Curious?

Ever have a conversation with a 4-year old that quickly turned into a barrage of “Why” questions?  You know…Why do birds have feathers?  Why do they build nests?  Why are they different colors?  Why do birds have different songs?  Why do some birds sing at night when I have to go to bed?  And so on and so on…

So why do so many of us lose that sense of wonder – that sense of curiosity as we grow up?  Based on the vast research conducted by behaviorists, we know curiosity is a learned behavior that grows with careful nurturing.  When we neglect to nurture and encourage what is basically intrinsic to human development – it languishes. 

I believe curiosity is at the heart of resilience, adaptability, and our ability to manage conflict, sadness and even shame.  Curiosity feeds empathy.  Curiosity is the soul of innovation and problem solving.  Curiosity belongs to someone who seeks experience and knowledge. Someone open to the uncertainties of change because it’s a chance to learn.

So why is curiosity important to our personal and professional lives?  Curiosity…

  • Ensures we don’t limit ourselves by looking for answers that simply confirm our assumptions.  It challenges and tests limits.  It drives better decision-making.

  • Avoids judgement because the learning process is all about exploration and openness.

  • Builds stronger cultures – whether at work or within family units – because the very act of inquiry allows us to stand in each other’s shoes and seek to understand diverse ideas.

  • Opens up conversations in search of the best solutions.

  • Increases employee satisfaction and improves productivity.

  • Is results-oriented and collaborative.

  • Develops personal and organizational capacity to understand and lead change.

  • Builds perseverance.

  • Encourages meaningful engagement.

Through our curiosity we gain the capacity to embrace the constant unpredictability of change AND prepare ourselves to deeply lead and engage as a participant in the future.                                                                                                                               

~~~~~

YOUR ASSIGNMENT:

Over the next week, ask yourself,

“What can I be curious about?”

And then boldly follow the path it shows you.

Be that 4-year old again and again.  Learn.  Seek to understand.  Keep asking “why” until you get to the true root of the issue.  Be bold.  Be courageous.  Become the explorer you were always meant to be.

We Tried to Save Each Other

“We didn’t save ourselves. We tried to save each other.”  

A survivor, World Trade Center, September 11, 2001
 

Don’t you find it interesting that in times of crisis, we rise to meet the challenge?  We forget what divides us...our differences.  We forget to judge.  We follow our innate need as human beings to connect.  We come together to save each other.
 
So, on a daily basis when we make assumptions about each other, what are we really saying and feeling about ourselves? Why can we be so willing to focus on the differences versus the ideas…the thoughts…the dreams that we actually share? When we choose to contribute to fear and decay we withhold our respect.  We withhold respect from others and from ourselves.
 
As we hold each other at arm’s length…judging, assuming, refusing to see the world the way it could be…we lose a bit of our own humanity.  We lose the chance to build a community that follows its passions – the very things it cares about.  We become selfish...because we live in fear.  And then we lose belief in ourselves and each other.
 
And yet – maybe in spite of everything - we find our humanity in times of crisis.  We love.  We give. We connect.  We create power as a collective.  Nothing is beyond our reach when we stand together…united…all for one and one for all.
 
Today – I challenge you to reach out to someone you might not agree with.  Listen.  Ask questions. Seek to understand and not judge.  Watch what happens inside of you.  Wait to see what evolves as the conversation moves forward.  You might actually find a gem that binds you rather than separates you.
 
And make respect and the need to connect the norm – not the exception.  We all deserve the best of each other.

Our Compassion is our Signature. Our Actions are our Proof.

Aurora, New Zealand, a Dutch train, in our streets, in our schools, and in our courts.  Violence.  Hate.  Injustice.  

It’s not been easy these days reading the news.  We’re feeling angry, helpless, anxious, drained.

Yet – we don’t have to be any of these.  We can defy what IS by creating caring communities wherever we stand, work, play, worship.  One step…one day at a time.

As we expect our leaders to exercise their moral conscience for the good of all, so must we demand the same of ourselves.  Leadership doesn’t come with titles.  It is found in the spirit of service – at all levels of our communities.  Communities awake to the full possibility of our own humanity.

How we choose to act on and express our true selves is where we find our genuine identity.  Our “self” cannot be found behind a public persona that is dependent upon external acceptance and approval.  So…

  • When are we ready to bring our best selves – our uncensored selves – on behalf of humanity?

  • What is our duty?

  • How do we choose to serve?

  • In the end, what story of “self” do we wish to tell? 

  •  What story of community must we tell?  

  • When we are gone, how will we want to be remembered?  

  • Where and when do we stand for kindness?  

Our compassion is our signature.  Our actions are our proof.

Leo Rosten, a Chicagoan, humorist, screenwriter and political scientist, once wrote, “Courage is the capacity to confront what can be imagined.” 

When do we bring our collective wisdom and courage to fight for what…for now…may only be imagined? When do we muster the courage to fight for what we know CAN BE?  Where and when do we stand for kindness and justice?

Answer:  WHEN WE BELIEVE – THROUGHOUT OUR BEING - WE ARE ALL BETTER THAN WHAT IS BEFORE US TODAY.  

 

 

Most Important

I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.  I didn’t sleep well.  I keep getting distracted because what I’m really doing is avoiding pending deadlines. I have too much to do.  Too little time.  And so…I’m grumpy.  Yada yada yada!  Sick of my whining yet?  

Time to make a mental shift, because I can’t stand my whining either!  

A little help to put things in perspective came from a question I just ran across.  I welcome the writings of Pema Chodron (an American Buddhist nun).  She asked, “Since death is certain, but the time of death in uncertain, what is the most important thing?”

Hmmm…so in my mind this begs a follow-up question.  How do I make the best – the most – of this day?

Just think about it. We put energy into things that take our energy and then we fight to replenish what we’ve lost.   How does that make sense? 

We need to stop or at least slow ourselves down!  Suspend the intensity.  Stop focusing on the minutiae.  Step back.  Take in the whole of what and who is around us.  Enjoy the moment.  Soak up the colors, the sounds, the light..the everything.

Gather up all the “shoulds” and set them aside, because NOW is the moment to BE vs. DO.  Let go of the worry.  Breathe through it.  Take our time.  Feel our hearts slow down. 

Whatever we have to do, we know it can wait.  And when we meet that next deadline, we KNOW we will find ourselves calmer, happier, and more creative.  Energized. Real.

Today, I create space for myself.  I open myself to the wonders of life.  I don’t think about it, I simply breathe it in.  I don’t judge.  I embrace.

What is your most important thing?  How do you make the best – the most – of this day?

 

NOTE:  As I finish this blog my two cats have started fighting. Sigh.  Time to eject them from my office and find my moment to pause.

 

How Dare I...

How dare I dream. 

How dare I believe I deserve better. 

How dare I want more out of life. 

How dare I believe that if I work harder good things will come.

How dare I believe that if I obey the rules, I won’t be punished.

How dare I shed my shame. 

How dare I make my own destiny.

How dare I care.

How dare I give.

How dare I laugh.

How dare I cry. 

How dare I hurt when dismissed. 

How dare I shine when I am appreciated. 

How dare I love. 

How dare I love myself. 

How dare I believe in myself.

 How dare I live a life of joy.

  

Because…I dare to be!

What do you dare?

We're accountable for our own destiny

We actually have the power to set our own destiny. While we can’t control all the external forces, we can choose how to respond to them.  Do we see what life offers as lacking?  Or do we see the opportunities to learn, grow and be who we are meant to be?
 
Instead, we too often give up our power to choose.  We can choose to be happy and see life full and abundant, or we can be fearful and choose despair and distrust…a life full of wanting.
 
Ever wonder how a poor person has the energy to greet the world with a smile? Ever notice someone who has been the victim of violence find a way to forgive? What about the colleague who deals with a tough personality or a daunting project - everyday - and yet meets his/her work with joy?

The questions we should be asking ourselves are:  

  • How do I hold myself accountable to intentional engagement with the world around me?   

  • What is life offering me?  

  • What wonders might be lying at my feet if I only look and listen?  

We only need to awaken to possibility and embrace the abundance of what life offers.

So how do we create a prosperity of the heart?  How do we hold ourselves accountable to creating our own destiny?  

Neuroscience research breakthroughs show how the brain can fuel a healthier view of ourselves in the world.  Very simply…to take control of our destiny, we need to change our thoughts.  We need to own them deeply and create a new habit of believing in possibilities.

If we change our thoughts, we change how we feel, which also changes our behavior.  And if we change our behavior – or our perspectives of the world shift – we change the outcomes. We take control of our lives and how we choose to live.

Practical steps?

  1. Pick an issue or idea you’re struggling with.  Write down the thought.  Say it out loud.   Make it real.  How do you feel?  Think about how you behave when it sneaks up on you. How do you see the world through the lens of this thought?

  2. Change the thought.  What’s the opposite of what you’re thinking now?  How can you adjust it so it shifts your feelings about the issue? 

  3. Once you have an alternative thought, write that new thought down.  And say it out loud.  Again - make it real.  Every time you have the original thought that betrays you, work to catch yourself and pivot to the new one.  You can make a game of it.  When you catch yourself, give yourself credit. Have fun with the game.  While the goal here is to change your thought, you have to increase your awareness each time the old habit sneaks in.  That’s half the battle.

  4. How are you behaving with this new thought and the new feelings?  What’s changing with the outcome? 

  5. Practice this for at least 6-weeks – the time it takes to create a new habit.

And let me know how this new approach worked for you or forward your questions to michelle@michellesherbun.com.

It’s time to BE DRAMASTIC

Wouldn’t you know it, I checked the internet for the word “dramastic” – a word I coined as far back as 2007, and I found a definition in the Urban Dictionary.  (That’ll teach me to not copyright – especially since there are so few new ideas only reworked ones. Obviously, mine included!)

The Urban Dictionary defined DRAMASTIC as a combination of the words "dramatic" and “drastic” - used to characterize a response that is blown out of proportion and is very severe at the same time.

While I agree that makes sense, I have a bit of a different take on the word - something I see as more positive and personally compelling.  My definition requires we BE DRAMASTIC.  And that means we act out or share a moving and vivid story – or better yet – a personal experience that compels others to respond with a sense of urgency.  

I don’t usually believe in starting any conversation with a definition – but, in this case, I’ll make an exception.  It’s time we all BE DRAMASTIC!

Whether we’re retired, an at-home parent, a manager, or front-line staff – we ALL interact with people at some place in our lives.  These folks sit on either side of the political aisle.  And as we well know, there’s not much agreement (an understatement!) on either side.  We have a responsibility to ourselves and to those we work with…live with…happen upon…to BE DRAMASTIC.  This means we need to be human – to share our personal stories – with kindness and compassion.  I guarantee you those stories can connect us through a shared experience, compassion, a commitment to what is just and right. 

  Yes…just and right.   Remember…FEAR HAS US DOING CRAZY THINGS!  I mean really …we’re all at least a little bit crazy in this current political climate!  We need to lead ourselves and others from a place that is DRAMASTIC.  We share our stories and personal experiences.  We LISTEN to the stories and personal experiences of others.  And then we LET GO…LET BE.  

Guess what?  You can’t sustain DRAMASTIC.  Take a breath!  Walk away! Or you may explode!  Pick the battles that matter to you most.  And when you are BEING DRAMASTIC – do it from a place of love.  Be respectful.   

Those who treat you with disrespect need kindness the most.

 

 

 

 

I Went to the Desert

This past month I went to the desert to join other professional women and one brave man from around the country in exploration.  There was no real agenda…simply a trust the group would uncover issues important to each of us individually, as well as a collective.

I went to the desert to reflect on my previous 18-month journey. It has been a journey to clarify my personal purpose as I enter this next phase of my life.  

I went to the desert to reflect and seek clarity.  Was I who and where I wanted to be with my life? Through my reflections, I found peace within myself and in my place in the world.

So, I invite you in 2019 to go to the desert – maybe not literally – but in your mind and in your heart.  Instead of setting a new year’s resolution, take the time to reflect. What have you learned?  What do you want to learn?  Where do you feel empty?  When do you feel whole?

Some things to help you get started…

  • You don’t always have to be in this world. Seek your place of calm.  You get to disconnect or step away from the chaos periodically to touch base with yourself and ask…

    • Where might I be feeling drained?  

    • What do I choose to do about it?

    • When and why am I feeling joy?

    • How do I create more opportunities for joy?

          Oh, and another benefit - creating this space for yourself helps to jettison
          tensions without dumping them on those around you. Just sayin’. 

  • Can you say, “I know who I want to be.”  We often lose ourselves when we carry the burdens of life.  Be at peace with who you are - at this moment.  This is your starting place.  It’s not a race.  It’s your life.  The questions you might want to ask yourself are….     

    • Can I say out loud who I want to be?  Go ahead – try it.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  Be kind to yourself…it will come.

    • All in all, am I being – right now - who I want to be?

    • Does what I do help me be who I want to be?  Or is it causing heartache?

    • How do I get to live my values…every day

  • Surround yourself with people who don’t judge you and others.  You are beautiful - even more so because of your imperfections. You deserve to be with those who help you become all that is within you.  Invite those who are willing to listen and guide with respect and curiosity.  Because when we judge, we add to the confusion.  We become part of the problem.

  • And most importantly - lead everything you do and say with love. Hold tight to your love, because if you do, you are poised to understand with compassion and counter with kindness. You change the conversation.  You change the tensions.  You create space to discover. 

Wishing you a 2019 filled with love, laughter and kindness.
?

What's Too Big to Ignore?

Earlier today, I was jotting down notes for this blog.  Just after mid-terms and reading the news, this question came to mind.  What’s too big to ignore?

The answer?  CONFLICT.

The world we live in is full of conflict.  We read it in the news.  We see it in our streets.  We live it in our families.  Politics and religion have done more to divide us than I ever thought possible. It is unsettling and disheartening. I don’t know about you, but it sucks the air out of me.

Yet, we all need to breathe. We can’t hide from the conflict that separates us.  We can’t ignore those we disagree with.  It is up to each of us to find our way back to simple and basic trust.  I know…not so easy!

I love this quote from Bob Dylan.

“May you always do for others and let others do for you.”

 The solution is simple. TRUST.  However, the journey to trust - not so easy.

The journey requires:

  • Sincere curiosity about others and their ideas.

  • Willingness to embrace differences.

  • Being open to change.

  • Interest in finding the good in each other.

  • Respectful conversations.

  • Patience – with ourselves and each other.

If we are serious about this journey, then we must…

  • Choose to head into this adventure.

  • Make noise for what is right and good.

  • Stand firm to ensure we’re heard.

  • Stare down discomfort and fear.

  • Embrace our vulnerability.

This last one – vulnerability – is not easy for me.  I’ve always felt a need to be stubbornly strong.  It’s taken me time to understand that strength comes when we also embrace our vulnerabilities.  Those vulnerabilities are what make us perfect.  Perfect human beings.  Our vulnerabilities are what drive us to seek each other out for support, friendship, family, and community.  And when we lose sight of those bonds, we lose sight of trust.  

What’s too big to ignore? Our humanity…by seeking to do for others and letting others do for us.

 

They are We. We are Them.

I read an article today that featured one of my former clients – The Greater Chatham Initiative.  The article was about “middle neighborhoods” – those neighborhoods that are on the verge of distress yet still believing in themselves and holding onto their history and dignity.  Their muscle memory is alive and well.  They’re neighborhoods ripe with potential.

Communities reflect the people who live there.  You hollow out the people – you hollow out the community.  

So what makes people and communities viable – not just viable – robust?  Alive?  

  • People and communities move.  They move between homes and businesses.  Between families and friends. They support each other.  They believe in each other. 

  • They grow and change.  They adapt as their lives and environments change – always bringing the best of themselves to whatever change brings.

  • They are resilient, learning from their challenges as well as life’s gifts. 

  • They find strength from within.  They protect and cherish their unique talents and assets.  They work at making those talents stronger.

  • They find strength across differences.  They value diversity of thought, race, gender, age, sexual orientation, etc.

  • They have a vision of the future – what can be.

  • They take risks for the sake of learning.  They value knowledge and wisdom.

  • They understand the value of options and choice.

  • They pay attention to their hearts and to the world around them.

  • They are strong leaders – often quiet and unassuming.

  • They are committed to each other.

 Communities are where we live.  Where we work.  Where we play.  They are we.  We are them.

By the way, the Greater Chatham Initiative is doing brilliant work.  It is maximizing community and its people.