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Combining prosperous work lives and balanced personal lives
Summer 2009

Welcome to the Summer 2009 edition of Susan Robison's free e-mail newsletter for women business owners, executives, and professionals. Our goal is to bring you news, insights, and information about leading a balanced and prosperous life while making a difference.

In this issue, you'll find:

  1. Surpises
  2. BossWoman coaching
  3. Up and coming workshops


1. Suprises

My bags are packed and I’m ready to go. I am anxiously awaiting the birth of my granddaughter due next week. The house is clean but getting dirtier by the minute. Bills are paid but more keep coming in. Deadlines are met and then there are new ones. The Big Brother, age six, is trying to figure out why the grownups in charge don’t know when The Little Sister will be born. His mother tells him that the baby decides when she is coming.

“The baby? How can a little baby decide something so important?”

That seems to make sense to him. I’m glad it makes sense to him because I’m not so good with surprises. I don’t know whether to fly out before the due date and risk sitting around idle for two weeks or wait until the last minute and miss the task they need me the most for, corralling The Big Brother.

We all have surprises to deal with. The birth of a child is a happy surprise; the loss of a job is probably not so happy. The rate of surprises have increased this past year as the changes in the economy have affected banks, businesses, hospitals, and schools. How can we deal with such surprises especially the not so happy ones? Lately I have learned to adopt a more curious attitude about life’s surprises as a result of reading the research by George Mason University psychologist, Todd Kashdan. He has found that of all 24 strengths measured by the Virtues in Action survey on the authentichappiness.com website, the most helpful strength to cultivate is curiosity. An attitude of curiosity holds back on judgments while experiencing and even seeking new information and experiences. While surprises may not be wanted initially, they may turn out to be good things after all.

There is an ancient story about a farmer who has an attitude of curiosity. In his village a farmers’ wealth is measured in part by the number of horses he owns because the horses represent the horsepower to pull plows and wagons. One day some wild horses gallop through the area and the farmer’s horses decide to join them. The neighbors come over to commiserate or maybe to gloat. “That’s terrible,” they say. His response is, “Maybe, maybe not.” A short time later his horses return with the wild horses and have persuaded the wild ones to stay, doubling the farmer’s herd. His neighbors feel compelled to comment at how great a surprise this is. The farmer replies, “Maybe, maybe not.” A short time later his grown son, training one of the wild horses, gets thrown resulting in a broken leg for the young man. Again the neighbors have a judgment, “Too bad.” Again the farmer comments, “Maybe, maybe not.” The next week, the country goes to war with a neighboring country and all of the young men in the country are conscripted into the Army - except the infirmed ones which included the farmer’s son with the broken leg. And so the story continues.

The attitude of curiosity sustained the farmer in good times and in bad. He understood the rhythm of life’s surprises and how adversity can bring success which might be followed by adversity which could be followed by success. He models for us the attitude of curiosity.

Curiosity

According to Dr. Kashdan, people with greater curiosity challenge their views of self, others, and the world with an inevitable stretching of information, knowledge, and skills. An open, exploratory orientation to everyday activity appears to be a pathway to the continual building of meaning in life, with the simultaneous existence of a positive present (presence of meaning) and future (search for meaning) time orientation.

An attitude of curiosity does a lot to lower stress without changing anything in your world. It:

  • Increases your tolerance for the stress from trying new things and behaving in ways outside of one’s comfort zone;

  • Motivates you to explore the world and challenge yourself;

  • Promotes relationship longevity by increasing passion and compassion keeping non-judgmental those interesting experiences of coupleship;

  • Increases life fulfillments;

  • Tunes up your sensory system to be more selective of and responsive to activities that are personally and socially enriching, leading to the building of durable psychological resources;

  • Increases your reactivity to events that offer opportunities for growth, competence, and high levels of stimulation;

  • Expands your creativity;

  • Increases your longevity;

  • Adds an essential ingredient in the development of well-being and meaning in life;

In sum, highly curious people live longer and better than their less curious peers;

Recommendations by Kashdan:

  1. Try to notice little details of your daily routine that you never noticed before. What is new about your relationship partner that has changed recently?

  2. When talking to people, resist the temptation to control the flow of the conversation. Instead, try to remain open to whatever transpires without judging or reacting.

  3. Look for interesting novel stimulation in your environment. Just notice it without having to do anything about it.

  4. For at least a few minutes each day, shut off your task orientation and gently allow your attention to be guided by little sights, sounds or smells that come your way.

  5. When something stressful happens, adopt a curious stance, asking, “What does this require of me? How do I want to respond? How might this become an i nteresting good experience? What can I learn from this experience?

The Oprah Question

Have you ever watched good journalists interview someone with a history of some negative events such as a job loss? Often they will ask, “I’ve heard that you say that in an odd sort of way this negative event was one of the best things that could have happened to you not that you would have chosen the tragedy. How could this be so?” Those interviewed often talk about how the initial shock, grieving, anger or whatever gave way to curiosity where they began to ask what good might come of the tragedy. Out of that switch, solutions began to appear and hope was renewed.

Angela, one of my coaching clients, had a business surprise. Unrelated to anything she did, she lost a client that accounted for 50% of her business. A late career financial consultant, she was not desperate for money but not ready to retire either. She was understandably upset. Suddenly her mother who had been in declining health died thrusting Angela into the role of estate executor of a sizable estate. Because of the downturn in business she was able to give herself more fully to the tasks at hand. In the process, she learned a lot about estates and how matters could be made easier for survivors with a little advance planning. As a result she has started a new business venture, helping boomer adult children manage their parents’estates before and after the passing of the parents. The delightful surprise in the midst of the less delightful ones was that her background in finance, business, and real estate gave her the perfect bases to start her new business with very little retooling. Her initial shock at the surprise downturn in business and the timing of her mother’s death resulted in new opportunities for her and a much needed service for her potential clients.

Are there any surprises that have happened to you that might curiously be both good and bad in their results? Are you worried about something that you could better handle with a curious attitude? That’s what I’m trying to do about a change in location for the next couple of weeks. I am approaching my usual need for routine and familiarity with a more curious approach, for example, staying curious about the new little person and how she will affect our family. What will she look like? What kind of a personality will she have? Will The Big Brother accept the interloper into his lifestyle? Will I finish this eNews before the call comes? I’m curious.

Conclusion

Where can you switch from worried to curious? You have nothing to lose and a lot of creativity and flexibility to gain.

Susan Robison

Reference

Kashdan, Todd. "Curious? Discover the Missing Ingredient in a Fulfilling Life."


2. BossWoman coaching

About the publisher: Susan Robison, Ph.D. is a professional coach, speaker, author and seminar leader. She loves to coach women who want improvement in:

  • work-life balance,
  • career transitions,
  • building your business or practice,
  • time management,
  • increasing productivity.

If you are feeling stuck on the way to your ideal life, give Susan a call for a complementary half-hour coaching session.

She provides keynotes and seminars to business and organizations on the topics of:

  • leadership strategies for women,
  • relationships,
  • work-life balance,
  • change.

She offers her audiences a follow-up coaching session because she knows that workshops don’t work.

Contact Susan for your coaching, speaking, or seminar needs at Susan@BossWoman.org or at 410-465-5892.


3. Up and coming workshops

I am temporarily overly busy this fall working with university faculty who want to become peak performing professors but I am currently accepting speaking i nvitations for work/life balance and leadership workshops for the winter and spring of 2010. Contact me if your group needs a speaker on any of the topics listed above.


To start receiving the BossWoman e-Newsletter send an email with “Please send BossWoman” in the Subject to: Susan@BossWoman.org. To stop receiving send an email with “Stop BossWoman” in the Subject to: Susan@BossWoman.org.

BossWoman e-Newsletter is intended for informational and educational purposes only. Coaching should not be construed as a form of, or substitute for, counseling, psychotherapy, legal, or financial services.

© Copyright 2009 Susan Robison. All rights reserved. The above material is copyrighted but you may retransmit or distribute it to whomever you wish as long as not a single word is changed, added or deleted, including the contact information. However, you may not copy it to a web site without the publisher’s permission.

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