For me, this has been a year of breaking barriers, pushing limits, busting internal myths, rewriting stories, and discovering untapped strength (both physical and emotional). I didn't really set out to do it but I did consciously decide to open up to any possibility that came my way, live in the "yes" instead of the "no," and get in the flow of happiness and health. I'm finding that the more I do what I thought I couldn't do, try what I thought I would hate, succeed where I thought I would fail... the more empowered I feel and the more I attempt and open up to. And, guess what? It's exponential and accelerating. There is an endless supply of experiences that stretch us and create opportunities to explore all the hidden corners of life. I don't have to go looking for them... they just keep presenting themselves to me. One right after another.
This past week, I climbed a rock wall... which, as of a few months ago, I had announced I had no interest in. Guess what? I had an absolute blast! And as I also discovered through my next day soreness that I had muscles in places I didn't know existed... It just may have become a permanent addition to my monthly fitness mix.
My wonderful client, Dr. Nicole Leiker in Seattle, arranged for the activity as a teambuilding experience during my coaching session with her magnificent team of four at Stone Gardens Rock Climbing Gym. Our instructor was a soft-spoken, physically-fit woman in her 40's who had a quiet yet undoubtedly formidable strength about her. We first learned the ropes (so to speak) and then progressed to a variety of exercises designed to test our knowledge, build our expertise, and bond us together. We scaled the 30-foot climbing wall blindfolded, "sensing" our way through our hands and intuition (can you With each increasing level of difficulty, I experienced that age-old feeling of doubt and an inclination to throw in the towel. And as I pushed through those, I had the undeniable feelings of triumph and delight in, yet again, another ability I wouldn't have thought I possessed.
But I didn't do it alone.
I learned many things with this experience. I intend to write about them all in the next few MM Stretches. Today however, I'd like to write about the one that stood out the most for me: The value of encouragement
Like all of us, I tend to forget to how good encouragement feels and how essential it is, especially when you are in a position of being stretched beyond your limits or are feeling vulnerable and may be doubting your chances of success. And, I forget to give it to others as well. I forget to give it even when I'm thinking it! And yesterday, up on the wall... I needed it and thankfully, I received it. But did I always give it?
I did in the beginning, to the first 2 or 3 climbers from our team. But interestingly, one of the things I noticed and remarked on our team debrief afterward was how my mind began to wander after the first few went up. I caught myself distracted by other things in the gym once the newness of the experience began to wear off and then, when my attention was recalled to the task at hand, I realized I still had a teammate up on the wall on her first attempt at a summit the top and, while others were still encouraging her as she had them... I had all but forgotten her. Hmmm. Interesting observation of myself... not really who I want to be.
Every one of your teammates needs encouragement from time to time to succeed at an advanced and steady pace - especially when you ask them to do something new or challenging. And not just in the beginning of the relationship but consistently. The sincerity and consistency with which you give encouragement is the key. And even better news: You can't continually give encouragement to others without feeling encouraged yourself. A win / win.
In a recent study by John Gottman, it was concluded that encouragement can have a crossover point. He found that marriages succeeded at a much higher percentage when the ratio of positive interactions to negative interactions was somewhere in the neighborhood of 5:1. Conversely (and obviously), marriages experiencing a 1:1 ratio generally ended in divorce. When it came to workgroups, interestingly he discovered that they were less effective when the ratio was very high (13:1) concluding that this inordinately high level of encouragement and praise meant no one was willing to confront the important and often debilitating issues necessary to working well together. The magic number? He found families and workgroups succeeded at the highest level with a roughly 3:1 ratio.
Are you encouraging and praising your co-workers or loved ones 3 times as often as you give them critiques or criticisms? Do you (like me) do it for a while and then get lazy or distracted and leave them up on the wall of their effort without their teammates support?
My suggestion: Go put yourself up on a rock wall, 30 feet off the ground, blindfolded, with your arms and legs shaking from fatigue, wanting badly to succeed for your team and for yourself but doubting your ability to pull anything more out of yourself... and see how meaningful it is to hear:
"Keep going... You're almost there, Kathy!"
"Just two more reaches and you've won!"
"We're behind you... take your time... don't give up now... deep breath and push yourself"
"You can do it, Kathy! We know you can. We believe in you."
I believe in you.