Author’s Archive: kiddenprep

Home / kiddenprep
8 Posts

It is easy to find a lot of support for the practice of keeping a gratitude journal.  One such very comprehensive article in favor of the practice points out the following, among other compelling insights:

By noting what you are grateful for, you can gain clarity on what you want to have more of in your life, and what you can do without.

That statement is timely, as we prepare to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, perhaps the most popular time of the year to pause and recognize just how much we have.

I think a gratitude journal is a great idea and I’ve suggested it to several people, including my children. Unfortunately for me, forced writing is not sustainable (see: multiple attempts at consistently populating a food log).  It’s really too bad, because I would love to be able to look back on a documented history of positive moments.  Cloaked in disappointed self-awareness, I decided to devise another approach:

In bed before sleep each night, I offer a thanksgiving prayer to God by reflecting on my day and highlighting 3 things for which I’m grateful. I do not rank them; I simply mention in my mind 3 things that stand out to me.  The entire process/prayer takes less than a minute and I’m generally off to sleep minutes later.  To illustrate, here are examples from the past few days:

On Friday, which is supposed to be my dedicated, coveted Kidden Prep day, I instead spent most of the morning running around taking care of my younger daughter’s doctor appointment, returning her to school and volunteering for an hour shelving books in the school library, then picking up her medication from the pharmacy and bringing it back to school.  These were my 3 thank yous to God for the day:

  1. Keeping my immediate and extended family free from harm and major illness.
  2. Productivity: I thrive on accomplishment.  Even though my work day didn’t start until the afternoon, I was still able to complete quite a few work and personal tasks.
  3. The grilled tuna and swiss panini from Wegmans that I had for lunch.  This delicious comfort food warmed my heart and stomach.

Saturday marked several days in a row of not feeling great, but I still pushed myself to get up early to run a few miles then walk 20 minutes more before heading out for an early coaching appointment.  I then endured a 4-hour shopping/errand marathon with my older daughter.  “Endured” is the label I assign because I’ve never been a fan of extended shopping or errands.  After that was finished, even though my sinuses and lungs were struggling a bit, I remained comfortable enough to dive into some early Christmas decorating to take the pressure off when we return from Thanksgiving travel.  I was on my feet or in the car nearly the entire day, and went to bed with my body very much ready for rest.  While my body rested and before I fell asleep, I told God I was grateful for these things:

  1. My coaching client.
  2. Having a family for whom I needed to spend hours shopping for Christmas gifts.
  3. My general health and stamina that allowed me to function effectively and relatively comfortably despite the presence of several lingering cold symptoms.

Keep a gratitude journal or not – but make it a practice no matter what.  You and your life will be better for it.

I have really been enjoying the coaching part of my business lately.  It has inspired me to focus on increasing my coaching capability, so I can provide continuously enhanced service to my clients and strengthen interactions with everyone I encounter.  A proud bibliophile, reading is my preferred approach to learning and self-improvement, and I am fairly discerning when choosing a book to occupy my precious discretionary time.  Also, I believe God speaks to me through messages in books, or at least, I hear Him more clearly through written words.  Considering all of that, I selected Leadership Coaching: The Disciplines, Skills, and Heart of a Christian Coach by Tony Stoltzfus.  It was highly rated by my “peeps” at Amazon (I like to imagine all the reviewers are doing me a personal favor by sharing their opinions on my pending purchases), and the description of the content aligned well with what I seek to accomplish.

The biggest “Aha!” moment from the book was also its most reinforced concept: The source of the solution to client problems comes from the client, not the coach.  The coach’s job is to help clients to harness the power they already have to identify and implement their own solutions.  This represents a departure from how I’ve tended to operate in the past.  My first inclination upon encountering someone else’s challenge is to offer a number of my own ideas for how to effectively address it.  Those ideas don’t always work out because…they are my ideas!  When I make suggestions, they need to be practical, relevant, and doable in the mind and heart of the client, regardless of how compelling they seem to me.  Put another way, it’s not a viable solution if the client isn’t motivated to pursue it.  Further, when I’m the one driving the solution, the person will likely turn to me to set the course for future fixes instead of relying on his/her own problem-solving ability.  When that happens, a dependency is created that misses the point of authentic coaching.

The “Aha!” moment I have described here should have been more of a reminder to me than an enlightening surprise.  Apparently, I didn’t fully embrace the concept the first time I encountered it years ago.  Back then, I routinely made the following assumptions:

  • I deliberately spend a lot of time figuring things out, so I assumed everyone else does too.
  • I assertively advocate for myself and do not need to be prompted to effectively communicate my preferences, so I assumed that was the case for everyone else too.
  • I have high self-efficacy, so I assumed everyone else has it too.

All of these assumptions are, of course, wrong.  (My father used to say, “You know what happens when you assume…”)  Still, I stand by my staunch belief that people are capable of achieving whatever they want in life, even if they aren’t yet convinced of their potential.  That is why I wanted to become a coach.

The coaching process is basically an interview where the coach asks the questions and the client provides the answers.  I enjoy listening for cues of significance and probing for deeper meaning and ideas.  Clients seem to respond well to this, reinforcing what Tony Stoltzfus and other coaching legends have long embraced:  We already have the tools we need to be the best person we can possibly be, to fulfill the unique purpose God intends for us.  As the Accountability Evangelist, my personal mantra is to “be part of the solution”.  As a coach, I need to be part of your solution.  My job is to help you open your toolbox, select the tool you want to use, and use it in the way you want to use it.  When you do that, your chances of success and personal fulfillment are very high – and I will be eager to celebrate your success with you!

Having just revamped my packing list per my previous post, I was feeling pretty good about my packing efficiency for my recent trip to Scotland…until I saw how much everyone else was bringing.  To my dismay, it appeared that of the nearly 20 people affiliated with the Rochester Fringe Festival who were driving from Rochester to Toronto for our flight to Edinburgh (for the 70th anniversary of the Edinburgh Fringe), my luggage was the most significant.  I had a full size suitcase and a rolling carry-on, plus a backpack with my purse and other flight essentials in it.  Is comparing myself to others the most appropriate way to determine if I had packed efficiently or not?  Maybe.  Perhaps just as relevant is asking this: Did I actually use what I brought?  Since I had my trusty detailed list, it’s easy to go line by line to assess that.  However, thanks to my cancelled flight home, I can answer that question fairly well without looking at the list: YES.  Since I had to improvise to eek out one more workout and night of pajamas, I can say that I used nearly everything I packed.

I have reviewed the list and can share the items that came to Scotland with me but were not used:

  • plastic garbage bag
  • sharpie pen
  • 1 of 2 books
  • 1 of several magazines
  • rain poncho
  • a few of the sweatbands
  • blister stick
  • insect repellent
  • first aid kit
  • laundry detergent – 2 in one sheets that go from washer to dryer
  • sewing kit & scissors
  • laundry stain stick

I highlighted in bold italics the things I would not bring on a similar trip.  The rest of the stuff I would likely bring again.  The poncho, for example, was an absolute must if there was rain during outdoor activities.  Now, one could argue that I could have bought those things in Edinburgh if I needed them, but I find that to be wasteful in part because of everything listed, the magazine and book took up the most room/weight.  Together, everything else represented a very small footprint.

Some food for thought:

  1. Just because I used something doesn’t mean I really needed it.
  2. Just because I didn’t use something doesn’t mean I could have predicted that I didn’t need it.

Overall, I made a lot of good decisions for my summer vacation trips this year, such as using packing cubes. Still, I am going to keep challenging myself to pare down.  Even if I never achieve “carry-on only” status for longer trips like Sharon Kanter did, I can keep making small improvements that will lighten my load.

For the last few years, my family has used a spreadsheet packing list to prepare for our annual trip to Walt Disney World.  The list has served us well, and apparently others are also fans of this approach.

This year, I decided to take it a step further.  Upon returning home, I wanted nothing more than to return everything to its rightful place in our home, as fast as possible.  That is my typical MO – once the trip is over, it’s over.  There is no reason to drag out the unpacking longer than necessary and clutter our home.  Except, of course, if you want to be even more efficient when packing for the next trip.

So this time, I kept the suitcases in the kitchen, grabbed the printed spreadsheet, and painstakingly reviewed every single item to determine if it should remain on the list.  This took a few days because I had other things to do of course, which meant I had to live with visible piles during this unpacking purgatory period.  I had to remind myself the small sacrifice of temporary disorganization would have a worthwhile return on investment.  It wasn’t easy, but some deep breaths got me through!

This is how I executed the update of our list:

  • I checked off those items on the list that were actually used.  Paring down our packing over the years paid off – we used nearly everything we brought.
  • I made a note of items we didn’t use but should still pack for future trips – such as most of the first aid kit contents.  (I actually evaluated every first aid kit item – EVERYTHING we brought.)
  • I asked my family members to announce anything we did not pack that they wish we had.  Only a few items were mentioned.
  • Finally, I reviewed my written notes and transferred the findings to the electronic spreadsheet.  There were a number of insights I added to my Comments column, such as:
    • Doing laundry in the early evening nearly guarantees available machines.
    • Certain bags are better for carrying our belongings in the parks.
    • We brought way too much sunscreen.  I specified exactly how much we used – and next time we’ll bring a bit more than that.
    • Every year we bring light-up accessories that are Disney-themed, and every year we forget to bring them to the parks OR we bring them to the parks and forget they are in our bag.

I learned that there is much opportunity for packing analysis to go way deeper than even I had considered. No need to go overboard, though.  I’ve drawn the line at identifying specific articles of clothing, for example, and instead will stick with indicating how many outfits and what type.  I don’t want the packing to take longer than the trip itself!  Thanks to our streamlined list, next year’s Disney adventure will be more focused on what we are going to do than on what we are going to bring.

In Good to Great, Jim Collins identified what “great” companies do differently as compared to “good” companies.  He had specific criteria for defining these two subjective terms; however, for the purpose of this post, I simply want to reinforce that the companies did things differently.

Recently my older daughter received an academic award.  Her sister, 4.5 years younger, was proud but also distraught.  The younger one lamented to her father that she was never going to get awards.  My husband wisely told her that to achieve such success, you must be willing to do what it takes, to work hard.  Otherwise, with moderate effort, you’ll likely be “good” – which is perfectly acceptable…unless you want to be great.

In my Control vs. Influence post, I noted that an Accountability Ambassador does “whatever it takes to be the best person I can be”.  You don’t have to be great at everything but you aren’t going to be great if you aren’t willing to earn that distinction.  So, first decide what greatness you want to pursue.  What is so important, so motivating, so rewarding, that it is worth the sacrifice of time and effort that is required to get what you want?  Are you willing to make that sacrifice?

QUICK QUIZ: Is this something you can control or influence?

1. Someone else’s behavior: __________

2. Your own behavior: __________

3. Someone else’s reaction to your behavior: __________

4. Your reaction to someone else’s behavior: __________

The quiz above is one I use in all my training sessions that feature accountability.  Also, I recently attended my daughter’s career fair at her elementary school (grades 3-5) and presented this same concept.  Once the term “influence” was explained, it clicked immediately and the quiz was completed with 100% accuracy by all students.  (I’m sure you also scored 100%. To reinforce your confidence, here are the answers: 1&3 are Influence; 2&4 are Control.)  Two key insights:

1. There is a difference between what you can control and what you can influence.  Therefore, doesn’t it make sense to focus on your own behavior?  You can leverage it to be your best self and to encourage others to follow suit.

2. You can influence almost your entire universe, and control a subset of it.  Most of the time, circumstances don’t happen to you.  YOU have the power to make things happen for yourself, if you are willing to take the actions necessary to achieve your desired outcome(s).

At the conclusion of the accountability lesson at the career fair, I welcomed the students as Accountability Ambassadors.  They were each given 4 badges, one to keep and 3 to hand out to other students caught in the act of accountability.  The badges stated: “I am accountable: I serve others by doing whatever it takes to be the best person I can be.”

I often coach my older daughter, who is now 13, to “be aware of your surroundings”.  I use this directive in many contexts including but not limited to safety, emotional intelligence, and keeping a tidy, organized home:

  • Safety: Stay alert to cars entering and exiting streets, parking lots, and driveways; suspicious activity that may indicate danger; potential hazards indoors and outdoors.
  • Emotional Intelligence: Ask yourself, “Who needs my help?”  If you pay close attention to the non-verbal cues of those around you, the answer will be clear.
  • Organizing: Take in a panoramic view of every room as you enter and leave.  What needs to be put away?  What small action can I take in this room to make it look less cluttered and prevent more tedious clean-up later?

Being able to tie in so many life lessons into one mantra is both efficient and effective in its simple consistency.  Plus, “be aware of your surroundings” will continue to have relevance for children as they grow into [hopefully!] mature adults.

What are you passionate about? A few months ago, I read the book, The 5 Choices: The Path to Extraordinary Productivity by Kory Kogon, Adam Merrill, and Leena Rinne.  From my perspective, the 5 Choices illustrate the key ways in which you can demonstrate personal accountability for achieving the outcomes you desire, a principle highlighted in The Oz Principle: Getting Results Through Individual and Organizational Accountability by Roger Connors, Tom Smith, and Craig Hickman.  The 2nd of the 5 choices is “Go for Extraordinary”.  Kogon, Merrill, and Rinne explain that “Extraordinary” happens when you feel satisfied with accomplishments that add significant value to your work and life.  Further, they encourage you to identify and label your key roles in a way that gets and keeps you excited about fulfilling them.  For some time now, I’ve been referring to myself as “Accountability Evangelist”. It wasn’t until I read The 5 Choices and later, Destiny: Step Into Your Purpose by T. D. Jakes that I realized the power of claiming that title.  When I deliver training on accountability and other leadership fundamentals, I am exploding with enthusiasm as I engage the audience in a “What if?” discussion that challenges them to imagine what life would be like if all of us were more consistently, personally accountable for our own behaviors and results.  The possibilities are indeed endless, and it only takes one person to start a movement!