Tag Archives: life coaching

I Got It…Again

shutterstock_182397509.miscommunicationFor years I have written and talked about personality type (what I call our behavioral DNA–our inborn wiring that helps make us who we are) and the impact it can have on our lives. Yet I know from my conversations with my career coaching clients and workshop participants that sometimes we don’t readily see how these principles can make a practical difference in our everyday, non-work lives. I thought it might be helpful to give an illustration of one instance outside the workplace that has improved the quality of my life and especially my marriage.

The underlying concepts of personality type are relatively easy to accept within the context of work.  That is:  we feel most satisfied, effective and valued when we work in a job where the majority of our daily tasks play to our strengths in an environment where we can flourish (i.e.: with a boss who knows how to supervise us to maximize our performance in a workplace where we are comfortable—physically and emotionally) . What’s sometimes harder to see, however, is how these concepts play out in our daily lives–how personality type impacts the way we communicate, how we approach relationships, what stresses us and how we can best deal with stress, how we make decisions, etc.

My “aha moment” came as I was designing a new workshop some time ago about how understanding personality type can provide insight into communication and help us develop tools we can use to communicate more effectively.  As I was thinking about concrete ways to illustrate some personality type differences and how this information can impact communication, I thought of my own marriage. B-O-O-O-I-I-I-NG, it hit me!

My husband and I have been married a long, long time—more than four decades. Although our marriage is a strong and happy one, over the years I have often found myself feeling resentful, rejected and invisible by what I perceived as my husband’s lack of caring, detachment and quietness. You see, most of the time I like to chat, share ideas, interact and engage. On the other hand, most of the time my husband prefers to spend time in his own head, reading, doing complicated puzzles and not interacting with me or anyone else.  Historically, my way of dealing with my feelings about our different styles (and what I now realized was really a difference in our personality types) was to personalize his conduct and tuck my hurt feelings and anger deep into the back of my brain until there was no more room and all hell broke loose. My temper, like that carnival game where you try to make the bell ring by hitting a lever with a mallet, would go from 0 to 60 in a flash.

As I was designing my workshop on that special, consciousness-raising day, I saw first-hand how knowledge about my personality type and the personality types of people in my life could really improve the quality of my life.  Like with many of my workshops, I was using my proprietary personality type identifying tool, G.E.M.S.—A Guide to Exploring and Maximizing Strengths, as the basis for understanding personality type and how it can improve communication. Put very simply, G.E.M.S. breaks personality type into four basic categories—Garnets, Emeralds, Moonstones and Sapphires—each with its own particular inborn strengths and challenges. Each gem, each personality type, also has either an introverted preference or an extroverted preference, depending, among other things, on how the person prefers to restore his or her energy. Basically, the introverted personality type prefers to turn inward, withdrawing from interaction with others to regain his or her energy while the extroverted personality type prefers to look outward, seeking the company of others in order to recharge.

According to the G.E.M.S. construct, my husband is an introverted Sapphire. I am an extroverted Moonstone. We could not be temperamentally two more different people. He tends to be logical, analytical, cool, calm and collected with a preference for focusing on ideas or concepts. To relax and regain his energy, he turns inwardly. While I also am analytical, I tend to be excitable and love to think in anything other than a straight line.  I prefer to focus on how things affect people and tend to be outgoing, interactive, and enthusiastic.  To relax and re-charge my batteries, I look for engagement with others.

So back to my epiphany…. As I was designing my workshop I began to think about how my husband and I communicate–or rather sometimes don’t communicate–and I realized that my husband’s actions—his quietness and withdrawal—weren’t about me. He wasn’t ignoring me. He wasn’t trying to put a distance between us. He was just doing what came naturally to him. He was being comfortable in his own skin. His going into his “cave,” the quietude of his own company—reading his book, playing poker on line, doing a complex Sudoku—was his way to re-charge his batteries. I realized that I too had a role in the disconnect of how we had been interacting for all those years. I also was doing what comes naturally to me. I was trying to create harmony, connect and engage, figure out what wrong so I could “fix” it. I was personalizing something that wasn’t personal at all.

That night I shared my epiphany with my husband…but differently. Rather than follow my usual style and hit him between the eyes the minute he walked into the house, I waited until he had had some time for himself. This time, as I watched some of the same behaviors I had seen for so many years, I did so without anger, without charge and with the inner peace of knowing that I had really learned something new and important.  When the time was right, I used the communication tools I had identified as effective with Sapphires to share my observations with my husband.  I was cool, calm and prepared with clear and concrete examples to illustrate my points.  In addition, I was ready to discuss and answer his questions concisely and without judgment or anger.

Of course, life still is not perfect. It never is. But whenever I find myself beginning to get angry or hurt by my husband’s actions, instead of immediately taking it personally, I now try to pause and do a reality check to see whether it is based on something I’ve done (or not done) or whether we’re just acting true to type. That insight and self-awareness has made all the difference.


Mind Matters

shutterstock_212996167(1)I’ve always heard that there is a mind-body connection that impacts all aspects of our lives—both at work and at play. Over the years my yoga teachers said so; my healer-colleagues said so; my more athletic friends said so. According to them: When your mind and body are in balance, working together in harmony, you are at your best no matter what you choose to do.

In his book Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection, John Sarno writes about the potentially painful condition he has identified as Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS) which he believes is at the core of much of the back pain (among other things) diagnosed by doctors. In a nutshell, Dr. Sarno believes that the tension caused by repression of common emotional issues such as anxiety, stress and especially repressed rage leads to pain in the muscles, nerves, tendons and ligaments resulting in back and other pain. While Dr. Sarno’s theories are controversial, he has presented clinical data which supports his conclusion that when patients focus on and deal with what may be upsetting them in their unconscious, their pain will dissipate.

I guess I “believed” all of those experts or at least I knew that they believed what they were saying. It was that way for years…. until the day after my last birthday. My birthday this year knocked me for a loop. No real reason. Everything in my life seemed to be going great.  My son and his wife had moved geographically closer. I was helping my daughter and her fiancé plan their wedding. My husband and I were looking positively at our next steps. I was refocusing the direction I wanted my business to take and I was re-writing my website as a move to make that happen. Yet, somehow, none of that seemed to matter. I was blue…very, very blue.

Now for me, birthdays (mine and others) always have been times for celebration. As a matter of fact, I would start to celebrate my birthday in mid-January (right after my husband’s birthday) and go right through the months until mine. Not this year…and it wasn’t even a “big” birthday.

So, what does all this have to do with the mind-body connection? Well, this was the first time in my life that I really recognized the mind-body connection at work. It was remarkable and I’m going to do whatever I can to remember what I’ve learned and share it with anyone who will listen.

Over the past year or so I have had a number of foot surgeries and have been in physical therapy to rehab my feet. (I will hike again!!!). One of my exercises required me to pick up about 18 marbles (big and small) with my toes—pick up a marble, hold it for a few seconds, cross over my other leg (still holding that marble) and drop it into a small container. I was supposed to do the exercise (picking up all the marbles each time) for three repetitions with each foot. After six weeks of physical therapy, I had become a pro and was very pleased with myself—except for the Wednesday before my birthday.

Although I went to physical therapy on that day, I was in a funk. I started my PT and even the easiest of exercises—the ones I could basically do on Day 1 of PT were a struggle. It was finally time for the marbles. Ok, I thought, this will give me a boost. It always does. Except this time I couldn’t do it; not one marble. Try as I might, and believe me I was trying, I couldn’t pick up a single marble with either foot, not even the easier small ones. I couldn’t believe it. I kept trying, first one foot, then the other, over and over again. I couldn’t get one damn marble up off the towel. After 15 minutes, with sweat dripping down my face, I gave up and moved onto something else.

Dejected, I went home after physical therapy and looked at my task list. It was overwhelming. Easy, everyday tasks seemed just too hard. My mind-body connection was askew and now it was really interfering with my life (although at that point I didn’t know what was getting in my way.) I just felt like I was not in control; I couldn’t motivate myself to do anything—not even the tools that I knew could potentially help. Boy was I down!

That was Wednesday, the day before my birthday. I woke up on my birthday still feeling blue. My coach called to wish me a happy birthday and I talked about what this birthday, this point in my life meant to me. I realized that I was about to enter a new phase in my life—one not governed by scheduled surgeries. Now it was about me and what I wanted in life. I was at yet another transition point and I was a bit scared, overwhelmed and confused about what I wanted this next period to look like…and I was frustrated that I was back in transition, having to chart my own course once again.

The next day, Friday, two days after my birthday, I woke up feeling better. The world wasn’t bleak. I no longer felt like wallowing in whatever I had been wallowing in. I felt good. I went to PT wondering about whether my toes would work. Would I be able to pick up the marbles? I did my beginning stuff and now it was time—me against the marbles.

I looked at my toes, I gave them some words of encouragement and I reached for the first marble. I chose the biggest one, the one that usually is most difficult for me, and up it went. I held it; I carried it across my body and I sent it to home. I smiled. I did it again and again until I had done 3 repetitions (all 18 marbles) with each foot. No marbles dropped; none rolled across the floor. I WAS BACK! Talking about my frustrations and anger had released something. Suddenly, without my even realizing it, my mind and body were in balance. They were connected; they were working together and I could count on that synergy.

So, I’ve become a believer. Now, when I see the visual cue that I am not performing at my physical best, I know that I ignore that message at my peril. Similarly, when I feel blue, I know that figuring out what is getting in my way is really important. Sometimes it can be addressed by doing something physical that I like—taking a walk, gardening, even cleaning out a closet. Sometimes it takes writing in my journal, talking to my coach or getting whatever help I need. Bottom line, I remember that there is a connection between how I feel physically and what’s going on in my mind and I use that information to take steps to improve my well-being. I know that I can regain control and make choices about how to deal with the situation. I know that getting my life in focus—my body and my mind in balance—will definitely help—whether I’m at home or in the office.

Marbles anyone?