What is Hope: Realistic Goals, Persistence, and Belief

I sit here in front of the fire on the first day of the year and contemplate what I can do differently to more fully live my life in alignment with my truest self.   I like New Years, as it represents turning the page and starting anew with a clean slate.  It’s also a time to slow down for a little contemplation and reflection.  As I consider the goals I set for myself last year, I’m pleased to say that the one that mattered most was met.  Achieving that big goal, requires that I take all that I learned and up the ante for next year.  While I had some success, other goals did not turn out the way I would have liked.  I find myself feeling extremely disappointed by this fact.  I have a tendency to question and second-guess myself, and frankly it takes effort for me to practice self-compassion.   If I am being completely honest, I don’t like it when I don’t meet my goals.  So today I am doing my best to wrap my head around what created this less-than-expected performance.

I recently read that C.R. Snyder, who spent his career researching to understand what is hope, which he defined as a cognitive process.  “A trilogy of goals, pathways, and agency,” or a function of setting a realistic goal, being both persistent and flexible in your pursuit, and believing in yourself.  So which part of that equation impacted my hoped for outcome last year?  How do I identify the missing element so that I can avoid the same thing happening in the New Year?

When I look back, I begin to see that my missed goal was not realistic, and it wasn’t even that well defined.  I worked tenaciously and persistently, but I wasn’t clear enough in terms of what I was doing and how often I was doing it.  I threw a lot of spaghetti at the wall, but not enough of it stuck.  And as for belief, I was hesitant rather than confident.  The relief I feel is tangible like the sigh that escapes me, when I realize the insanity can stop now.  Thankfully it’s a New Year.

As I begin to take a deeper look, I see something that makes me feel a bit uneasy.  I suspect that I may have set the goal because I felt I should, and without aligning it to the big picture and my talents, values, and purpose.  Geez…what do they say about a plumber always having leaky faucets?

What I am going to say next sounds like some broken record, cliché, whatever, but I just can’t help that.  It dawns on me that everything must be connected to a vision, and regardless of whether the vision is for my relationships, my health and fitness, or my businesses P&L without it I am like some lost soul wandering (I was going to say alone in the desert but it sounds way too dramatic) with no idea of where they are, or where they are going.  For this vision to be inspired or inspiring, it will link directly to my talents, purpose, mission, and values, or the very essence of who I am.

My husband and I recently went through a values clarification exercise as a way to align and support each other more completely.  We discovered that we shared one third of the values we individually selected.  We are in the process of creating some art for our family room that we will put on display as a constant reminder of what is most important to us individually and collectively. We decided to take this step before revisiting our individual vision and purpose.  Then we can look for alignment, set individual and collective goals, and update our relationship agreements.

We are in the process of working on vision and purpose and have decided to write individual letters and then share them with each other.  One way to revisit vision and purpose is to have your future-self write your present-self a letter. The subject line might be something like, My Ideal Life.  Set a timeframe of one, three, or five years.  I have done this in the past as a way to imagine what I want my world to look like when I wake up at some future place and time.  In the letter I describe in great detail things like; where I will live or work, what activities I am participating in, how my work has changed or evolved, the quality of my relationships, what I have accomplished, and so on.  In coaching circles we would call this a future-self exercise.  Really dig into the quality of the feelings this evokes in you.  And dream big…you can pull on the threads that make it both realistic and attainable if you decide to set specific goals and move in that direction.

It’s never too late to do the heavy lifting.  If you haven’t spent time reflecting on the progress you made this past year, do it now.  Get clear about what you want to create in the New Year.  Explore what matters most, identify what you have to offer, and envision a future that links those things to what the world needs now from you.

How are you checking in on both the inside and the outside to see if you are aligned?

If you like this blog, I think you will like my book The Cycle of Transformation. Available now!
HighResolution_Warnke_ DebSiverson20121208-9332-EditDeb Siverson is a seasoned executive coach, certified as a PCC through the International Coach Federation. If you want to schedule time to discuss how you or your organization can increase engagement by having a different conversation at work, contact us now.


School Bullying is Breaking My Heart

I wish I had a magic wand.  My wand would be big, bold, and wildly colorful.  And I would raise my hands high, weaving a pattern of connection and self-compassion over my eleven-year-old granddaughter.  My magic would be of the most powerful variety.  It would ensure that she would always have a voice in her head to remind her, “You were made special, with everything exactly as it should be.  You are beautiful and wise, and no matter what lies others tell you from their own place of shame and fear…don’t you believe them!” My magic would help her feel her own heart beating strong in her chest, and she would always know who she is: truth, joy, music, laughter, stardust, and light.

My AZ started middle school this year, and a few weeks ago she shared how she is frequently dealing with school bullying. One instance involved someone throwing her backpack on the ground.  I asked her, “What did you do?”

She said, “I picked it up.”

When I asked her if she felt afraid or angry, she said, “I’m used to it Grandma, I didn’t feel anything.”

We talked more that day, and what I discovered was that she felt alone and wondered if the reason she didn’t have many friends is that people thought she was weird. We cooked up a plan that would involve her writing in her journal every day about the five things she was grateful for about herself.

I looked up the statistics on bullying and I discovered that research suggested that somewhere between 15-30% of kids in the U.S. are bullied between 6th and 10th grade.  These numbers make me incredibly sad to consider the sheer volume of children hurting each other emotionally and physically.  And consider that this is not the only pain these children encounter, as many are also juggling whatever challenges they face in their family life. It makes me wonder how bullying and its impact transitions into adulthood.  How do the scars from bullying move from the schoolyard into the workplace?

Last night after a family dinner, she brought me her journal.  She asked if I wanted to pass it back and forth, each of us taking turns writing in it.  I felt like I had been offered the rarest of gifts and was excited to get the black satin covered book back to my office where I could attack it with my colored sharpies, writing whatever magic I could conjure up.

But as I opened the little book, my heart moved up into my throat as I began to read some of her entries.  There were many references to bullying, “Bullies suck,” and names of bullies and “life sucks without friends.”  There were images of eyes overflowing with tears, glimpses of betrayal and rejection, and the words, “Help Me.”

I remembered my own difficulties at her age, being beaten up by a group of girls in the sixth grade, the glasses that forever sat lopsided on my face, the wavy and unruly hair that wouldn’t hang straight, the longing to feel like I belonged, and the never quite feeling that I fit in. It would take me well into adulthood to find some measure of self-acceptance.  I sat looking at the first fresh page, waiting for my wisdom to guide me.

I began by scribing a list of all the qualities I love most about her.  Next, some poetry that always reminds me to take care of myself, and finally a note reminding her to always remember how special she is.

But as I close the journal it still feels like I have fallen short.  I sit here feeling blue, and heavy with the weight of my beautiful blue-eyed girl’s pain.

Where is that damn magic wand anyway?

And then I lift my eyes and heart and pray for peace and that God would grant her the wish she wrote of in her journal, “I just wish life was a little easier.”

Not too much to ask for, in my opinion.

If you like this blog, I think you will like my book The Cycle of Transformation. Available now!
Deb Siverson is a seasoned executive coach, certified as a PCC through the International Coach Federation. If you want to schedule time to discuss how you or your organization can increase engagement by having a different conversation at work, contact us now.