One of the things that we’re learning in my leadership class is the concept of “stay.” Stay means having something that it’s important to you (your “stake”) and sticking with it through the highs and lows. Through the uncertainty and difficulty. It means keeping your focus when everyone around you knowingly or unknowingly seeks to divert you.
I’ve found the concept of “stay” useful in my runs. Yesterday, for example, I was only a half mile into my planned four mile run and I wanted to stop. But I was determined not to quit. I reminded myself that the first mile is the hardest, and told myself to stay with it. By Mile 2 I was feeling great. Then I hit another low just before the three-mile mark. It was hotter than I expected, I was getting tired. I wanted to walk the rest of the way home. “Stay,” I told myself again. I slowed a bit, I tinkered with my breathing rate, adjusted my gait, and was back in the groove for the last mile.
“Stay” also comes in handy for the final miles of a long run. For sticking with a training schedule, and yes, in those final 6.2 miles of a marathon.
What tricks do you use to “stay” when the going gets tough?
In my leadership program we’ve all been given the challenge of asking for help in the two months between retreats — to stretch out of our comfort zones and ask for assistance in situations where we might not normally be inclined to do that. And also to notice how we feel about asking for help as we do this.
One of the things I’ve discovered is that I’m terrible at asking for help. Interestingly, so are many of the other people in the class. And the reasons are all strikingly similar…
We are having trouble asking for help because we don’t want to seem weak or vulnerable. We have pride in our competence, we don’t want to admit that we might need help. We’ve been taught to be independent and that there is shame in being needy. We don’t want to be a bother to others or we believe ourselves unworthy of being helped by others. We don’t want to take their valuable time or think we might be asking for too much. We may worry about rejection. We hire help, but we often won’t ask for it from the people closest to us. And sometimes we just don’t know what to ask for.
A 2008 study found that people routinely underestimate by 50% others’ willingness to help them. In short, people are more likely to say yes to requests for assistance than we think they are.
I’m trying to remember that asking for help can be good for me and for the person I’m asking. Asking for help creates connections and broadens possibilities. I might learn something completely new or experience a new perspective. And asking for help gets easier with practice.
I’d welcome your thoughts on asking for help… it is easy or hard for you and why? Do you have any good resources on asking for help?
I’ve had some time to think this past week and have a lot swirling in my head. I’m not feeling particularly inspired to write however, perhaps because a head cold is clouding my brain.
So for today, I’ll just post this reminder to turn off that internal (or external) voice of judgment that might be telling you who or what you should be or do or say, and instead to just be true to yourself — and ever grateful for those who matter in your life.
Today’s blog is borrowed from John Bingham’s No Need for Speed which I read recently. If you’re a beginning runner, especially if you worry about being slow, I definitely recommend Bingham’s books. I especially like this quote:
“As I set new goals, conquered new fears, and overcame new doubts, I became a new person. I was no longer the person who sat inside on cold mornings. I was not the person for whom comfort was the sole objective. I wasn’t the person who was controlled by the circumstances of my life…. What happens when we untie the ‘nots’ in our lives is that we can see beyond today and begin to imagine a different tomorrow. As you see the obvious changes in your body, you also begin to see the less obvious changes in your soul. When you untie the ‘nots,’ when you become fully engaged in the process of becoming a better athlete, you can’t help becoming a better person. You find, without realizing it, that you’re NOT afraid to change, learn and grow. You learn to look past all the things that you can’t be to those few that you can. As you learn to accept your limitations as an athlete, you’re less afraid to accept other limitations in your life. Your unique combination of talent and motivations, discipline and dedication, become the tools with which you build the person you most want to be.”
In my experience, new runners go through stages of evolution — that affect both the body and the mind. Pushing through old limitations, testing boundaries, and taking on new challenges. Standing shivering and expectant at the starting line waiting to find out what is possible on the journey to the finish. And knowing that the person who finishes the race, may not be the same person who started it.
What else has changed in your life since you started running?
I’ve just finished reading The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. It’s a simple little book that makes for quick reading and a lot of pondering and I’ll be discussing it with the members of my leadership tribe over the next few weeks.
Most interesting to me was the first chapter on how we humans are “domesticated” and taught stories, beliefs and values that become our unconscious reality as we grow into adults. Ruiz calls these the “agreements” that rule our lives. We learn to be the people that others want us to be and “live our lives trying to satisfy other people’s demands.” We judge ourselves and others against these expectations — often harshly — and we try to change ourselves and others to fit these expectations. Ruiz argues for rejecting those agreements that don’t serve us and replacing them with new agreements so that we can be more free, starting with the four in the book.
The Four Agreements as summarized on the book jacket are:
- Be Impeccable with Your Word – Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.
- Don’t Take Things Personally – Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering. Ruiz argues that “there is a huge amount of freedom when you take nothing personally.”
- Don’t Make Assumptions – Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid, misunderstanding, sadness and drama.
- Always Do Your Best – Your best is going to change moment to moment, it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.
I have work to do on each of these. For the short term, I’m trying to be aware of my tendency to “go into my head” and judge myself and others. I’ve been telling that voice to stop, just stop, and instead focus on being present and letting of assumptions and judgments. I’m consciously trying to write a different story in my mind when I start to take things personally or make an assumption about why someone has behaved in a certain way. And when I’m not sure, I’m asking rather than guessing or assuming. I’m hoping that with enough practice these will become new habits and new agreements for me. And maybe I’ll be a little less domesticated!
Posted in Growing, Thinking
Tagged acceptance, change, curiosity, Four Agreements, growth, leadership, Miguel Ángel Ruiz, relationships, thinking, vulnerability
This feels like an appropriate Seth Godin quote to share as I head off to my first of four leadership retreats and literally and metaphorically “throw myself” out into the open with a group of 25 strangers, facing some very real fears:
“Leadership is scarce because few people are willing to go through the discomfort required to lead.
The scarcity makes leadership valuable. If everyone tries to lead all the time, not much happens. It’s discomfort that creates the leverage that makes leadership worthwhile.
In other words, if everyone could do it, they would, and it wouldn’t be worth much.
It’s uncomfortable to stand up in front of strangers.
It’s uncomfortable to propose an idea that might fail.
It’s uncomfortable to challenge the status quo.
It’s uncomfortable to resist the urge to settle.
When you identify the discomfort, you’ve found the place where a leader is needed.
If you’re not uncomfortable in your work as a leader, it’s almost certain you’re not reaching your potential as a leader.
-Seth Godin, Tribes
And special thanks to the friend who sent me this photo and inspiration the other day:
“The little guy is coming out of his shell to conquer the world armed with all the instincts he was born with. He’ll (she’ll?) finish crawling out of the egg, scurry around a little, get oriented, then head out to the ocean to start an amazing journey. Just made me think of you as you embark on the first retreat.”