NOTE: The May blog posts will not be updated this month, but check back soon for new updates.

  • The Cost of Belonging

    Isn’t it a good feeling to be associated as a member of highly visible industries, neighborhood interest groups, sports teams, and even spiritual communities? From our participation in these groups, we practice authenticity, conquer issues and concerns, construct the future, and renew the loving bonds of family and friends. In essence, we belong to something wonderful and bigger than ourselves. When does belonging cost you a significant portion of your own identity? When does belonging begin feeling like sacrifice?

    We may all be veterans of the Fast Track career syndrome, high performance athlete teams, or specific cultural societies. As many of these professional organizations and communities carry a high status in the public today, they may not allow for the freedom of demonstrating any differences or your own personal values. Consequently, belonging to a given group can also limit the personal freedoms of vacations, time off, and time for self. You will notice in today’s media that it is not good enough to take a vacation, you have to pursue something extreme such as, ice climbing in foreign countries, camping in the Amazon, or a canoe trip in the Colorado rapids for a week! Many today are accepting vacation invitations not of their true personal desire but to continue their belonging in a given group. So, these same individuals return from vacation as exhausted as when they were first embarked on the journey.

    The side effect of this behavior can be the loss of the ability to say ‘no’, decline incoming projects, vacation adventures, or more community efforts. Subsequently, your calendar becomes more hectic and you feel a hit to your individual life’s quality. Now the association in this group begins feeling heavy and you dread participation.

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  • Enable Complainers to Solve Problems

    We all have days when it seems we only hear complaining from staff, colleagues, community service members, even the trash engineer on your street!  Are these verbal sessions accurate or unjustified whining?   

    Complainers and negative people are bad news because they wallow in their problems and fail to focus on solutions. They want people to join their pity party so that they can feel better about themselves. People often feel pressure to listen to complainers because they don’t want to be seen as callous or rude, but there’s a fine line between lending a sympathetic ear and getting sucked into their negative emotional spiral.  

    We all know how difficult it is to work or to coordinate actions in companies or individual municipalities.  Too often, situations become magnified because no one came back to re-negotiate the original agreement or people let their emotional state escalate.  Feedback is useful to take the ‘fuel’ out of the complaint process.  If you own the original problem, try circling back to report issues or schedule mishaps. 

    When you are faced with the choice of whether you have a legitimate complaint or are just whining, ask yourself:  

    •  What has not been fulfilled for you in an original commitment or promise, the item is damaged, not delivered on time, not in the form you wanted, Excel versus PowerPoint, etc.?
    •  Did you make your desires fully understood when you ordered an item, a service, or a company report, with the description of the item, the form it should be delivered in, and the time it should be delivered by?
    •  If you need to re-negotiate a promise-commitment, can you identify the correct resources to help you and the new time frame for the delivery to the requester?


    One technique for problem solving is, assign resolution to all who complain.  It is helpful to let the ‘over-complainers’ focus on actions to bring resolution to the circumstances.  The ultimate guideline is everyone must create a sense of personal efficacy that produces positive emotions, reduces stress, and return with as many possible solutions as they can create. 

    Here are some other guidelines to give the new problem solvers:  

    • Are they willing to suspend personal beliefs, organizational assumptions, subsequently weigh them against facts?   
    • Listen carefully to others and give constructive feedback. 
    • Look for all evidence, internal and external, to support pending assumptions. 
    • Are they able to adjust assumptions when new facts are found?   
    • Look for proof without judgment of others involved in problem resolution. 


    “True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.”  – Socrates 

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  • Developing Critical Thinking

    In the course of our work lives, we learn specific tasks associated with our job positions, sometimes putting our strategic thinking on auto pilot. We perform our job responsibilities satisfactorily enough, but often we don’t develop the reflective judgment skills of ‘critical thinking’. What is ‘critical thinking’? Critical thinking is a mental process of solving problems giving proper consideration to the current evidence, the entire context in which the problem exists; and, the relevant methods or techniques for forming a new judgment. These elements also happen to be the key defining characteristics of professional fields and scholastic disciplines.

    As Dr. Steven D. Schafersman of the Department of Geology Miami University states, “While we as professors have the ability ourselves to think critically (we had to learn these skills to earn advanced degrees in our disciplines), many students–including our own–never develop critical thinking skills. Why? There are a number of reasons. The first goal of education, ‘what to think,’ is so traditionally obvious that instructors and students may focus all their energies and efforts on the task of transmitting and acquiring basic knowledge. Many students find that this goal alone is so overwhelming that they have time for little else. The second goal of education, ‘how to think’ or critical thinking, is often so subtle that instructors fail to recognize it and students fail to realize its absence.”

    By using the processes of critical thinking, individual managers, even entire departments, begin seeing something as possible that they did not see as possible before. Consequently, there is growth of the individual and there is the increased likelihood that what the organization now sees as possible will become innovations for the future.

    What are the attributes of a refined critical thinker? These thinkers use many of the following elements:

    • Raise vital questions, uncertainties, topics for debate, formulating all of these clearly and precisely for discussion
    • Gather and assess relevant information, testing the information against relevant criteria and any standards in place
    • Are genuinely interested in finding new and unprecedented solutions
    • Are willing to suspend personal beliefs, organizational assumptions, subsequently weigh them against facts
    • Listen carefully to others and give constructive feedback
    • Look for all evidence, internal and external, to support pending assumptions
    • Are able to adjust assumptions when new facts are found
    • Look for proof without judgment of others involved in problem resolution
    • Maintain a commitment to overcome native ego-centrism and socio-centrism
    • Communicate effectively and in a timely manner with all others in determining new solutions to complex conundrums


    “True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.” – Socrates

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  • Reframe the Future

    As communities and businesses are returning to fill teams and offices, many individuals recognize that the ‘old’ future may not be the future they, or their organizations may, want.

    Now would be an optimal time to reassess the values, behavior, and meaning of achieving a purposeful future. Don’t let fear or angst stop you and your colleagues from sharing a promise in shaping the outcomes that can be produced. The ‘old’ future may even be more humanistic in coordinating actions to shape a ‘new’ future with that much more impact.

    How does this happen? Each individual must commit to looking at opportunities for a team’s promise and mission. Remember the relationship with time will still impact how long you think the new future can be achieved. Big visions and dreams require determination and often, boldness.

    There are some components of commitments that make them feasible such as, the following:

    • Having a clear vision of the final outcome you desire, and the expected steps for achievement. Write your vision on poster board or in a simple Word document so that you see it daily as a reminder, boosting your resolve.
    • Define a specified period for fulfillment; plus, any other sacrifices you may have to make along the way such as, reserving a night for homework from a night college course.
    • Enlist competent individuals for assistance whether it’s in financial planning or a career makeover. Don’t be afraid to have sincere conversations with all involved, setting clear standards of expected deliverables and when they are due.
    • When you have smaller goals to achieve the outcome, give each a distinct priority. This will assist you in avoiding overwhelmed Ness in looking at too many goals And, you will feel more successful with small achievements along the way.
    • Design in some flexibility along the journey to success; and don’t expect perfection. Placing pressure on yourself to produce something stupendous can make it harder to generate anything at all. “A lot of people sort of secretly feel, ‘I’m not creative,’ but everyone is creative to a certain degree. Just try your best and see what happens.” says Carrie Barron, a board-certified psychiatrist/psychoanalyst of the Columbia College of Physicians. Last here, be willing to adjust your timeline in case of unexpected events that impact the final success.
    • Use positive psychology and declarative language with yourself and others as you work toward the outcome. Be bold in declaring what you care about and nurture it. Passion is a prerequisite for producing meaningful results. During any tough times, it will be your passion and personal investment that carries you through to completion.
    • When you encounter problems don’t magnify the new difficulties into something larger than it is. Magnification of problems has become a hallmark of TV shows and the news. Remember how much eggs were maligned in previous years? There are no trophies for excessive worry and angst. Identify the skills and strengths you bring to your problem solving, enlist other key people where needed. Then, spend your energies in thoughtful action.
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  • Are You a Fixer?

    Isn’t it interesting that just when you’re stuck for a solution or a new twist on a current design, a colleague can quickly identify what may be the sticking ground, just at a glance? How do they do that? Is it the length of time that you’ve looked at the situation so long it becomes opaque or non-transparent, can’t see any other alternatives? Or is it that your colleagues are wiser, possibly a sage in their own right?

    What is the distinctiveness of your colleagues or family members that you would consider a sage and where do they come from? Sometimes it can be various communities that allow us to generate important fields of thought on what is possible. Sports communities foster the philosophies of fair play, team respect, and that experiencing loss is not failure. Learning is an important aspect from failure. Cultures that sustain specific rituals in preparation for adulthood, marriages, harvest, and even, death support the ideas that there are other possibilities of living than what is presented by the media and the population at large. And let’s consider instinctive trust. Sages often exhibit an enormous power for inner trust. They are often their own authority on a subject, but humble. They use past experiences to look for proven methods, reflect on terms of fulfillment for today’s satisfaction; and subsequently, can coordinate the action of others to ensure innovation and ultimate client satisfaction. Normally, they do not suffer a sacrifice of excellence for the sake of fulfillment; and, do not suffer anxiety or stress if they have broken the invisible rules of a given group. And interestingly enough, they are competent and sincere in their social engagements. How do they tap their inner sage-ness?

    As each of us has talents that are unique and enduring, sages know their strengths and continually develop them. They usually have a strong focus on their performance and standards of excellence rather than, trying to fit their talent into a specific stylistic mold. Additionally, they focus less on policy and procedure which could limit the remainder of us in our problem solving. They give considerable thought to the measurement of outcomes for the right solution to a problem; and, concentrate on their strengths development without necessarily considering upward management promotion. Typically sages will ask themselves, “In my work setting, do I have the opportunity to practice my strengths while I can regularly learn new skills?”

    To tap the sage within you, ask yourself:

    • Are you aware of inner core values that help you specialize in the tasks of the world that others consider impossible?
    • With your values, do you embody the uniqueness to inspire and motivate others?
    • Do you recognize that you weren’t necessarily born lucky, but born with innate gifts that will carry you and others to action?
    • How many of your strengths do you view as areas with development opportunities?
    • Are you criticized for asking others to focus on smaller details that could lead to a big vision, even though they can’t see it at that moment?
    • When was a time you were thrown some work assignment or responsibility that you really weren’t prepared for? How did you accomplish this assignment then and is any of that experience relevant today?
    • When was a time that you were prevented from doing the best job you could; or, completing a project; or, delivering the level of quality you expected of yourself? Was it an organizational constraint or larger than that?
    • If you are assessed as different from the corporate or work culture, can you capitalize on this difference as being an important element of your self worth?
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