5 Steps to Help you Navigate Change

We are being pushed to change in ways we never imagined. Changes to how we live, how we work, our schooling, socializing- everything has changed quickly. It was sudden, like a tidal wave. Our old lives were swept away, and we are now figuring out our new lives stumble by stumble.

These are the circumstances of living through a pandemic. The key here, is to live, not just survive, even perhaps to aim for thriving. We have an opportunity to consider other options and ways of living. Maybe get away from old ways of being, thinking and doing. Circumstances are pushing us to do that anyway.

Here’s the thing, change happens with or without us. I would rather be in the driver’s seat of that change, than in the backseat complaining about it. By being in the backseat, or in denial about change, is to be without any influence or agency on the direction your life is taking.

Here are some ways start a conversation with your new friend: Change

  1. Name it. Address how you feel about whatever change is in front of you. If you are anxious, excited, angry… name your feelings. This allows you to work with what is and where you are. Denying our feelings make them stronger. It is like throwing gasoline on a fire instead of water. Pain and fear don’t dissipate until they are seen and are acknowledged.
  • Be Kind. Be kind to yourself and be patient in looking at where you are and how you are feeling about it. This is not a time to judge ourselves but simply notice with compassion. As an example: I am angry that my hours were cut and frightened I can’t pay my bills. Talk to yourself as you would a friend. You would not berate a friend in hard times so don’t do it to yourself.
  • Be Curious and Creative. These go hand in hand here. Being curious invites us to look at our limits in a creative way. We get curious about the nature of that limit, what about that limit do we control? Curiosity is the best way to approach change and adversity to see your way out. Being creative brings us to problem solving, looking for resources, thinking outside the box of possibilities. In brainstorming, there are no bad ideas. The more the better. Evaluation comes later but just filling a page of ideas and possible solutions is freeing and opens you up to new ways of thinking, being and doing.
  • Explore it. Here is the stage of talking to trusted friends, experts and colleagues, researching, evaluating, and finding resources that can help move you from brainstorming to action. Then making a list prioritizing the best 2 or 3 options to move you in a better direction. Don’t spend too much time here or it can turn into analysis paralysis.

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Progress feels a lot like floundering. For those of you who don’t know what floundering means it is to struggle, to lose footing and show confusion. Think of pulling a fish out of water, perhaps a flounder, and it flops about in search of water, gasping and lost. That for me sometimes is what progress feels like. Ugly, gasping, confusion and second-guessing steps in trying to obtain any type of footing. Floundering is what transition feels like, what progress feels like… it feels awful.

Every transition in my life whether it be career, moving to a new state, starting a business or even a serious relationship is herky jerky, fraught with anxiety and worrying pauses between action. It is humbling. We can chalk it all up to learning. Learning something new is rough on our ego. We feel like we are out of our depth, stupid, inadequate, like a loser. These feelings are true and real and live in the second stage of learning something new. New meaning, something foreign to our current knowledge, experience or understanding. That new can be how to register your car in a new state, how to do a new job, what to do when the fire alarm goes off when you make crepes in a cooking class at the mall. 

There are four stages to learning. The first is that we are unconsciously incompetent. We are unaware of our lack of knowledge, we don’t know, what we don’t know. This is called happy.

We then face change, whether it was something we embarked on or that was thrust upon us we start down a path. Progress, a transition, moving forward into the unknown. We are now trying to do something new, whether it is leaning a new skill, being single again, struggling as a new parent, etc. We have now entered the floundering zone.

Noel Burch, an employee with Gordon Training International, developed the Conscious Competence Ladder. His model calls the floundering phase being consciously incompetent. We are acutely aware we do not know what we are doing or what is expected of us. The expect of us can be that of others or more frequently the bossy inner voice with unrealistic expectations and might have a German accent.

Being consciously incompetent is the danger zone. This is where may people give up because it is difficult, we feel terrible and if you are learning guitar your fingers hurt like hell. We crave normal, something easier, something we know and that makes us feel competent. The hard part is that those somethings of our past in reality didn’t fit and caused us to stumble up the road in search of new. Going back is a lot like trying to fit into your favorite outfit from 7th grade. It was wonderful in the time, but we have outgrown it. Trying to make ourselves fit no matter the reason is never the answer.

Staying with the foundering is painful, it’s an awkward dance of “I got it, I got it… oh hell I don’t got it.” It is one step forward and two back. It is not even being sure if the step you just took was in the right direction, because we don’t even know what the “right” direction is.

The right direction, however, is anything that our gut, our deep-down selves that got us into this journey pushes us to do. Frequently that direction and intuitive step is also terrifying. We are pushed to pursue things that are scary, seem daunting and might even be. But so was everything we have done prior to this. All the previous struggles we have mastered and pushed through to success and mastery.  Afterward we think back and wonder what the big deal was as we rush on down the road. Many times, we don’t even think about our prior fears and struggles we just push on forgetting our previous learning, with our eyes focused on what is next.

So, what can we do when we are floundering, and feel awful? How do we trust in the forward motion while being in the dark?

Here are some ideas:

-The first thing is to remind yourself you have been in the unknown before and learned your way. You have been successful. You might want to look at a journal or talk to someone who supported you then and look for the tools you used that helped.

-Recognize that you are uncomfortable and remember that discomfort in learning something new is normal and it will pass given time and effort.

-Focus on the next small step, then after that is completed the following small step. Don’t look up or out at where you are going, just celebrate, take a breath and take another small step.

-Be very kind to yourself. Try to catch that bossy voice in your head that is preaching about timelines, underachieving, blah, blah more mean stuff. Shut that voice down to a whisper.

-Find things that you feel good about and do them. Whether that is fishing, yoga or reading mysteries. Find things that comfort you or support you in your journey. Now double that for effort in finding people to do the same thing for you.

-Remember we don’t own the timeline; it takes as long as it takes so let go of expectations. You might have to remind yourself this about 10,000 times a day.

-Even when we get to the other side we are in a new normal, or consciously competent so things still feel kind of shaky.

We eventually get to unconsciously competent. That looks like when we have driven home after work and it was so automatic, we didn’t even remember the drive. Very different from the first time you got behind the wheel of a car or even when you started to master it but were still careful and present as you drove.

The unconsciously competent stage is then our new normal. This is what mastery looks like. Progress is transition after transition. This cycle over and over. Growth, awkward growth in all arenas of our lives. Remembering this cycle when we are floundering and flopping about can help in understanding there is an end in sight, that we have done this before and will again. Each time being kinder, gentler with ourselves and others as they flounder. I believe that grace is born from this transition over and over. So, a better way to see our floundering is our transition into grace. 

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How We Drown, Float or Swim

A client recently sent me a note telling me they were drowning. I knew they had a lot of responsibilities, many balls in air to juggle. I offered them an option, perhaps they could consider flipping over on their back and floating. What does this mean? It means that the ability to recognize when we are, (drowning, floating or swimming) might help us either sustain if we are swimming or flip over to float if we are indeed drowning. This analogy is where we find ourselves daily, hourly and sometimes minute to minute.

Below are some tips meant as a triage to help you identify where you are and where you want to go.

Drowning: When I feel like I am drowning a couple of things may be occurring; I am trying to do too much and or I have unrealistic expectations of what I or others can do in the moment.

  • Stop, take a breath and name what I am feeling, overwhelmed, drowning, exhausted. Being able to identify what phase I am in helps to address it and put it in perspective.
  • Prioritize 2-3 needs and let the rest go. Let go of expectations on what I think should matter or get done.
  • Do something physical to in order to help letting go, a short walk, yoga, cleaning out a drawer… do some small act that will allow a mental shift or restart.
  • Flip over and float with the sole purpose of keeping my head above water and just do the top 2-3 priorities until I feel ready for more.

Floating: Here I am maintaining and catching my breath. I am not making headway or progress in areas. I have prioritized wellness, quality of work, and life over unrealistic expectations from myself or others in this moment.

  • Take deep belly breaths in order to unlock all of my brain from the fight, flight or freeze mode. I make better decisions and choices when calm and thoughtful.
  • Maintain keeping my head above water and assess where I am and what really is important. What are my wants and needs? Be clear on the differences between them.
  • Rest, replenish and plan when is a good time to test the waters and swim for small distances building endurance. Then try it, always returning to float to rest and replenish.

Swim: This is when I am moving in a direction I desire; I am making gradual progress toward a goal. I feel stable and competent in my direction and the ability to right myself when things go wrong. 

  • Focus on what I have control over even if it is my reaction to the world around me. I am responsible for my actions and words, so by taking time to consider them thoughtfully is important.
  • Pace myself in a realistic way by assessing the external and internal conditions that are present. Take control of my direction, action, choices and speed.     
  • Understand what is mine to fix and what is someone else’s. Enabling others undermines them. We all have our own individual course and each of us has choice to act or not. Know that not choosing is also a choice.  

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Note to Self…

Dear Kyra,

You are forgetting some things these days, important things.  Things that cost you blood, sweat and tears to learn. I know you are stressed and it’s looking a lot like the end of the world. There are those dark, nuclear winter orange skies in the daytime. There’s unemployment, a global pandemic, really the list goes on and on.

First up; it’s not the end of the world, really, it just feels like it.  In fact, you are forgetting that just because you think something doesn’t make it true, even if it feels true. You just thought it is all. Without a closer look using your curiosity and discovery, and maybe even data it’s just an idea, something you thought. A story you are telling yourself. Okay wait, this is not the best delivery system for you, you like lists. I know myself; I just forget it sometimes is all…

  1. Trust yourself. You can do this; it never has mattered what this is… you always figure it out. I know the learning curve is a bitch and you hate her, but she teaches us grace, humility and patience. Plus, she gives you something to write about.
  • Champagne is good any night of the week, it goes with everything.
  1. Kindness is king, not just for others but for yourself. If you are not kind to yourself you will burn out, crank out, if you don’t live from the inside out when it comes to kindness.
  • Napping is essential for creativity, as is “goofing off”, daydreaming, wandering and playing. Answers come when you let go of the problem. It’s hard but unclench your fucking fists, just sometimes… okay? How else can you receive without open hands?
  • Eat healthy, move daily, laugh a lot, try to sleep. These were the basic operating instructions you got when you showed up to this rodeo. If you don’t take care of the equipment, game over. So, prioritize it, do it, do your best. It really matters and so do you.
  • It’s not a big deal that you can never remember how to spell their, or is it thier, or then or than, don’t get me started on effect and affect. You are dyslexic and that is what Google is for. You can use mellifluous and tintinnabulate in a sentence. Relax. Just because you think you “should” know something doesn’t mean that’s true.  We all know different things, important things, and that is that.
  • Slow down, pay attention, notice the changes and see where you fit in the future, not the past that is burning down. What do you want to help with, create, build… focus more on solutions not just problems.
  • It’s not a big deal, not everyone can wear corduroy pants…
  • Remember life is like driving at night. You can only see the next 150 ft, but you can get anywhere you need only seeing 150 ft at a time. Focus on the next three small steps that move you forward, and then do it again and again. This is not a race so try to remember to enjoy the ride.
  • Send more cards, it’s nice to get something besides a bill or flyers in the mail. People forget you are thinking about them and that they are loved. Small thoughtful gestures can change a life, a community, the world.
  1. It’s okay to feel, I know you hate that shit, but you are human, and they feel things. Stuffing those feelings is like trying to hold a pool noodle underwater all day, sooner or later it pops up and hits you in the face and water goes up your nose and you cry anyway.
  1. You are loved, nuff said
  1. Looking at art, listening to music, and laughing changes your brain chemistry for the better. These things heal. Remember to find beauty every day, it’s good medicine.
  1. Trouble is a lot like Pizza Hut, don’t go looking for it, it delivers.
  1. You are going to make mistakes, all kinds of them. Avoiding them makes for a smaller life. Get comfortable with being lost, getting confused and go make a great big mess. Try things, be brave and look like an idiot sometimes, okay maybe lots of times. The payoff is huge. Flaws are where the beauty lives. Appreciate all your quirk, your struggle and your triumphs, then get up and do it again. Amen!

Note: I wrote this in a whirl after a particular hectic day. It helped to remind me of what I know but somehow, in the crazy days, I sometimes forget. I invite you to try to write your own “Note to Self”. To remind you of what you already know.  – Deep Breaths, Kyra

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Professionalism vs Fun

In texting with a friend today she revealed that during the pandemic she was trying to add more fun during her days which made her think of me. She shared that being with her daughter between work assignments forced her to start playing more. She also shared that going back and forth from play mode to “being a professional” was tricky all day. This made me think, not that thinking is a stretch for me, but some days it’s a sketchy proposition at best. I never thought that my options were being a professional or having fun. For me it was always an And not an Or choice. Here’s the thing, I am fun. I am fun to work with, I bring it, I pack it along like I would my Chapstick, my keys and my phone. It is a tool that elevates everything, work, learning, creating, everything in life is better when fun or levity is introduced. Think of laughter as the language of God.

I can understand my friend’s conundrum. We are trained, most especially women, to be serious so we are taken seriously at work. We all are taught that work was serious business and we needed to focus, produce and excel. Those are all good things, but all done better with humor and fun. Here’s an example where I injected a small dose of fun into a small thing that netted a great result:

I taught Career Readiness workshops.  As students came into our center, they were checked in and went into the classroom for the start of the session. I asked the front desk staff if they wanted to bet on how many students would come to the session. There was no wager, the fun was purely in the guessing, estimating and teasing that went with this small tweak of competition. It was playful, created laughter and the level of delight we exuded as we greeted everyone who walked through our door for those 15 minutes, exuberant. Not that we didn’t always give folks a great reception, but now they got a group of delighted faces as if they were celebrities coming down the red carpet. That small game became part of our culture and a common experience that bonded us in a different way than we had before, we bonded in play and laughter.

This was small and silly, but it created a bond and common experience that elevated a simple task into play. It made everyone’s experience in that 15 minutes better than it would have been, and that energy moved them on through other work in the day. Play shifts us to look at what is possible, it opens us up to new ways of thinking, doing and being. I think that being good at what you do should not be tied to being serious. As an example, in operating rooms they play great music to set the mood and create an environment of positivity. That does not in any way undermine the tasks at hand but rather enhance teamwork and energy.

Fun and play have a reputation of being frivolous, however, this runs contrary to what science and nature show us. Animals teach their young how to hunt, to survive, through play. All great learning happens during play. Cancer patients are frequently told to watch comedies as laughter changes our chemistry for the better. Endorphins, oxytocin, serotonin are all released during play, laughter and closeness. Why wouldn’t these same things make us better teams, workers, thinkers, creators and people?

So how does one start to introduce play and fun in all aspects of their lives? Here’s a simple list of steps to try and see what happens.

  1. Notice where does play or fun live currently in your life, at work, home, relationships. Start to notice those moments in small conversations with co-workers that are playful or fun, see how that can be deepened if only in your enthusiasm or appreciation. Know this person is now a coconspirator to fun in the future. It also makes you notice folks who may not be open just yet to this way of thinking.
  • Opportunity comes after you have noticed where play currently lives and where it can be expanded. You now know who is open and you can create your own moment or instigate one. That can be meeting at the coffee truck first thing to share a moment of laughter. In these virtual days, a drop-in lunchroom where folks can chat and share their lives. Noticing leads us to finding opportunities for play and fun.
  • Practice gives us mastery of a tool. A well placed and appropriate joke in a meeting can cause a small bout of laughter and that extra oxygen gives everyone a boost. It builds teams and goodwill. It can also break tension and help find a way to be better able to focus on solutions not just problems.

I will make a note of caution here- play and the introduction thereof can make you vulnerable and sometimes a target. Always start small, know you audience, never make anyone the butt of a joke and keep inclusivity and kindness in your sense of play. We know humor or play is also the weapon of a bully. It has been pervasive in many work cultures that are toxic. The play I proscribe is out of generosity, kindness and love…In this practice, I am, if anyone, the only one who is vulnerable in that moment. These are crucial points to make note of when going forward.

Start small if this is new or scary to you, start at home, with your family, your partners even your pets. Bust out that tiara, that ridiculous hat you were bullied into buying on vacation or even a fake accent and try them all on as a surprise at the dinner table. Could that turn into Friday night dress up dinner? Maybe. The worst thing that could happen is people don’t laugh. On the flip side, you may have a great story of your silliness and a cherished memory is born. The practice of gratitude is shown to improve our lives and well-being. I believe a practice of play will do the same thing. Give it a whirl and share the fun… cheers. – Kyra

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 Resume Stories

Resumes are the document that are meant to distill our skills, abilities, knowledge and experience into a persuasive argument for someone to invite us for an interview. They are not the total of who we are or all we have done. Think of a resume as a slice of our best work, they are a 30-second Super Bowl commercial for us, a highlight reel.

A good resume tells our story and the impact we have made in our work life. Stories are compelling, they have meaning, and they teach us things. A good resume can teach strangers who we are and what makes us valuable in a workplace.  A great resume is the answer to the interview question “Why should we hire you and not someone else?”

In order to tell your story well, it needs to have impact.  Below are some elements that lend themselves to a good story and a great resume.

  1. Use short, concise and descriptive language that gives details without drowning the reader or being too vague. Use bullet points make them only a line or two. Edit, and edit again, then give it to someone else to edit. Don’t use all your words, only the best ones.
  1. Show people what you did, don’t tell them. Show them what actions you took, what tools you used, what methods you employed and what was the result. Don’t say “I am organized,” show them with an example of what you organized, how, with which tools. Make sure to always describe the outcome of your actions.
  1. Quantify the impact of your actions using; numerical data, qualitative data (increase/ decrease/improved). This will clearly show what you improved and by how much. Show them, so they can picture you doing that same thing for them.
  1. Show progression of learning, responsibilities, and scope of work in each transition of job, role or project. Show how you have grown over your career path.
  1. Know who you are. Know what you are good at and what you are challenged by.  Your ability to articulate your strengths and their impact is what gets you an interview. If you don’t know what your strengths are and how to articulate them, how will others know?

Resumes can be tricky; we are not taught in school to be self-reflective which helps tremendously when creating a resume or interviewing. Find resources, friends, family, experts to edit or review your resume, perhaps even to help you craft it. Repetitive editing is a lot of work, but it has a domino effect of you knowing yourself inside out so when it comes to your interview you have the language to freely talk about your impact in detail in each of your positions. This is important!

Putting yourself on the page; means the content is unique to you. That does not mean using fancy fonts, layouts, or lots of color -those elements make it hard to read.  Keep it simple and easy to scan. You want your story to stand out, not how pretty the paper looks. Be honest, be professional and be genuine both on paper and in the world… that is what we all are looking for.  Good luck out there folks! – Kyra

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Never Go the Second Location

It has been advised by safety experts that it is important to not to let an attacker, kidnapper, or anyone at all shady take us to a second location. Just ask Dexter, who is a professional interior designer with an eye for quick clean up, containment, danger, and simple lines (which are cheeky at best) . Some of these same principals are true when looking at the second location when we play the What If game.

We all know and play the What If game. It goes like this…What if I get a bad review at work? What if they write me up?  What if I get fired? What if I won’t be able to get a job because I got fired? What if I can’t pay my bills and lose my house/apartment?   What if I have to live in a cardboard box and eat squirrels I catch with my bare hands?  

First off, take a breath. Second, nobody catches squirrels with their bare hands; they are way too mean and wily for that nonsense.  You might, however, catch a blind, bloated, geriatric, pokey pigeon and that is a long shot at best.

The What If game is the single best way to take a problem, a fear, or a discreet unpleasant incident and turn it into a downward spiral. The What If game is an avalanche of negative thoughts that can send us into an abyss for an hour, a day or far longer. The good news is that we are the ones who start or don’t start that avalanche; we have control of where we let our tiny little minds run. The rule for safety in never going to the second location comes in here, only now it keeps us mentally safe and sane. If something we perceive as bad happens and we jump to a negative conclusion, then another, then another, soon we are racing down a fictional dark alleyway complete with monsters we keep on retainer.

One jump is all we get if we want to stay sane and maintain perspective. If, however, we let our tiny evil minds take us to its second What If location, it is the equivalent of going to the second location with Dexter, Darth Vader, or Donny Osmond-no good can come of it. One jump allows us to plan, and maybe do some critical thinking, assessment, or creative problem solving once the fear ebbs away. By feeding the fear in going to that second What If location, those steps never happen.  Chasing those dark thoughts of What If only triggers our lizard brain where the release of cortisol and adrenalin and our amygdala is in charge as danger is flagged. Having access only to our amygdala brain gives us three options: fight, flight or freeze. We react in lieu of respond because that is all we are capable of if we don’t take a breath and invite in our prefrontal cortex where our executive functioning and more developed cogitative process live.

The What If game is a bad game, not unlike the steel-tipped lawn dart sets of the 1950’s. It appears to be a harmless sport at first until drunken Uncle Willy loses a game and punctures Aunt Erma’s lung when she takes the last cold Schlitz. There is no good here, and no reason or reasonability, and more than that if you play you lose. The only way to win the What If game is not to play. So what does this mean?  It means before we jump to that second location in What If, we breath, we distract ourselves, we pause, we catch that string of catastrophizing and self-implosion we are about to inflict on ourselves and those around us. We wait for the real data to come in and assess. Come on, most everything looks better in the light of day except of course those purple highlights you added to your hair and the drunken texts you sent your ex-last night.

Whatever we can do to catch ourselves from playing What If is good. Science shows us that a mere two minute distraction can help us jump tracks in that dangerous looping game. This is hard stuff folks, I am not kidding. If at first, we only catch ourselves at jump 10 in the What If game and suddenly realize that maybe we won’t die alone, addicted to Funyuns, in a fetid flophouse with 72 cats, that is progress. And then maybe next time  when we get caught up in the What If game,  we catch ourselves at jump 5, where we realize that we might not really be doomed to be dating for 20 more years, eating too much junk food, or carelessly investing  our 401K in that cat spa.

Each time we practice we get better at not engaging those rapid, rabid, dark thoughts, at catching ourselves sooner and finally, at not playing at all. When making the choice to only work with what is and not the scary, self-indulgent fears of the past, not the fiction, we stop the ride down the slippery slope. This is not easy or done quickly, but the pay-off even for a little bit in pulling back in the What If game has a huge benefit in happiness, contentment and calm. When things go wrong and we don’t go to the second What If location, we are then dealing with quicker clean up, simpler lines and containment; therefore, less danger. Doing this is a way to dial back the internal drama and let Showtime handle that production cost not you.

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