A Broad Perspective Leads to Better Decisions

DecisionMakingBetween last week’s Republican National Convention (held in Cleveland, where I live) and this week’s Democratic National Convention held in Philadelphia, I have consumed a lot of information. My mornings don’t usually begin and end with the news, mind you, but they have for these past two weeks. The news coverage is compelling, interesting, entertaining, and sometimes quite amusing. I have shared many conversations with friends and family members about this historic election and have learned a lot about what motivates people.

It got me thinking about how we, as professionals, consume, process and analyze information before making an important decision. Here are my thoughts on how we do this.

Connect with the person. You genuinely like and trust the person who is delivering the information. You connect with that person. You admire what that person stands for, the track record, the professional accomplishments, the personal story. It could be your boss. It could be a co-worker. It could be your mentor. There is something about that person that gives you the confidence to follow her/him to the ends of the earth.

Connect with the issue. We are more likely to connect with an issue when we have had personal experience with it. You may have been unjustly fired because of your age, gender, or sexual orientation. You may have been discriminated against because of the color of your skin. When you personally connect with that particular issue, you are more likely to be an advocate for it. Even when you haven’t shared that same experience, your empathy for another person’s experience opens your heart to support that issue.

Connect with the message. Rhetoric fills our heads each day, because of a 24/7/365 news cycle. We live in a sound byte world, where the value of a message is often measured by its cleverness. Know what the message is and why it resonates within you. Know what the foundation of that message is. What does it mean? Is it supported by great content or does it just sound good?

Connect with the facts. Sometimes we learn more about a topic because of the facts associated with it. Those facts can solidify our decision. Accurate, undisputed facts are hard to argue with. Just make sure the facts haven’t been taken out of context to paint a rosier picture.

Connect with your intuition. Beyond logic lies intuition, that gut feeling that – without hesitation and sometimes without explanation – grabs your attention and emphatically leads you to the right choice. We often say to ourselves, “It just feels right to me.”

The next time you have an important decision to make (which will be sometime today), think about what is motivating you to lean one way or another. Are you making that decision out of loyalty to a person, an issue, a message, or facts? Is your intuition guiding you? Or are you making that decision because you have looked at every perspective, and feel confident that you are making the right choice?

The Power of Unified Silence

CircleBannerOn Sunday, July 17, 2016, on the eve of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, I witnessed the power of unified silence by participating in Circle the City With Love, a 30-minute silent “stand” to show the world that with peace, love and unity, anything is possible. Standing with me was my husband, Mark, my sister Marianne and my brother-in-law Gene. Circle the City With Love was the idea of Sister Rita Petruziello, executive director of River’s Edge, a sponsored ministry of the Congregation of St. Joseph on Cleveland’s west side.

People from all walks of life, representing diversity in age, race, religion, lifestyle, economic background, and gender, joined hands as a sign of solidarity in bringing the Circle the City With Love message to the community, the nation, and the world. More than 2,000 people spanned the Hope Memorial Bridge, forming two lines across the historic 4,490-foot bridge. A group of about 30 police officers on bicycles received cheers of support and thank you’s from the crowd as they rode across the bridge.


Sister Rita Petruziello

When the fog horn blew, indicating that the 30 minutes of silence had begun, people became quiet immediately. I found myself fully present and aware of every environmental sound and sensation, the breeze, the heat of the sun on my shoulders, the din of distant traffic. Within moments, I felt tears welling up in my eyes as I experienced firsthand the power of purposeful silence. I wasn’t distracted by my usual “monkey mind” which is quite active, thinking of things to do. Rather, my mind was relaxed and at peace, joyfully demonstrating solidarity, unity, peace, compassion, love, and hope in action.

When the fog horn sounded to indicate the end of the stand, strangers embraced, hugged, shook hands, chatted a bit, and then went on with the rest of their day. Donning our Circle the City With Love t-shirts allowed us to identify our community anywhere in the city for the rest of the day. We didn’t have to say a word, just simply nod, sending a nonverbal cue that we shared a common purpose.

-8a5c2ebe922493b7Just one day prior, I had listened to Day 6 of Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey’s free 21-day meditation series, Getting Unstuck: Creating a Limitless Life. The message for that day was You Deserve More Than Second-Hand Experiences. A first-hand experience is one that you create for yourself, one that no one else can demand of you, one that reminds you, as Deepak suggests, that “I am the author of my day.”

For me, the Circle the City With Love experience was a powerful, memorable first-hand experience. As a result, I am challenging myself to create more first-hand experiences that expand my perspective and worldview.

When you live a purposeful life, you gain more from it. As Henry David Thoreau said, “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.”

How are you rising above and becoming the author of your day?

Images: Joshua Gunter, cleveland.com.

Strategy + Focus = A Winning Combination

Serena Williams, Angelique Kerber, Wimbledon 2016, Credit: PA, The Telegraph

Serena Williams with Angelique Kerber, Wimbledon 2016, Credit: PA, The Telegraph

The goal of winning 22 tennis championship titles in the Open era was finally achieved by American Serena Williams on Saturday, when she defeated Angelique Kerber of Germany at the Wimbledon Ladies Singles Finals, 7-5, 6-3. Williams now ties Steffi Graf’s record 22 championship wins. Watching the match from beginning to end revealed a winning combination of strategy and focus.

Strategic Action. Something was different in this game. Kerber had defeated Williams at both the Australian Open in January and again at the French Open in June. What was different at Wimbledon was strategy in action. For this match, Patrick Mouratoglou, Williams’ coach, had reviewed the data of those two games to find ways to defeat Kerber. What really won this match was the greater frequency of Williams’ ace serve. It was this one move – strategy – that made all the difference in Williams’ win.

Clarity of Focus. Serena Williams is one of those players who remains clearly focused before the game. Doing the “long walk” from dressing room to court, Williams kept her head phones on as long as she could. It’s a tool that she uses to remain focused, ease tension and promote positive reinforcement. The match lasted just 1 hour, 21 minutes. When you are focused, nothing stands in your way. How focused are you?

Strength. Kerber kept in pace with Williams throughout the entire match. For every point Kerber made, Williams pushed through it and remained strong and positive. Athletes who possess the physical strength to win can lose because of weak thinking. How often do you succumb to your own negative thinking? Give up? Say it’s too hard or too difficult? Sometimes the greater opponent isn’t the one facing you; it’s the opponent in your head, you, who is reacting negatively. When you do find the strength within yourself, you come out of it all, intact and victorious. Recall those moments of victory to help you get through those times of adversity.

Adjustments. Wimbledon is known for its unique grass court. The flip side of that is the unpredictability of outcome. Sometimes a ball will bounce in a different direction, or the wind will catch it and put it somewhere else entirely. How often do you adjust your actions to achieve a winning play? Invest the time in knowing your environment before you arrive; once you’re in play, be mindful of any shifts, and make necessary adjustments.

Grace. The tradition at Wimbledon is to present the non-winner trophy first, then the winner’s trophy second. Kerber walked around the Wimbledon court first, before being interviewed. Then Williams walked around the court, before her interview. In her comments, each woman was graceful and grateful to her opponent for playing extremely well. How often does that happen in the workplace? If someone’s idea is genuinely better than yours, tell her. If you got into a heated discussion with a co-worker, thank him for a great debate. If someone else got that promotion instead of you, congratulate her. How would you act in the workplace if you truly possessed grace?

Positive role models can be found in the public arena, in your community, and in your workplace. How can you present yourself like the true winner that you are? What can you do to inspire others to practice clarity of focus and strategic action?

Invite a Summer Attitude to Work

canoe_crop380wSummer is the time of year when the pace of life feels a bit more relaxed, less stressed, and fun. Why can’t we bring the casual joy of summer into the workplace? All it takes is a little creative thinking.

When I was growing up, I took advantage of every minute of summer. The sun and fun was short lived because school was right around the corner. As adults, it’s healthy to reacquaint ourselves with that child that still lives within us, and recall what made summer (and summer vacation) so great. Here are a few considerations to invite a summer attitude to work:

Simply be. If you are choosing to take a vacation this summer, practice being present in each moment and enjoy the sites, sounds, and experiences. Put away the cell phone, tablet or laptop and simply beVacation allows you to return to work refreshed and renewed, not stressed and frustrated. Remember to breathe and enjoy the moment. When you return to work, know that you can recall any pleasant vacation memories at any time you wish. I have observed people who, in meetings or one-on-one conversations, are distracted, thinking about something else. Be fully present and be more focused.

Embrace the silence. When I was a kid, there were no electric (or gas) powered leaf blowers, trimmer/edgers, power washers or behemoth commercial lawn mowers. At night, you could hear the collective chirp of crickets or the rustling of leaves on a tree as a gentle breeze moved through. To truly embrace the silence today means removing yourself from the constant source of noise, the hustle and bustle of traffic, construction, sirens, or power equipment. Sometimes it’s the noise in your head, the constant thinking, worrying, analyzing, and doubting that distracts you and consumes what could otherwise be valuable quiet time. When you do find a quiet spot, simply enjoy the tranquility and silence of that moment.

Move! One of my Mom’s best friends called me “the cyclone” when I was a child because I was constantly moving. Sitting at a desk all day isn’t healthy. Get up and move! Take several breaks throughout the day. Walk the halls. Take time on your lunch break to go outside and walk, even if it’s just for 10 or 15 minutes. You will feel less sluggish and more alert.

Live a little. I don’t know about you, but when I am on vacation, I do things that I don’t often do when I’m at home. I walk more when I travel. I enjoy the taste of food more, especially regional cuisine. The air seems fresher and the sky looks a bit more blue. In some small way, I am giving myself permission to enjoy myself. What if that dividing line between leisure (or vacation) and work became more blurred? What if you brought more of that vacation “feeling” into your work life? You would certainly be a lot easier to work with…even a joy to work with. Imagine that!

With the right attitude, you can bring summer into your workplace. Before you know it, the day will fly by, and you will bring less stress home with you at the end of each day.