This week was a week of perspectives as I travelled for a long weekend along the Italian coast visiting with three different friends and then carried on overnight to Austria where I reconnected with some family friends I had not seen in over 15 years. The visits were all far too short, especially that everyone of them shared with me their present challenges from mourning, to separation, to divorce to strained family relationships. I felt honored and happy that they could all open to me as a friend, not as a Coach and I hope that I could share with them new perspectives, as well as putting things into perspective presenting it as a gift.
It is so easy for us to lose perspective in our daily challenges and everything appears to be going from bad to worse. When we experience a setback, perspective is often the first cause for a meltdown. Setbacks are unavoidable. As hard as they are, they make us stronger and develop us. We can only grow if we maintain perspective.
As many of us spend some holiday time with our families or in-laws this summer, keep perspectives in mind and take some steps back to look at the bigger picture. I know I will and this week, my friends gave me a gift…appreciation.
We all experience failure in our lives and we all have a choice between whether to get up when we fall down or keep moving forward.
This photo was taken last week during our family vacation in Barcelona. We had just entered the impressive Sagrada Familia. I lead the family inside and walked directly to a side wall, so as to not stand in the middle of the crowds. Turning around, I found myself alone, as the four of them stood together near the crowds, each facing a different direction and taking their own pictures. I waved to them to come over, as to get a more panoramic view, which from my angle was stunning. No one paid attention, nor moved from their positions. Feeling a moment of frustration, I walked towards them and looked up at each of their perspectives observing details and colors that I could not see from my viewpoint. We showed and shared each other’s pictures and discussed what we liked about them. We then decided together, where to walk too next and how we would go about the tour. We all agreed and enjoyed the rest of our breathtaking visit soaking in Gaudi’s work and vision.
When we take a perspective on something, we have beliefs and opinions. A perspective is like a powerful filter that allows us to see only certain things and makes predictions based on these assumptions that belong to that perspective. If something is not part of that perspective, then it is invisible or not valid and this becomes limiting.
Ever had an email exchange with someone when you thought it was written in a good tone and the other person got upset or offended by it? Know anyone whose mindsets are so fixed that seeking solutions together seems impossible? What impact has a destructive relationship had on you due to a lack of other perspectives?
Perspectives open our eyes and minds, they put us in other people’s shoes. We are taught, among many things, to suspend judgement, to listen, to be curious and to self-manage ourselves. We work as a team, build and together move forward to reach goals. Without the ability to shift perspectives, we don’t grow and we don’t learn. Without such shifts, we remain in the status quo and can feel frustrated, bitter, stuck and lonely.
Another meeting, another closed door, another chair to sit on. What do you notice before stepping into a meeting? Are you fired up, is your energy depleting, are you dreading it, are you nervous, will you be heard?
What if that meeting took place outdoors? What impact would that have?
Just imagine right now…stepping out onto the street with your colleague or your boss. Do you feel your body physically moving? The air changing? The temperature difference? There is a shift in your energy. Despite the distractions that there may be on the street, the conversation involves just the two of you. Notice children tend to be more open and communicative in a car then around a table at dinner, ever question why? That is because they do not have eye contact with the parent who is driving. Same with meetings.
The fact that there is little eye contact, as you watch where you walk, allows each of you to have more space to think, to be creative and to react at your own pace. When we breathe deeply, we create more space in our bodies, in our minds and more brain function. As a result, we become more efficient and are able to generate new ideas and thoughts.
The dynamics in relationships also change, as you both walk the same pace, at the same time. You are equals. There is no hierarchy or looking at each other across a desk or boardroom.
Lastly, by stepping out of offices, you simply get your heart pumping, your blood circulating and feeding your brain oxygen. Golf is a prime example of such a combination and you “walk the talk and not talk the talk.” In Russia, they offer another perspective, a type of traditional sauna called the “banya.” Everyone sits together naked, equipped with a felt hat (against the intense heat) and a bundle of birch branches (used to whip yourself to ensure better blood circulation). As the sweating begins, so does the talking. Depending on the levels of the talks, vodka accompanies the discussions and before you know it, you have reached an agreement with a towel wrapped around you, feeling re-energized and never forgetting this moment!
So what is holding you back from having you next meeting outdoors?
Last week I was in London with my daughter for a few days and travelled by bus and Tube, “off peak.” I flashed back to the amount of time and years I spent commuting through London, Moscow, Paris as a professional, squished like sardines, packed like cows or simply stuck in traffic for hours. There were no mobiles, Ipads, Ipods, Internet then and most of us commuters read the newspapers, books or magazines while maybe listening to our walkmans or CDs.
Commuting today has changed in many parts of the world, thanks to technology. As we commute, we can make calls, write/read/receive emails, we can research, we can listen to magazines/books, we can know how many steps we have taken to work, what our heart beat is, how many calories we have eaten and so on.
Here is my perspective; commuting is a gift. This gift is part of my “me time.” In Budapest, my commute entails driving our three children to school back and forth 2 times a day, a total of 2 hours a day. For that one hour I am able to speak, sing, laugh, listen to them share their thoughts and my other hour is spent listening to the Economist magazine. I download the magazine onto my Iphone and listen hands free in my car via Bluetooth. By Friday, I am done with the weekly issue, I feel a sense of accomplishment, I know what is going on in the world and usually, I have learned something new. What a great combination!
Identify the gap that you have in your life. What is missing?
Use your commute to fill that gap. If it’s exercise then walk or bike, if it’s connection send emails, if it’s learning there are many online courses, there are great inspirations through TED talks, if its relaxation listen to a meditation app. Find what it is that you want more of in your life and integrate it into your commute and enjoy a bit of “me time.”
Everyone loves a nice gift! What is yours?
Two weeks ago, my husband and I took the opportunity to sign up for an Indian meal cooked by a travelling Indian chef, who was in Budapest for a few days. Hmmm…looked good, something different, we are curious. We both arrived to the venue, from different locations and plunged into a very cool indoor covered courtyard with long tables, dim lights, hanging heaters and 2 long tables. The dinner was seated and we found our places across from each other surrounded by new faces. Within minutes, the first course arrived and we were each having conversations with our neighbours. We talked left of us, right, across and diagonally and everyone was asking questions. There was lots of laughter and exchanges of cards, including some business leads. A stimulating dinner.
Last week, I had another opportunity to return to the same venue with the same set-up but a Literary Dinner with two authors/journalists from Moscow invited to talk about “Where is Russia going?” Being of Russian origin and having lived and worked in Moscow for most of the 90’s, I was really looking forward to hearing their views and I did not want to miss this event at all.
The two authors began by each reading a passage from their recently published books, both on Russia and Putin. A couple of questions were asked and we were told that a moderated discussion would take place after dinner. To my surprise, they both took their seats across from me and I felt honoured to have an opportunity for a more intimate conversation before they returned to the podium.
I chose to speak English, as my neighbours on either side of me did not speak Russian. I began asking the Russians some questions, and little reaction from either. Immediately I was aware that my neighbours turned to their other neighbours. I asked again some questions and little reaction. Odd, I thought to myself. Maybe they are tired but then again, this is their job and this event was arranged through their Publisher. So once more, I engaged in conversation, shared with them that I lived in Moscow, thought I would switch into Russian, mentioned that my cousin, a well known journalist, was shot dead in Moscow in 2004…hardly a blink from them. Not a stimulating dinner.
Curiosity is what made the difference between my two dinners. The Indian dinner was filled with curious minds, questions, exchanging thoughts, laughs and sharing opinions, which lead to a fun, animated dinner. The Russian dinner was monotone, little expressions or emotions, limited questions, little reactions, which led to zero interest from any of my neighbours and discreet dismissals from the table, including myself.
How did I feel? At first disappointed as I had expectations, then frustrated that I was not getting anywhere in the conversation and finally calm, as I knew that my curiosity and I did not miss an opportunity.
Curiosity is a talent, like intuition and listening. Not everyone has that gift, however, through awareness and practice, curiosity can grow, both at home and at work.
How do you value curiosity? What impact does curiosity or lack of curiosity have on you?
(c) 2017 Anna Jankovich, all rights reserved.