In this podcast, I discuss how academics can find success and fulfillment in their careers. Ian asked me about how faculty can improve equitable conditions within their university, and contribute to staff retention and well-being. Our conversation focuses on my recently released a book entitled “The Empowered Professor: Breaking the Unspoken Codes of Inequity in Academia.” Click on link below to link to how to listen wherever you find your podcasts–including Apple , Google, Spotify, and more.
I used to think being brave was forging through life with plenty of shields up to make sure that I didn’t get hurt. It was sticking my neck out to do great things, but to share as little of myself as necessary to get them done.
Now I realize that’s bravado. And it doesn’t really serve anyone.
True bravery is learning how to be vulnerable while also maintaining boundaries. It’s a much more challenging way to show up in the world.
Self care. We can’t be brave if we aren’t grounded and feeling cared for ourselves. We need to feel worthy from the inside. We mindfully charge our batteries through self-care, whether it be meditation, prayer, exercise, sleep, a cup of tea. We can’t fully appreciate others for all they can be if we are not honoring ourselves.
To be clear in our intentions, means that we need to stay grounded. Much like a snow globe that gets all shaken up, but we’re not engaging in self care then discernment is very difficult. Everything is cloudy and murky and it’s easy to have a cup overflow with anxiety, worry, and stress. Through mindfulness and breathing and enough self-care, we can stay in a state in which we can consider our intentions. When we are aware that our self-care is not where it needs to be. That her battery needs charged. That we’re not in a place of being grounded, then sometimes will need to step away from difficult conversations until we’re strong again.
Vulnerability. Bravery is taking off the various masks that we wear in life to be honest and real and vulnerable. Being vulnerable when it allows us to make greater connection with others. I’m wearing a strong place and we can find greater meaning through the sharing of our stories. It means that we acknowledge the stories we tell ourselves and recognize that others’ stories of the same experience are valid too, as the writer Brene’ Brown shares. It doesn’t mean sharing our deepest truth with everyone, but a commitment to trying to see the best version of whomever is in front of you, whether it be the store clerk, your child, or yourself in the mirror.
Cleaning up messes. But it does involve addressing discomfort and potential conflict head on. It involves saying sorry when necessary. It involves cleaning up our messes when we screw something up with someone. Taking responsibility for our messes is hard. But it’s much healthier than letting the mess grow.
Taking time outs. Being brave also means that sometimes we need to pause and find faith in non-action. If we are reactive and emotional and not in a place of grounding, then being brave sometimes is walking away. Not engaging. We must wait until we are on solid ground before we try to interact. Hopefully as we get better at this, those needs for timeouts and stepping away grow shorter. But it’s important to honor them. And they may not be the timeline of the person who’s trying to engage you (or pick a fight with you). People sometimes want a reaction out of you, even if it is negative. And that can be tough because it hurts when someone’s angry. That discernment is really about intention.
How well do you resonate with others? In coaching we work with clients to find their courageous voice. We also work with client to help to build stronger connections with people who matter to them. Sometimes courage and connection can feel in conflict. Most of us tend to find one of these goals easier than the other.
Some of us are more skilled at speaking truth to power, no matter what the consequence. I’ve always tended to find the courage easier than the connection The positive of this perspective is being strong and true. At worst the can be perceived as aggressive or offensive.
Others prioritize the connection with others. They naturally make interactions comfortable, friendly and kind. At best, they lift others up and find joy in the connection. At worst, they can feel used or unseen.
In coaching training that I am attending this week, I am pondering how to show up with both intentions—connection and courage. My daughter works in retail sales. She wisely observed that she can be heard when she raises her voice more highly, and smiles. This is a gendered answer, granted—when as women do we want or need to be heard vs. assert ourselves more? Yet it also shows great self-wisdom of how to make a connection and be heard.
I am learning that connection must come first. We first need to build resonance in order to be heard. Sometimes we need to mirror others to create a connection—making our voice louder or softer. Matching the range of our intended partner builds trust. Raising our energy or speaking more slowly. With connection, we can stretch to others—to help them to grow and to hear our own authenticity. We can also listen more so that we can learn and grow as well.
Where do you naturally sit on the spectrum of connection and courage? Which direction do you need to stretch?
When uncertain of decisions, our body can give us the insight that we need. While we often stay stuck up in the brain part of our selves as we “think” through decisions, we gain wisdom and guidance by centering our questions and concerns within ourselves and breathing into them.
A common place to think is from our “gut.” Called the Hara or dantian in Eastern cultures, we can find truth and confidence in knowing through this center of wisdom and guidance.
Others find great comfort in breathing into the heart space to make decisions. They find the understand of an issue can feel broader, more spacious. Compassion for ourselves and others involved can change our perspectives and help us to decide how the dilemma might best be resolved in ways that align with our values and how we want to show up in the world.
Other body parts can give insights as well. Try focusing on your feet when making a decision. Grounding can come from the feet. Or an unwillingness to be grounded. At a recent lecture that I gave, one participant found that her one foot wanted to fly up into the air. She was getting strong messages that she did NOT want to be grounded. This person had been deliberating about taking a long desired month-long trip, but kept worrying about the funds. Further reflection helped her to feel strongly that it was time to make plans and begin her adventure.
The hands are also a place of insight. My hands often start shaking before I even fully realize myself that I’m nervous or afraid. They tell me what I’m feeling inside when I don’t want to admit it yet. They are my visual barometer of my inside self.
We have the wisdom we need. We are naturally resourceful and whole. We can find ways of knowing within ourselves by taking a quiet moment, breathing, and asking our bodies what they can teach us. Our intuition is always correct. It’s a muscle that we need to learn how to flex.
Contact me for a free coaching session to see the possibilities at dana@coachingbydana,.com
Even when we are committed to change, we lose track of what matters. The values and goals in our lives can get drowned out by the noise. The busy. The distraction. The day-to-day responsibilities pull us away from our purpose.
Anchor points can help us to reground and stay focused on what matters. Some people wear a symbol of their values on their bodies. A bracelet with a word like “peace” or “love.” A necklace with a symbol of faith and connection. A tattoo of a meaningful symbol or words.
We can also keep symbols in places that we see every day. By our toothbrush. On our desks. I have a little altar in my car—a piece of driftwood from a trip with my daughter to an Irish island, a blue stone from my mother, a bracelet given to me by a friend out of the blue, and a Ganesh–known to be a remover of obstacles.
I spend a lot of time in my car, driving my teenagers from place to place. I don’t really enjoy driving. These little symbols stay in view to help me to remember how valuable that car time can be to connect with these people whom I love.
My kids are at an age where it’s so hard to learn how they are doing, and they often enter the car filled with overflowing emotions. The symbols help me to try to remember to show up fully for them when they arrive in the car. To breathe. To stay present with them. To remain curious instead of judging about their experiences. When I have time waiting for a child in my car, they remind me to make a call to connect with someone meaningful to me.
We all need reminders of what matters to us. What are little ways that you can reground throughout your day with the help of symbols?
I spent the weekend cheering at soccer fields, as I often do. My son’s team was missing a lot of its key players at this tournament. The more senior members of the team entered the first game heads down, sure of failure. And true to their expectations, they played terribly the first game. They seemed to have already decided before the game that they would lose.
The second game, one of the littlest kids decided to write a different story. He was new to the team, and you could see in his body language that he didn’t buy into the drama. He decided that he would be the spark. He scored two of the early goals, and suddenly the whole team believed in themselves again.
As a cheering soccer mom, when the team looks out of sorts, I often shout, “Who’s going to step up and be the leader right now? Who’s it going to be?” That second game, it was an unlikely choice from a spectator’s viewpoint. But it didn’t matter because that kid decided he could do it.
Mindset matters more than anything in life. That I know for sure. We get to decide how we will show up in our lives. I share this lesson with my own children endlessly.It’s a super power each and everyone of us have. We can decide that life controls us. That we have no choice. Or we can make miracles.
Like Glinda the good witch’s advice, we need to know that we carry within us greater strength than we will ever need if we can just be brave and vulnerable enough to tear down our walls and let it shine out. My daughter is starting to believe it. My son is still figuring it out. My greatest wish for him is that he lets his light shine so brightly that he can light the way for others too
We all have an inner critic. It’s the internalization of all of the judgment in our lives living in our heads. That voice that comes from way high up in our heads who tells you all that you can’t do. Asks, “Who do you think you are?”
The critical voice is not you at all and you have no reason to listen to it. It’s not us. Our truth lies much deeper in our bodies—in our hearts and our core.
The Inner Critic voice instead ricochets through our heads like an echo chamber. Getting still and listening to where our insight is coming from came help us to discern when it’s our critic. After some practice, it becomes easier to see when the critic is rearing its head.
It helps to personify the inner critic. Give it a name. Draw it, sketch it, sculpt it out of clay. For one of my clients, the inner critic was the voice of a professor who told her she should quit school. For other’s it comes from a relative in childhood or a co-worker.
Find humor in the endless loop of negativity. I have a client who is a researcher and a writer who has given me permission to share her inner critic—Gnome Chomsky. Here is a picture of him. She keeps him perched on her desk. Anytime the voices of doubt, worry, illegitimacy creep into her head, she gives a laugh at Gnome and tells him to hush. She has work to do. Silly Gnome Chomsky, you have no idea how much of a badass she really is
Holding space is different than listening, and a powerful tool for relationships and leadership.
When trying to problem solve, fix or give answers. Supporting people making change includes stepping aside to allow people to make their own choices. Coaches and therapists–and parent– hold space when doing their jobs well.
I think of the metaphor of dialing a camera lens from close up to wide angle when holding space. It involves what we call “level three” listening in the coaching world—not only hearing words spoken, but also picking up on the energy surrounding a situation.
Holding space includes pulling one lens back to see the bigger picture with kindness and grace. It involves sending positive energy with an intention—perhaps focusing on light, love, peace. Heather Plett (http://upliftconnect.com/hold-space/) describes the process as walking alongside others without judgement. It involves opening our hearts and viewing the space with a softer lens.
The more emotion involved in a situation and the more I form an opinion of “right and wrong,” the harder it is to hold space. In emotionally challenging situations, holding space requires discipline and an ongoing focus on the bigger picture. It also requires self care and discipline regarding one’s own emotions.
I have asked of friends and loved ones to hold space for me, even if I didn’t have the vocabulary to do so. When I am in a space where I am experiencing a conflict with someone, knowing that a friend or family member is sending energy my way makes a difference. And I admit, when I ask that of friends, and they cannot do so, I struggle with that friendship.
I wonder how I could work on hold space in more parts of my life—learning how to flex this muscle. With my children. In line at the grocery store. At work meetings.. Starting in easier spaces without emotional pull is great practice space so that we can learn how to hold space even in the difficult times.