Are You Reading This Because You’re Procrastinating Doing Something Else?!

 

On the UCLA campus during finals week, I saw a student of mine stretched out on the grass under a tree, looking up at the leaves. I stopped near my student and looked down. “Donald! What’s up?” Without moving a lick, he looked over at me. “I’m creating the now,” he said.

Carolyn See

 

 

This post is about the “now” I’m creating. . .

 

Later in June I’m slated to begin teaching at UCLA Extension my eleven-week “Dynamics of Interpersonal Communications” course.

Online.

 

I’ve never taught a class online.

Never.

 

Some of you who read this blog have taken the course. You know that it’s highly “interpersonal” and interactive. And so, you might not be surprised to read that I feel intimidated by the task at hand!

 

I hadn’t intended on writing about this. I had another idea for the post. BUT I kept coming back to this notion of me being a fraud!

My website is called The Business of Confidence. On a regular schedule I toss out advice on how to be confident when speaking or engaging in difficult conversations. And now, here I am, struggling to find the confidence to do something seemingly “simple” – teach an online course!

 

Yes – I feel like a fraud. At least of sorts.

 

I’ve procrastinated for weeks in doing the prep work the school has asked of me. In fact, writing this post is part of that procrastination!

 

Why have I procrastinated?

 

Well, the answer both surprises – and – embarrasses me. That’s why I’ll share it with you.

 

  • I’m afraid of failing.
  • I’m afraid the online course won’t be “perfect” (not that I think the in-class course is “perfect” in all respects).
  • I’m afraid I’ll mishandle the technology and look like an idiot to the participants.
  • I’m afraid the school will finally realize I’m incompetent and not renew my contract.
  • I’m afraid if I don’t master the technology I’ll miss out on opportunities.
  • I’m afraid of failing.

 

My fears have created a mindset – and my mindset has created my fears.

 

Although I know these fears are illogical and irrational, I am seduced by them. The more I feed these fears the more of a stranglehold they gain. The result is – I procrastinate. Like many of you, I trick myself into thinking that if I put off the hard work, then my fears won’t come to reality. It is all magical thinking!

 

Okay. So maybe I’m not a fraud. Maybe I’m simply like many of you – a person who easily veers toward seeing the pitfalls of a new situation and not the opportunities – someone who buys into a form of catastrophic thinking and becomes paralyzed with worry and irrational fear.

 

Maybe it’s because I’ve coached so many on how to be and live confidently that I’m stunned that truly old habits die hard and so, too, old fears.

 

I’ve been humbled by this experience (which is just beginning) because I’m reminded that confidence is not a state that, once attained, is permanent.

 

Confidence is a way of feeling, thinking, living that is ever ongoing.

 

There is no confidence without honesty and without honoring feelings, even those generated by irrational thinking that make me feel anxious and uncomfortable.

 

Confidence is grounded in a state of heightened awareness and being reconciled to the truth that confidence is a decision to act in a way that goes against the worst-case scenario.

 

I’ve written about this before and here need to remind myself that pursuing “excellence” means consistently asking the questions that challenge my crippling way of thinking:

  • What am I telling myself?
  • What feelings are those thoughts generating?
  • Are those feelings energizing me or draining me?
  • If draining me, then how can I go about doing the task differently so as to be more efficient and productive?
  • Is there anything I should be doing that I’m not doing because I’m afraid to do it?

 

THE question is –

if I didn’t believe the lies, and the fears had no power over me, who would I be and what could I do?

 

Confidence is driven by the pursuit of excellence – not the pursuit of perfection.

 

Perfection is rigid and unchanging.

Excellence is fluid and adaptable.

 

Excellence incites creativity and allows me to take risks in exploring opportunities and unanticipated possibilities.

 

What matters isn’t that we attain perfection,

but that again and again, with humility and faith, we reach.

Cheryl Strayed

 

I decided to “come clean” this week in the hope that if today you find yourself procrastinating know that there is a “simple” reason for it all – choose to move through the lies you’re telling yourself – do what you know you must do!

 

I’ll leave you (and me) with the stark yet encouraging words of motivational guru Wayne Dwyer:

 

You’ve never done it before, and if you expect yourself to do it the first time with the finesse of someone doing it for the 1000th time, you’ll be in trouble. When you start a first creative project or begin the study of an art or craft, what I want you to do is lower your standards until they disappear. That’s right. You’re not supposed to be good at the beginning.

Practice Makes – Better!

 

Fall seven times. Stand up eight.

Japanese proverb

 

 

People often ask me what they need to do in order to become a more effective communicator.

 

The answer is simple –

Every day you commit to consciously and determinedly practice doing something differently! 

 

The following are reflections from two clients (names changed) that give you a sense of what can happen through focus and determination.

 

Tracey. 

I’ve been working to stop myself from getting intimidated when attacked at work. In the past, when my boss would start talking over or interrupting me, I would wait until he was done and restart what I was saying. (I was raised in a household where it was very rude to interrupt.) Now, I keep talking. I stand my ground. He doesn’t always hear me right away, but he interrupts and talks over me much less.

 

I also have been asking myself why my boss acts the way he does. For example, last week when he threatened the loss of jobs if results didn’t improve, I asked myself, “What is his goal with this conversation?”

 

From my perspective, I felt like he was being a bully. After doing perception checking, I thought he might be trying to motivate us. I responded by saying that when people threaten my job, it does the exact opposite of motivating me.

 

Instead of just getting angry that he was attacking the team, I was able to voice my feelings and affect how he will try to motivate us in the future.

 

Once he realized that his tactic, rather than the message (results need to improve) was the issue, he changed.

 

Roland. 

I’ve started to practice better listening in my 1-on-1 conversations with: my Boss, my Direct Reports and my wife.

I’m a very impatient person and get annoyed quickly and as a result I react without thinking things through.

Often times this gets me in trouble. I realize that if I could be more patient and listen to what the other person is saying I wouldn’t react in such a negative way.

I’m consciously forcing myself to be more ‘passive’ in sessions and go prepared to more intently listen and take notes during or right after meetings. I use the notes for my follow-up communication, especially in email.  This helps me pay more attention to things that I would generally ignore.

This technique is definitely making me effective in my communication with my direct reports as it’s helped me increase their trust level.

Even my wife has noticed the difference!

 

During this time of quarantine I invite you to consider:

  • What have you noticed about YOU that you hadn’t been aware of before?
  • Do you like what you’re noticing?
  • If so then mindfully practice doing this on a daily basis.
  • Don’t like what you’re noticing?
  • What would you like to see yourself doing instead?
  • What small step(s) can you regularly practice that will lead to this new behavior becoming a habit?

 

 

Want to become an effective communicator? 

Commit to practice doing something differently – daily!

 

Do you want to break through the negative thinking that is preventing you from being influential and heard?

 To explore how one-on-one communication skills coaching can help you present you with enhanced confidence,

contact me at:

  [email protected]

818-415-8115

“Why Can’t People Act Like Adults?” Duh!

 

Courage is not the absence of fear,

but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.

Ambrose Redmoon

 

 

Two weeks ago I guest zoomed with a class of twenty-four Loyola-Marymount students. They are all communication studies majors and their instructor invited me to talk on what’s needed to thrive in the workplace.

 

Although I enjoy talking with undergrads this time I felt challenged. We’re in the midst of a surreal pandemic and really, what do any of us know?!

 

Although your undergrad days, like mine, are over, I thought I’d share with you something of what I told them.

 

I told them that someday, when the pandemic is “over,” much will have changed in the way we go about our lives and our business. And much will stay the same. I was reminded of this about

a month ago when the head of a private high school reached out to me for help.

 

Sarah and Gail, the directors of two of the school’s most important public-fronting departments, were not getting along. The friction had started way before the pandemic and was escalating during this work-from-home time.

I interviewed them separately and at the end of the conversations each asked me, “Why can’t people just act like adults and do their job?”

 

Love it! Of course, part of me wanted to ask in return, “why can’t I just win the lottery?!”

 

I got to thinking – what does it mean to “act like an adult?”

When I wasn’t binge-watching Netflix I grabbed pen and paper and jotted down what people look like when they “act like adults.”

 

Unlike a child, an adult,

  • Knows a shadow from a real threat
  • Can speak on their own behalf
  • Doesn’t play people off each other
  • Makes informed choices even when uncomfortable
  • Can tell interpretation from fact
  • Resists lies
  • Confidently makes mistakes
  • Knows why and how they’re biased
  • Can appreciate a story
  • Listens generously
  • Is curious how they can help
  • Is willing and able to engage in difficult conversations
  • Has conviction
  • Manages emotions
  • Sustains relationships
  • Knows how to get needs healthily met
  • Knows how to change a diaper (!)

 

Okay, I know. . .you’re thinking this list does NOT describe so many of the adults you know! Hey, it’s a fast and furious and rather arbitrary list. AND it serves to answer the question, “Why can’t people show up to work and act like adults?” IT’S HARD – that’s why!

 

There’s more.

Laced through all these traits is the most important trait of all.

An adult can navigate FEAR. An adult exercises emotional courage.

 

Perhaps I was influenced to select this “adult” can-do trait because we breathe pandemic-related fears twenty-four hours a day. However, since the pandemic roared forth, I’ve had conversations with at least half-a-dozen people, each of whom is each wrestling with fear not pandemic related.

 

Margaret works for LA County. She has a new boss and new protocols have been put in place for doing her job. She hates the change. She hates her job. And, yeah, she hates her boss. She pouts. She isolates. She plays helpless victim and is subconsciously sabotaging herself. She asked me what she should do.

 

Simple. She needs to self-advocate. Take responsibility for her career. Begin to plan for a job change. Treat colleagues like colleagues and stop destructive behavior.

 

After telling her this she became quiet. When I asked what she was thinking, she said, “That’s hard to do. I don’t know if I can do all that.” I asked why she thought she couldn’t do what I suggested. “It’s not fair that I have to change. What if I can’t?”

 

She had hypnotized herself with the fear of “What if?”

 

Randy shared that he wasn’t happy with how he delivered a performance review to one of his direct reports. He realized later that he had been a “bit” snarky in some of his comments. I asked what he wanted to do. He said he needed to apologize. And then he sighed. He looked at me and bemoaned, “This is hard to do. I don’t want to look weak.”

 

He feared being decent would be interpreted as weakness.

 

Jason came to me because he wanted help improving his public speaking skills. He was already an engaging, smart speaker so I wasn’t sure want he wanted to work on. After taking me on rambling musings about his speaking shortcomings, he owned up to having a crippling sense of being a fraud and that stymied him from engaging clients in the tough conversations he needed to have.

 

Fearing he was an imposter caused him to censure himself and not say what he knew he had to say.

 

And those two high school directors? Sarah and Gail were caught-up in a web of power struggles. Each was afraid – of losing power, of not being given credit for what they accomplished, of having the other one receive more validation from the head of school. Ultimately, each was afraid of not being recognized.

 

I’ve been startled with these and other conversations as I naively thought pandemic fears would trounce all other fears!

 

And so here’s what I’ve relearned –

 

There is fear in the midst of a pandemic.

There will be fear when the pandemic recedes.

There will always be fear.

We will never not deal with fear – from events of our own making as well as outside our creating.

 

Those LMU students wanted to know how to thrive in the workplace. Sarah and Gail wanted to know why people in the workplace can’t act like adults. Well, the abiding truth is that our lives are defined by how we deal with fear.

 

Each of the people I spoke with, in a moment of quiet, knew what they had to do. In that moment of quiet, each was challenged with an invitation – to choose authenticity or to choose self-deception.

 

No choice is final.

 

Not everyone I spoke with chose authenticity.

Change is hard especially when that change means being kind to one self. (That’s another article!)

 

For now, though, I’d ask you to consider:

  • What are you afraid of?
  • How real is that fear?
  • Is it what you’re really afraid of?
  • What do you really want?

 

And, hey, can I help you break through that fear?!

 

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me,

“Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Mr. Rogers

 

Do you want to break through the fear-based thinking that is preventing you

from being influential and heard?

 

To explore how one-on-one communication skills coaching

can help you present you with enhanced confidence,

contact me at:

  [email protected]

818-415-8115