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Only love can drive out hatred, only light can drive out darkness

You know I love her, and guess what, she gave a commencement address at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. :-)

Dr. Brené Brown chose three nuggets of wisdom she would have wanted to have upon her graduation:

1. Whatever you do, do not wait until you're unafraid to do something. Don't wait til you're brave. Don't wait til you're comfortable. Step into the discomfort and do it anyway. You're more ready than you think.

2. If you want other people to put value on your work, put value on your work. Period.

3. Find joy. Really find and cultivate joy in your life.

"Thank you for signing up to be the love and the light in this world."



Step 9 - Confronting fear, embracing change

Picture credit: Leonard John Matthews Knowing our personality type helps us understand how we like to approach new situations.

In today's marketplace the change we're most often confronted with is organizational change.

Whether we're hired, fired, merged, or acquired - change is constant.

To make sense of it for ourselves, we need to honor our preferences to help us move through the various stages of the change process. Asking questions and engaging in a dialogue might help:

How do you like to receive and process information? Take time out to review memos and discuss what's happening with your colleagues. Request more detailed or broad strokes as necessary. How do the changes connect to short and long-term goals and visions?

If you're wondering how the decision was reached, ask about which alternatives were being considered that didn't make the cut. It's ok to enquire about the underlying "why" and which values and goals informed the decision. Most companies link their performance reviews to your behaving according to company culture, it's only fair the strategic decisions be measured along the same lines.

How is this change process going to proceed? What are the milestones and how will you know you're on track? Who will be measuring progress and according to which standards? Transparent communication is key, and communication is a two-way street. If you're not hearing any, start the conversation.

We've mentioned Kotter's 8 Steps in relation to personality type and expat assignments before, and I also want to mention Virginia Satir's Change Model. I went through a simulation with Steven M. Smith during an AYE Conference and it really brought home the different stages. You can read an excellent in-depth analysis of it on his blog.

At the end of the day, we fear most that which we don't understand. Try to understand what's going on, and you'll be in a much better position to make sound decisions.


Thoughts on Job Security


Thoughts on Job Security

My father is going on early retirement this week, after 37 years in the same industry. He changed specialties once in the early 1990s, but remained in the same field. My mother has been working in the same job for 42 years, changing employers only after the first one folded after about 35 years of service there. Both my parents are still in their 50s (yup, they started young. Oh yeah, and I'm 12.) and have lived in the same town their whole lives. Among most my peers, this kind of job security and local consistency is practically unheard of these days. It's neither the norm nor desired. Can you imagine the discussions we had every time I've changed job? And moved countries? Blame it on the generation gap, but we've had little empathy for one another at first. I'm happy my parents are happy, but I'm super happy that my first job isn't going to be my last.

Companies are looking for people who will bring their varied backgrounds to the job. Diversity breeds innovation. Change is constant. It remains to be seen what taking away employees' flexibility will do for your business. Yahoo will find out after June 1st, when no employee will be allowed to work from home anymore. Seems counter-intuitive for a technologies company to insist on face-to-face collaboration, but then again, establishing lasting relationships through email or Skype has its challenges, too.

Many US American States are "at will" employment states. That means there are no employment contracts - neither party commits to taking care of the other beyond the immediate role. If stock prices fall, I know you'll fire me. When the project is done or I've learned enough, you know I'll move on. The internet never sleeps, and my CV is always up-to-date and available on LinkedIn.

So where's the answer? As always, probably somewhere in the middle.

Nobody should have to stay in the same position for 40 years if they don't like it. Compromising your happiness will eventually affect your physical and mental health, so paycheck shmaycheck - get a coach and get you some happy. If you're afraid of change, consider your attitude to taking risks. Do you perhaps try to avoid uncertainty in other life areas as well? Do you like to plan things and know what's going to happen? What can you do in your job search or career change that will make you feel safe and supported?

If you got laid off before you were ready to go, this might be a good time to re-evaluate your path. Were you truly fulfilled or perhaps dragging yourself to work on Monday mornings? What is it that you really want to be doing? Have you ever thought about what your unique gifts and passions might be? Can you maybe even start your own business?

People move to where the opportunities are. In Europe, thousands of young adults from Spain, Italy, Greece, and Portugal now call Germany their home. In the States, mobility has always been a greater factor. Moving between States is easy thanks to the same currency and no border controls. Perhaps if you widen the net of your search, you'll find your dream job just a few miles away.

Image by Tit Bonac, Flickr, Creative Commons License


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Above the Clouds

above the cloudsOn my way back from a training I was reminded of a Reinhard Mey song. The refrain, loosely translated, goes something like this: Above the clouds, freedom must be limitless.

All fears, all sorrows, remain hidden below.

Everything that seems big and important

suddenly turns insignificant and small.

That super huge worry you're dealing with - what would it look like from high up above? [youtube]

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Should you leave your comfortable job?


Should you leave your comfortable job?

I was delighted to receive an email this week from someone who's wondering whether to leave his comfortable job for one more thrilling and fulfilling. He already read the article about this opportunity for change I wrote back in 2007, and here are 3 more tips to help you decide:

Not many people change just for the fun of it, especially if there's no apparent or urgent need. You've probably heard one or more of these arguments to count yourself lucky and stay where you are:

  • you have a job
  • you're earning money
  • it took you a while to get where you are now
  • you HAVE a JOB!

There's no urgency to find a job when you already have one. There's no need to change jobs if the one you have pays well and serves your current purposes. Why would you throw out all the effort you put in to train for what you're doing now? And let's not forget there's a lot of fear and uncertainty about quitting "in these unstable economic times".

So what are you supposed to tell that little voice that nags louder every day, "is this really it?"

It might get worse before it gets better

All those years ago, I left my cushy job for another one. The commute was nicer, the pay was better, the work was more interesting - easy decision to make. Except the boss and I didn't get along and I was back on the streets within 6 months.

There are no guarantees. Even if the new opportunity looks lovely, feels fantastic, smells divine, and sounds superb, you may still hate it. Or it may hate you.

You can prepare for this eventuality in a variety of ways. Research the company thoroughly, insist on speaking with supervisors, peers, and customers alike, or spend some time as an "intern" to shadow what a week on the team would look like before you make a commitment.

Get support

After I was let go, I took four whole weeks off to participate in a coaching program. That was the first time I ever seriously took the time to stop and think - what is it that I actually want to do with my life? What am I good at? And what is it that I actually enjoy doing? Believe me - sometimes those two things are NOT the same! Having a coach to ask the uncomfortable questions and confront me with my limiting self-talk was priceless.

You can start by reading books on career management like What Color Is Your Parachute (affiliate link), interviewing people who have the job you think you'd like to have to see if it's all it's cracked up to be, or hiring a coach. Shameless plug for your consideration: I use Type knowledge in my coaching, which means it's all tailored to my client's personality style. :-)

Remember you have options

I'm a big fan of only leaving a job when I know the next thing is lined up, but sometimes it's hard to get there. If you're scared about the economy, scared you won't find another thing half as decent as what you have now, scared you'll lose money, scared the colleagues will hate you - then wait. A scared brain doesn't think straight. A scared brain is in survival mode, not open to properly evaluating all the available alternatives out there.

Big decisions like jobs are worth sleeping over and researching properly, and no employer is going to expect you sign the dotted line right after your interview. Take the time you need to come to the decision from a place of certainty.

So - should you leave your comfy job?

You'll know it's time when the only thing worse than leaving would be to stay.


Image by Nate Shivar, flickr, Creative Commons license



Step 9 - Live without fear and embrace change

Over the next few weeks, I'll be basing my articles on this "12 Steps to Happiness" post.
I've written about fears before, and since they're such an important topic, they made it into the top 12 countdown. In my opinion, many of life's puzzles can be explained by looking at what we're afraid of. I'm not going to go into how fear has been indispensable to the survival of the species, nor do I want to get into phobias or paranoias. Instead, let's look today at how being aware of our fears and conquering them can help us lead a more fulfilled, happier life.
According to Fritz Riemann (German psychologist, 1902 - 1979), there are four basic human fears:
1. Fear of self-actualisation - we strive to be individual, while at the same time we need and wish for the security of the group, belonging to a community.
2. Fear of self-abandonment - we wish to trust and open up to fellow humans, while at the same time we fear to lose ourselves, be abused and become dependent.
3. Fear of change - we make plans for the future and long for degrees of stability, while at the same time we know that nothing lasts forever and we're all going to die eventually.
4. Fear of necessity - we fear we are not really free but stuck inside our rules and our culture, while at the same time we know that times change and may just overtake us and leave us behind.
We want to belong, but we want to be unique; we want to be free to decide, but we want stability and order. If you imagine those four axioms, in which quadrant would you find yourself? Which of these fears would you say represent the biggest roadblock on your way to a happy self? What can you do to manage them in a way that brings balance to you? Life, it seems, is a paradox from beginning to end. Everywhere you look for answers and scratch the surface, a black whole of more questions opens up. At least that's what I found, and if you've just tuned in, I too am on the road to find out what this is all about. So far, I think a sense of humor and getting in touch with myself is of the essence. So, I invite you this week to think about what scares you and why. After reading the following, I hope you find the courage to try and handle your scary situations in a different manner than usual and find new ways of coping and of overcoming those fears.When I wrote the caption, I underlined it with "how can I expect different results if I keep doing the same things?" What I was thinking of are for example women who are perpetually single although they're looking for love. Or couples who keep fighting over the same old thing without finding a compromise. We are surrounded by circumstances beyond our control, and there's obviously also the paradox of free will vs. determination: if all our lives really are laid out from the start, then we have no control whatsoever. But that also means we're not responsible for our actions, and that's where I disagree. Things may not change, but in my view, you can. But, you can only change yourself: your perception, your attitude and the way you deal with things. These are subtle changes, I'm not talking about a 180 degree change of personality.

Next time you're afraid you'll never find another guy if this one doesn't come home with you, sit that fear down and look at what it's making you do. If you're happy with the answers, no need to change anything. But if you're not, try another tactic like exchanging phone numbers and setting another date, taking it easy. What about that never-ending discussion about open communication with your spouse, what are you really afraid of? That she knows you have feelings, that you might not have the answer to everything? How can you approach it differently to settle the argument pleasantly once and for all?

We all have habits that we fall into and that are comfortable, that make us feel secure. But if they are not productive, we can create new, more helpful responses that are flexible, adapt to changed circumstances and reflect our values and beliefs. Living without any fear at all is unlikely, but the least we can do is try and understand our fears, accepting them as part of ourselves and finding ways to turn them into a positive.

Til next time!

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