympic marathon in the 1972 Munich games and a silver medal in the Montreal games in 1976, put running on the map in the U.S. This great long-distance runner of all time discusses is theory of self-coaching. Here are a few comments from Shorter on how self-motivation and discipline are keys to success not just in running, but generally in living a more productive and fulfilling life style.

Frank Shorter shares his viewpoint and tips on the power of  self-coaching: ” My simple, basic theory involves running very easily—at what I call conversational pace—75-90 percent of the time. Integrate short, fast interval training at 5K race pace if you want to run faster. If you want to run a marathon, add a long run once a week working up to at least two hours (20 miles if you’re very serious). A clear outline of these training theories can be found in my book, Running for Peak Performance...I have coached myself.  I do not think of myself as that unusual. To me, it shows how we have lost sight of just how individual and independent athletic success ( or other successes) can be with just a little self-motivated focus. In a way, relying on yourself is a lost art…In a way I think of myself as a “sandlot” runner”.

Self- Coaching  Challenge: What in your life provides the passion, energy and focus that Frank Shorter found in running?

Daily Quote and Reflection: Critical question for Living a Fulfilling Life?

Quote: My grandson ask me a profound question that life asks of us all. And, that question is not “what is the meaning of my life?” It is “what meaning am I creating with my life?” 

Reflection: I am trying to live a life full of respect and support for others. This life is one of trying to care for others without judgment and with empathy for their goals and dreams for a happy life. This ads-up to be my definition of a living a life of meaning. 

Self-Coaching Challenge: How would you answer such a question from an eight year old?

Over the next 24 hours figure out your answer and share it with at least three other people. Good Luck and have fun with this exercise.

Coach Mark   

Exploring the Luck Factor in Life–6 Principles for Increasing Your Luck

Daily Quote: Being relaxed and open allows lucky people to see what’s around them and to maximize what’s around them. Richard Wiseman, author of The Luck Factor: Changing Your Luck, Changing Your Life: The Four Essential Principles (Miramax, 2003), …Lucky people look at events differently than others. They are more observant and typically have a different mindset than unlucky folks”.  

Dr. Tom Peter’s once said: Luck was the main reason for selling over 5 million books called in Search of Excellence. Most business books of genre   generally 5,000 copies. When I heard this from Peters in one of his lectures I was amazed and stunted. I thought how could I bottle this thing called luck for selling the next breakthrough management book or the “pet rock” phenomena. I searched the internet and now can share with you that according to some researchers there are specific reasons why some people are lucky and others are not.

“It’s better to be lucky than smart.” “You make your own luck in life.” “Some folks are just born lucky.” In an environment marked by rising

Dr. Richard Wiseman, is head of a psychology research department at the University of Hertfordshire in England.  He thinks most of us  could use a little luck — at our companies, in our careers, with our investments. Richard Wiseman thinks that he can help you find and create more luck in your life. For the past eight years, he and his colleagues have studied what makes some people lucky and others not. After conducting thousands of interviews and hundreds of experiments, Wiseman says he has cracked the LUCK CODE.  In an article in Fast Company he hypothesis that luck is not due to kismet, karma, or coincidence, he says. Instead, lucky folks — without even knowing it — think and behave in ways that create good fortune in their lives. In his new book,The Luck Factor: Changing Your Luck, Changing Your Life: The Four Essential Principles (Miramax, 2003), Wiseman reveals four approaches to life that turn certain people into luck magnets. Wiseman’s research has uncovered four principles to create more good fortune in your life and career. And I have added a few more ideas from my reading on the subject of LUCK.

1. MAXIMIZE CHANCE OPPORTUNITIES

Lucky people are skilled at creating, noticing, and acting upon chance opportunities. They do this in various ways, which include building and maintaining a strong network, adopting a relaxed attitude to life, and being open to new experiences.

2. LISTEN TO YOUR GUT AND LISTEN TO LUCKY HUNCHES

Lucky people make effective decisions by listening to their intuition and gut feelings. They also take steps to actively boost their intuitive abilities — for example, by meditating and clearing their mind of other thoughts.

3. POSITIVE EXPECTATIONS ABOUT LIFE AND THE FUTURE

Lucky people are certain that the future will be bright. Over time, that expectation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because it helps lucky people persist in the face of failure and positively shapes their interactions with other people.

4. TURN BAD LUCK INTO GOOD. LEMONADE STORY.

Lucky people employ various psychological techniques to cope with, and even thrive upon, the ill fortune that comes their way. For example, they spontaneously imagine how things could have been worse, they don’t dwell on the ill fortune, and they take control of the situation.

5. Resilience, not luck, is the signature of greatness.  

Nietzsche wrote, “What does not kill me, makes me stronger.” We all get bad luck. The question is how to use it to turn it into “one of the best things that ever happened,” to not let it become a psychological prison.

6. Luck favors the persistent, but you can persist only if you survive. If you stay in the game long enough, good luck tends to return, but if you get knocked out, you’ll never have the chance to be lucky again. Luck favors the persistent, but you can persist only if you survive.

Daily Quote and Reflecting: Coping with Losses and Transitions in Life.

Daily Quote: ” Chaos is the primal state of pure energy for every true new beginning…living during these turbulent times of rapid and unexpected change is one of the most difficult tasks a person will face in the 21st Century. In adapting to new realities, people need a map  to chart a course through chaos. William Bridges

It  may just mean doing a better job at whatever you’re doing or trying new things that are more fulfilling . There are men and women who make the world better just by being the kind of people they are –and that too is a strong commitment to living life “on purpose. They have the gift of kindness or courage or loyalty or integrity. It matters very little whether they’re behind the wheel of a truck or a country doctor or bringing up a family.

Interesting discussion about athletes on ESPN sports talk by Mike and Mike a few days ago–They talked about how professional players have an attitude that does not help them get through life transitions. For example, I am going to do this thing I love forever, I don’t need the help, I am bullet proof and  will play forever. These are false ideas and significant obstacles to dealing with reality when it hits and their career is over. They setup a difficult and sometimes painful situation for getting through life’s transitions.

Another difficult area in losses or transitions is whether the unfortunate event is an on time and off time loss–I am 65 and it is time to retire (on time) or I am 25-year-old soldier and I loss both of my legs or a rookie all-star football athlete who sustains a career ending injury, or you are 44 and get fired because of circumstances or incompetence…etc. If you want more information on how to handle these situations see the National Best selling book called  Transitions by William Bridges. This book discusses the many scenarios and struggles people confront when facing loses or in the need to start over in life because of tragedies or just circumstances.   Finding one’s way is difficult so we need support and education to cope with losses and find new opportunities for creating a stable life and new identity.

Let me summarize some of the questions that Bridges and others have raised that you might ask yourself  that you can face the many transitions life:

  1. Are you being honest with yourself about the situation or circumstances you are facing?
  2. What challenges does this life transition present? What is changing? What are up and downsides to this change?
  3. What will actually be different because of this challenging situation?
  4. What losses might I experience? How can I prepare or get out ahead of these possible changes?
  5. What strengths do I have and what are my weaknesses or voids that have been created by this loss?
  6. What does success look like once I have confronted and overcome this transition or loss?

One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living or don’t ask for help when we need it. We are all dreaming of some magical time over the horizon instead of enjoying the moment and using the time right in front of us to prepare for the expected or unexpected events that confront us all at some point in life.

Self-Coaching Mastery: Be who you are…5 Ways to Overcome Negative Mindset

“Your identity is what you’ve committed yourself to. It may just mean doing a better job at whatever you’re doing. There are men and women who make the world better just by being the kind of people they are –and that too is a kind of commitment. They have the gift of kindness or courage or loyalty or integrity. It matters very little whether they’re behind the wheel of a truck or running a country store or bringing up a family.”  John Gardner on Self-Renewal

One of the key obstacles to self- renewal is fear. The reason fear is at the center as a barrier to self-renewal  is that fear what fuels negative outlooks and excuses. We start making excuses when we are afraid how someone will react to something we say or do. Maybe you say you’re “busy” when a friend asks you out for drinks, or maybe you say “I don’t know how to…” when you haven’t even tried. We all have anxieties, fears and make make excuses once in a while, here’s how to overcome this negative mindset and live a more engaging and fulfilling life.

  1. Focus on the type of self-talk you use. Listen to the kind of words we use is beneficial in understanding our excuse, fears and anxieties in life. Do you use negative and inaccurate words to describe your actions? Such as …stupid, dummy or other vague terms to put yourself down. Internal Your internal dialogue has a powerful way of directing your thinking, physical appearance and actions.  To stop this negative drumbeat we must stop and challenge the messages we are sending to ourselves. To over ride this “alien”  and unhelpful negative talk we must observe our internal talk and determine if it is communicating in a way that is helpful helping us get what we need and want in life.
  2.  Practice honesty. The first thing to know is that an excuse is nothing more than a lie to ourselves and others. The more you make excuses, the easier it gets. Lying, like most everything else, becomes easier the more you do it. But so does telling the truth. Practice telling yourself and other people the truth all of the time. If you don’t want to go out with a friend, don’t lie. Tell the truth. I am sure  YOU appreciate your friends telling you the truth?
  3. Prioritize. Use your talent, time, and resources doing things that are important and meaningful for you. Stop saying yes to doing things that you don’t like doing. If the person or project does not fit your strengths or interests or excite you or make you happy, then don’t waste your time. If there are people in your life who are draining your energy, then don’t give them yours. Make a list of what is important to you and do things toward that end. If spending time with family is a priority, then take steps to prove it.
  4. Start believing in yourself. Why not you…Why not us… Russell Wilson’s ( winning super bowl QB ) Dad constantly asked his son “why not you”…this reflective and encouraging question stayed “top of the mind ” for Russel through many ups and downs of his sports journey.  This question has kept him focused and motivated to be the best he can be in life. It is a very positive motivator for him. It is easy to say “Be positive!” to people, but it is a lot harder in practice. You might wake up in a great mood, but by the time you get to work that mood is nothing but a distant memory. Don’t let the weather or traffic ruin your day, or your argument with your wife dim the days outlook. If you find yourself hating the world, take a deep breath and think about a pleasant memory of your life. This positive recall will usually make you smile. And, smiling is one of  many ways to turn your thinking from negative mood into a bright, shiny one.
  5. Be Self-compassionate. One of the nasty ways excuses creep in to your mental mindset is “self talk”. Let me re-state a few key ideas from the above #1 point. Self talk is the way you think about yourself, or even talk about yourself to others. If you are aware of the power of self-efficacy you know the way you view a task or a challenge, and the way you view your own ability to conquer that task has a direct impact on your ability to actually complete it. If you approach a project thinking it is too difficult, or that you are not good enough, then chances are you won’t do it. The good news is that once you become aware of how you are talking to yourself, you can stop. Each time you hear yourself using doubt as an excuse, stop. Change your mental dialog into something positive, and you will become something positive.

Daily Quote and Reflections: Just Thinking and Musing about Self–Renewal and Meaning in Life…John Gardner

Extended excerpt from a speech presented to the respected and renown consulting firm of McKinsey in 1990. Don’t miss the closing remarks on living a meaningful life because this is a great example of how to  use story telling to connect with an audience in a memorable way.

“Personal Renewal”
Delivered to McKinsey & Company, Phoenix, AZ
November 10, 1990 

” Nothing is ever finally safe. Every important battle is fought and re-fought. We need to develop a resilient, indomitable morale that enables us to face those realities and still strive with every ounce of energy to prevail. You may wonder if such a struggle — endless and of uncertain outcome — isn’t more than humans can bear. But all of history suggests that the human spirit is well fitted to cope with just that kind of world.

Remember I mentioned earlier the myth that learning is for young people. I want to give you some examples, In a piece I wrote for Reader’s Digest not long ago, I gave what seemed to me a particularly interesting true example of renewal. The man in question was 53 years old. Most of his adult life had been a losing struggle against debt and misfortune. In military service he received a battlefield injury that denied him the use of his left arm. And he was seized and held in captivity for five years. Later he held two government jobs, succeeding at neither. At 53 he was in prison — and not for the first time. There in prison, he decided to write a book, driven by Heaven knows what motive — boredom, the hope of gain, emotional release, creative impulse, who can say? And the book turned out to be one of the greatest ever written, a book that has enthralled the world for ever 350 years. The prisoner was Cervantes; the book: Don Quixote.

Another example was Pope John XXIII, a serious man who found a lot to laugh about. The son of peasant farmers, he once said “In Italy there are three roads to poverty — drinking, gambling and fanning. My family chose the slowest of the three.” When someone asked him how many people worked in the Vatican he said “Oh, about half.” He was 76 years old when he was elected Pope. Through a lifetime in the bureaucracy, the spark of spirit and imagination had remained undimmed, and when he reached the top he launched the most vigorous renewal that the Church has known in this century.

Still another example is Winston Churchill. At age 25, as a correspondent in the Boer War he became a prisoner of war and his dramatic escape made him a national hero. Elected to Parliament at 26, he performed brilliantly, held high cabinet posts with distinction and at 37 became First Lord of the Admiralty. Then he was discredited, unjustly, I believe, by the Dardanelles expedition — the defeat at Gallipoli– and lost his admiralty post. There followed 24 years of ups and downs. All too often the verdict on him was “Brilliant but erratic…not steady, not dependable.” He had only himself to blame. A friend described him as a man who jaywalked through life. He was 66 before his moment of flowering came. Someone said “It’s all right to be a late bloomer if you don’t miss the flower show.” Churchill didn’t miss it.

Well, I won’t give you any more examples. From those I’ve given I hope it’s clear to you that the door of opportunity doesn’t really close as long as you’re reasonably healthy. And I don’t just mean opportunity for high status, but opportunity to grow and enrich your life in every dimension. You just don’t know what’s ahead for you. And remember the words on the bronze plaque “Some men and women make the world better just by being the kind of people they are.” To be that kind of person would be worth all the years of living and learning. 

Many years ago I concluded a speech with a paragraph on the meaning in life. The speech was reprinted over the years, and 15 years later that final paragraph came back to me in a rather dramatic way, really a heartbreaking way. ”

A man wrote to me from Colorado saying that his 20 year-old daughter had been killed in an auto accident some weeks before and that she was carrying in her billfold a paragraph from a speech of mine. He said he was grateful because the paragraph — and the fact that she kept it close to her — told him something he might not otherwise have known about her values and concerns. I can’t imagine where or how she came across the paragraph, but here it is:

“Meaning is not something you stumble across, like the answer to a riddle or the prize in a treasure hunt. Meaning is something you build into your life. You build it out of your own past, out of your affections and loyalties, out of the experience of humankind as it is passed on to you, out of your own talent and understanding, out of the things you believe in, out of the things and people you love, out of the values for which you are willing to sacrifice something. The ingredients are there. You are the only one who can put them together into that unique pattern that will be your life. Let it be a life that has dignity and meaning for you. If it does, then the particular balance of success or failure is of less account.” 

Part III: Overcoming Negative Thinking: Case Study On Pete Carroll of Seattle Seahawks

Daily Quote: “Treat each day as if something positive were about to happen”. Pete Carroll’s Mom  

Why I am pulling for the Seattle Seahawks to win the Super Bowl. They are are already winners. Pete Carroll has instilled a philosophy based on John Wooden’s theory of Leadership called The Pyramid for Success. 

During his year out of football the following year, Carroll did some serious self-reflecting. He asked himself what he could do better and how he could successful use his positive philosophy work in the ultra competitive world of pro football. He would often repeat and reflect on the words of his mother, who often told him to “treat each day as if something positive were about to happen”. This mindset and mental toughness was considered nonsense and  “too soft” for the tough guy culture of the NFL, where people tend to focus on things that could go wrong. Carroll would no longer focus on the negative. He would create a culture of respect and “positivity” by focusing on the unique strengths and contributions of everyone in the organization.

He also read Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court, the powerful memoir by the former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden. It resonated with Carroll not only because Wooden needed 17 years before winning his first national championship, but also because he believed in being positive and nurturing.

Ultimately he formulated a blueprint based on Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success. He simplified Wooden’s approach by focusing on fun, fundamentals, positivity, team caring and competition. Carroll’s approach was underpinned by taking advantage of the uniqueness of each individual and challenging them to be more than they thought they could be. He would have themes for each day of the week—Tell the Truth Monday, Competition Wednesday, Turnover Thursday. He would have the first-string offense and defense face off in brief unscripted scrimmages so they would be ready for things they hadn’t prepared for. He would blare music throughout practice to raise the energy level and force his players to focus and refocus to eliminate distractions and focus on the “here and Now” moment.

“I didn’t know I’d get another chance in the NFL—I didn’t think that—so that’s why I went the college route, to try to see what would happen if we applied these philosophies,” Carroll says. “Fortunately, going into SC, I was so ready to go in there. I had had a big change in my thinking and had adjusted things, so that was like the proving ground, and it worked out great. We’ve come here to Seattle and we haven’t done one thing different. It basically comes down to taking care of the people in your program and making them the best they can be—not giving up on them and never failing to be there for them. They don’t even totally know that’s how we are with them, because we do it so completely.”

Self-Coaching Challenge: I challenge you to read more about both Coach Wooden’s and Carroll’s philosophy and develop over the next month your personal Philosophy for Living a More Meaningful and Fulling Life.  

Part I: Learn to Overcome your Demons and Negative Self-talk

Daily Quote: “First your negative talk controls and ignores your positivity, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win… Remember your past does not determine your future.” MWH 

Each of us has a set of internal messages that play like a tape recorder over and over in our minds. These internal messages can be either negative or positive. This dialogue frames our reaction to different people and circumstances in our life.

One of the ways to recognize, promote, and sustain optimism, is to observe and intentionally fill our thoughts with positive self-talk.

Too often the pattern of self-talk developed through life experiences is negative. We remember the negative things we were told as children by parents, siblings, or teachers. For some reason this negative commentary has more power than positive messages. Most of the research shows that it takes 3-5 positive messages to override negative ones.(Fredrickson and Gottman). Over the years these negative self-talk messages have replayed again and again in our minds, fueling our thoughts of frustration, shame, fear, guilt, and hopelessness.

Overriding these negative patterns takes willpower and sustain practice to change our brain. If people learned as children that they were worthless, we show them how truly special they are. If while growing up you learned to expect bad reactions, or unlucky events, you need to rewire these patterns and find better ways to react and create a more positive future.

Self-Coaching Challenge: Try the following reflection and re-wiring exercise.

1) Write down some of the negative messages that replay in your mind, ones that undermine your ability to feel comfortable and in control of events and circumstances in your life. Be specific whenever possible, and include anyone you remember who contributed to that message.

2) Now take a moment to focus on how to override these negative messages with positive experiences by remembering events where you triumphed in spite of negativity or changed negative self-talk to positive messages. Don’t give up if you don’t find them quickly. For every negative message there is a positive truth that will override and counter balance the power of the negativity.

You may have a negative message that replays in your head every time you make a mistake. As a child you may have been told “you’ll never amount to anything,” or “you can’t do anything right.” When you make a mistake — and you will, because we all do — you can choose to overwrite that message with a positive one, such as “I choose to accept my responsibility and grow from my mistake,” or “ When I find the lesson in making mistakes I now have the opportunity to thinking and behave in a more effective way. As I learn from my mistakes, I’m becoming a more functioning person.”

During this exercise, mistakes become opportunities to replace negative views of yourself with positive options for personal worth and growth. In addition, every time your over-ride a negative thought you form new paths for succeeding in the future.

 Positive Self-talk is Mental Toughness. Positive self-talk is  mental toughness in action. It is looking at circumstances with eyes that see the reality and truth of what is happening. Positive self-talk is about reaffirming your strength and worth. One of the fundamental truths is that life is difficult. To expect perfection in yourself is unrealistic. To expect no difficulties in life, whether through your own actions or sheer circumstance, is also unrealistic.

Daily Quote and Reflection: Accepting and Knowing Your Natural Self

Daily Quote : ” Knowing how to stop, relax and step-up to difficult people and challenging situation is a critical skill needed to grow and develop as a leader.” Robert Greenleaf, author of Servant Leader     

Reflection:In the moment of truth, having the ability for controlling impulses and  powerful emotions is important for all of us. I have found this technique of saying to yourself—  STOP… BREATHE…REFLECT…THINK allows you to get back in control by triggering the executive function of your brain. Your emotional impulses of fight or flight slow down so you can take charge in a more deliberate way by observing and reflecting on the other person and the situation you find yourself in.

When safety, trust, congruence and self-disclosure are established, these qualities support the actions that lead to greater self-awareness to be who you are–a mixture of hopes, dreams, caring and ambitions and disappointments, anger frustrations etc. With this acceptance of your natural self comes a willingness to experiment, take risk and grow in the process. When we feel able to experiment, take risks and make ourselves vulnerable, our ability to learn, to increase our self-awareness (and our awareness of others) to change our immediate impulsive reaction and over ride our emotions in order to achieve our goals increases dramatically. Find ways to successful step-up or lean-in provides an opportunity to constructively take on life as an adventure. Don’t be afraid t try new things, take risks and use your natural strengths. 

Self-Coaching challenge: Read the poem–Be Strong. This poem will highlight the struggle between our good and bad self. After reading the poem thing of a situation where you lost it.  Capture in your Personal Journal what the situation was, who was involved  and how you reacted. Then based on what you now know about handling difficult and emotionally charged situations reflect and think through how you would handle the situation differently, if you had the chance to relive it. Good Luck and keep us posted on your progress to learn more optimal ways to handle these challenges.