Giving thanks

Over the past few weeks, as Thanksgiving edged closer, I’ve been thinking about the myriad of things that I’m thankful for.

This post is a sampling of SOME of those things.

A top contender on my gratitude list is electricity. Last night, there was a momentary blip on the power grid. Electricity was restored quickly, but our internet connection was broken. Me, gratefully nestled in a cocoon-esque comforter, could not find it in my heart to slip out of my warm sanctuary to revive our router. Today is Day 2 of my Thanksgiving.

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The photo below is what love looks like. This was snapped early one weekday morning. It was chilly, I had forgotten to put my frost-deterring-windshield-do-hickie on my car.

But my husband had remembered. I’m very grateful for Ron.

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My sister and my brother. When we get together, either for coffee, a hike, or on the phone, we share life’s joys and challenges, usually with side-splitting laughter.

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The simple things in life. Like vanilla ice cream from Prigel’s Dairy. Our gorgeous blooming hydrangeas. Having a beer on our front porch. Getting out the hula hoop, cranking up the 80s tunes, and hypnotizing the horses.

 

Friends. Life is about relationships. It’s lovely to have a friend to share a glass of wine on a cobble-stoned street in Rueil-Malmaison. Or one that can make you laugh, or really listens, supports, and cares.

 

 

Our lives are often wrought with pressures, deadlines, stress. I’m grateful for not taking life too seriously.

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I’m thankful for this little guy. He runs our household. Yes, he is the boss of me.

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There are so many things that I appreciate in my life. Hot water. A patient stranger holding a door open for me as I juggle keys and coffee. The fragrance of lavender. Summer. Fall. Spring. A song that evokes a memory. A book that transports me into its story. I’m very grateful for my passion for writing, attending writing workshops, my friends in the Maryland Writers Association, our public library system.

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Most of all, I’m thankful for Ron. He encourages and listens. He’s the best travel partner through life’s adventures.

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Journaling meets short story; the horses of summer

It’s a rainy, gray Saturday morning in September and I couldn’t be more joyful. The opportunity to curl up with a steaming bergamot-laced tea in my cozy living room with some books and my iPad is so delicious, I’m practically drooling.

The horses were on exceptionally good behavior when I went out to visit, each traipsing into their respective stalls, patiently (Mac, enthusiastically greeting me with a nicker and a toss of his head) or impatiently (Happy, circling his large body around me, showing me how he can contort and bend his body however he sees fit) and Pete (standing solidly, eyes transfixed on the three buckets I was holding, knowing that as the dominant horse, he would be fed first, shrugging aside the fact that his stall was the closest one to me).

The rain had abated, much to the delight of the herd. Following breakfast, the hoofed consortium presented me with a majestic display of their cantering prowess, elegantly figure-eighting in unison, necks arched and bodies collected. Embodying jubilation.

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The night before, I had sat on the front porch after dinner, slowly rocking back and forth, one foot tucked under me, the other creating a fulcrum and movement. I watched the storm roll in, feeling the coolness of the night descend.

The horses were in the front pasture, clustered together like a rugby scrum. The night sky was illuminating them every few minutes when lightening flashed quietly.

As the veil of darkness fell over the four of us, soon only the faint glow from my Kindle was visible. The stars had pulled the cloud blanket up and rolled over to doze for the evening.

Rain pelted down suddenly, rhythmically cascading down the timpani-gutters. Just a moment earlier I had been able to make out the horse’s shadowy geometrics in the distance; they had abandoned me, as horses will, choosing the warmth and safety of the barn.

 

What the heck is an Idea Book?

We are formed by the narrative of our conversations, the books we read, the things that we say. Words give us the capacity to articulate our dreams, to express our feelings, to speak of the truth that forms us most deeply. – Sarah Clarkson

I have a deep-seated fascination with the elegance of words and linguistics. Ravishing prose can make me swoon. Perhaps the real reason behind my fastidious note-taking during meetings, while reading, or listening to a good book is this amorous affair with locution that I’ve been entangled in for years.

Which brings me to a simplistic tool that assists me in organizing all those words, notes, and ideas that I’ve captured in my playful lexicon romps.

An Idea Book is nothing more than a modest nothing-fussy-or-fancy-spiral notebook. The one below is a priceless treasure. And to quote one of my nieces, “Aunt Karen is all about convenience”. True.

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As you can see via the photo above, a coffee stain and the vertical bendability* crease assuages the gimcrackery factor. I recommend both.

The Idea Book is the intersection of mindfulness and productivity. Along with my love of words and books, I love lists and organizations. Idea Books have changed my life.

Specifications:

  •  a college bound or a wide-ruled spiral notebook.
  • 220 pages or less is ideal for me. I go by the bendability factor*.
  • skip the first page and begin regurgitating notes, book & movie recommendations, quotes, jokes, gift ideas, reminders, running songs that you want to add to your Apple Watch, a reminder to call the dog-sitter about your upcoming long weekend, jot down notes from a phone call for a visual reminder and for conversation-starter-fodder for your next phone call, yada yada on the following pages.
  • the first page and the inside cover will be where your index will be placed.

*Bendability factor is important to me because often an idea will seize my attention while I am driving. I need a notebook durable enough to handle me flinging it across the car in a hot second as well as to enable me to grip it in my right hand, while holding a pen and the steering wheel at the 11 o’clock position with my left hand. Depending on the turning motion of the steering wheel, the notebook might get caught in the middle and temporarily fold in half like a taco. If the notebook is too thick or isn’t pliable, it gets flung to the side. Safety first!

Some people call this a Bullet Journal, but let’s skip the violence. Idea Book raises your creative bar. It singles you out as a thoughtful intellectual.

You don’t have to leave blank pages in between disparate ideas and you don’t need to group various categories. Your index will point you where you need to go when navigating to that eccentric note scribbled three weeks ago.

An Idea Book organizes your items for easy retrieval whenever you need them.

While you’re sipping a cup of coffee, a cocktail, or when you are placed on hold with your dentist, number the right-hand pages in increments of two (start with page 2, 4, 6, etc). This simple activity is relaxing and has certain zen properties. As you’re numbering, breathe deeply. You can sit cross-legged in the chair and balance a book on your head; or ask a prepubescent child to practice their writing and counting-by-twos-skills on the pages (the illustrious Tom Sawyer tactic).

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Note: you don’t have to enter all the page numbers, just get some pages started, or do the numbering later. If your notebook has multiple sections with a separator page, you may want to number the first section as A2, A4, A6; the next section can be numbered as B2, B4, B6. Take another deep breath. Relax. You are in the process of bringing organization to your chaotic world. Feel free to slip a blood pressure cuff on  and watch your systolic and diastolic pressures plummet to remarkable levels.

Note to the above note: alternatively, you may want to do your page numbering in the privacy of your bedroom, bathroom or when nobody is looking. Witnesses may get judgey and think you’re a weirdo. But those viewing the final product will admire your genius.

In the top margin of each page, I’ll write a category of what that page represents. I often put the date on the page too. I haven’t figured out why I do that yet, but so far, it’s working fine! Below are examples of some of my top-of-page categories:

  1.  Book Club (this page may indicate the next meeting date, what I need to bring, where the meeting will be held, summary of the book).
  2. Travel (I may jot down ideas for side-excursions relating to an upcoming trip; maybe the airline details, travel dates, car rental info, the AirBNB attributes, reference numbers…whatever I might need to book the trip).
  3. PDUs & CPEs (as a PMP and CPA, I need to track my personal development units and continuing professional education requirements).
  4. Podcasts (I jot down my favorite shows to review again later or ones that I want to recommend).
  5. Phone calls (as I’m listening to my messages, I’ll jot down pertinent details).

I do write on the odd-numbered pages too; I just don’t feel the need to number those pages, the arithmetic is simple.

THE INDEX. After a handful of pages have been populated, I alphabetize my categories in a Word document, cross-reference the page numbers, print it out, and tape it on the first pages of the notebook. VOILA!, your thoughts, notes and ideas are catalogued in a simple, organized system. You can update the index and reprint it as your notebook expands. Or simply hand write in additional categories, page numbers.

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Feel free to rip pages out, even if they are pre-numbered, the index stays intact.

Your structured tool is portable, let it follow you like your shadow, you’ll be ready for whatever life throws your way.

The Idea Book is deceptively simple and keeps you audaciously organized. Our brains behave differently when we go analog; our brains become engaged and our thought processes become more refined and thorough. When we write by hand, we retain more. And let’s not forget the beauty of the gel pen. Or perhaps a fountain tip is your preference. No technology can match that.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. – Leonardo da Vinci

Sojourn Sayonara (hopefully!)

Authors note: I have been on hiatus since July, with the competitive fueling of the idyllic writers retreat of Camp NaNoWriMo coaxing and challenging me to eke out 25,000 words of my manuscript between July 1st and 31st.  I started putting the ideas for my literary fiction novel together (The Stories We Tell), sketching complex character arcs, assigning personalities and quirks, and pretty much falling in love with the characters that I started dreaming up. Sometimes a powerful idea would come to me, startling me, and therefore, I learned to be prepared for whenever the moment might hit. Sometimes ideas flowed in during a conversation at work, at home, while driving; sometimes I’d have to pull my car over, put my hazards on, and jot down the stream of imaginative thought that was feeding into my fatty-fatty-twobalatty corpus callosum pipeline.

When I crossed the finish line on July 30th, 72 pages later, flushed with pride and satisfied with the completion of a personal goal, my inner writer emerged and per the urban dictionary, I’ve been feeling el fuego (spell-check prefers el fudge…which is fine by mean too). Or, loosely translated, “my writing ideas are on fy-ah”.

The sources of many ideas arrived in neat little packages. I started gathering interesting snippets of dialogue from my stepsons, the radio, from a panhandler chasing after a co-worker and I through the streets of Baltimore. I dutifully learned to always keep a pad of paper*and pen nearby to catch the conversational thread before it dropped, curled inward on itself and rolled out of reach.

*Note: see my future blog post (to be published 9/12/2018) entitled, What the Heck is an Idea Book?

Once, when Ron and I were doing an After-Dinner Walkabout, I grabbed my Idea Book and a pen, because a constant stream of ideas were feeding in at that moment, and I wanted to remain receptive to the ripe inventory that was available for the pickin’. We laughed as we quasi-jogged down the quiet country roads because we envisioned that vehicular passersby or anyone catching sight of us hastening by their home probably thought that we were a couple of ambulatory evangelists or survey-takers, Ron walking ahead; I was trailing behind him, scrawling notes as I race-walked to keep up.

Things got really exciting when we crossed a busy road, I dropped my pen, Ron ran back to rescue it (I was mid-scribble, hurrying across the yellow lines of the pavement when the pen hopped to the asphalt), and saved the ballpoint from the crushing tires of an SUV that came hurtling around the corner. I can now add the moniker “travel writer” to my bio*.

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My Camp NaNoWriMo bio:

“I’m a dormant writer nestled in the body cavity of a CPA. As a young girl, I became a voracious reader, my parents were concerned that I wouldn’t develop normal social skills since I preferred books and animals over relationships with other children. As a young girl, I would write corny short stories for the few friends that I had. Recently (last month, while waiting on an appointment) I found out that my childhood heroine, Carolyn Keene, was a mythical creature. I think I’ve handled that news rather well. In March 2018, I launched my blog, EQHigh5.com as a way to exercise / exorcise (!) my inner writer”.

 

Victorious Emotions

On an exquisitely sun-dappled Saturday morning in July, my sister Linda facilitated a book group discussion of  Wendy Backlund’s book Victorious Emotions. Creating a Framework For a Happier You. This book had impacted her life in a positive way, compelling her to share the lessons she is learning and hear how others were moved by the book.

About four or five years ago, Wendy was the inspiring keynote speaker at a women’s retreat. Like Linda, Wendy is a pastor’s wife who used to be shy in her spiritual life.

Wendy advocates that we have the ability to create positive neural pathways, incubating catalysts of joy, happiness, appreciation and developing positive emotions by focusing on what we believe rather than what we feel.

It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see. – Henry David Thoreau

I have a vibrant personality, a zest for life, and my go-to state of mind is one of enthusiasm and many of the positive adjectives that Wendy promotes. But I’ve had times in my life where I would get into a rut, and ruminate on the negative, grasping for more negative experiences and memories to justify a dark mindset.

And I would get irritated with someone cheerfully chirping adages of “things could be worse” with alacrity; they were well-meaning, but sometimes I wasn’t ready to truly hear what they were saying. I was too busy wallowing in a sea of pity.

This pattern of behavior, letting negative thoughts overwhelm me, had the potential

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 of spiraling into a self-defeating maelstrom that could pull me into the depths of darkness if I clung to the sinking emotion.

 

Wendy addresses the above behavior in her book; she is spot-on with insisting that we demolish our old thinking patterns, rehearse and re-imagine new, positive strongholds. Her book tosses a life raft to anyone that has succumbed to negative emotions hijacking a perspective of an event or circumstance.

Let’s sashay back into the sunny home where ten women had gathered to discuss Wendy’s book.

Most of the women in attendance have been friends for years, attending church services, retreats and celebrations together. I was somewhat of an interloper, not on familiar ground with this diverse gathering of women who had bonded over coffee and conversation through the seasons.

Nevertheless, I was immediately reminded of the importance of women’s friendships. It swept over me like a hug from my Grandma Rose; she’d gather me up in her soft embrace, holding me against her heart, and just before releasing me, she’d plant a big kiss on my cheek, leaving a trace swatch of her signature red lipstick, a visible reminder of her love.

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That morning I was reminded that nurturing relationships meet you in many forms and you can discover them if you look carefully; they span generations and time.

As my sisters’ friends (and now my friends) arrived, the atmosphere carried a melody of laughter, intimacy and storytelling; the coziness of familiarity added to the warmth that they shared with one another. And me.

Eventually we meandered (were herded) into the conjoined dining and living rooms, each of us balancing coffee or juice and selecting confections in route. Candles flickered on the sideboard, drawing our eyes to a demitasse filled with apricot jam and a miniature filigreed spoon. A fortification of assorted bagels encircled the delicate heirloom. A variety of Pinterest-inspired Promethean breakfast sandwiches caused several of us to collide as we discerned and grappled with spatulas and tongs, indecisive of which to choose.

Our shepherd casually lounged cross-leggedly on the couch, a mug of steaming coffee in her hand, surveying the room with an enthusiastic smile. From her perch, Linda had a birds eye view of all the attendees (and a view of my plate). She was truly in her element, assessing any needs in terms of food & beverage fare, winking at a friend across the room, deftly joining in to support a diffident conversation. I admire those that can effortlessly and affably entertain in confidence; Linda is the embodiment of a hostess nonpareil.

The coffee table showcased our book du jour, along with an accompanying journal penned by Wendy Backlund and a small symmetrical stack of books with a cognitive psychology slant. Vibrant paper-weights of hand-picked bouquets blooming in mini crystal vases rested on top of several hand-outs that Linda had prepared, listing her favorite quotes and inspirational messages.

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I chose my seat with deliberate and covert intent: I needed a way to disguise the abundant plate that I had heaped with a little bit of everything. To be honest, I was holding what looked like a sampler’s platter; my sister had beautifully crafted several breakfast items that I had deemed ineluctable. I had zero discipline or regard about restraining what I had layered onto my bone china plate. After a quick logistics assessment , I settled into a winged chair expertly positioned in shadow and angles. The furniture and I conspired to disguise my plate. If I kept my feet flat on the floor, the plate was lower than the oversized chair arms. I took demure sips of coffee and hoped nobody would notice the amount of times my fork traveled from lap to lip.

For the first time that morning, silence descended on the room, as the occupants settled into a culinary exploratory and positioned their respective copies of Victorious Emotions or notes close by.

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It was a comfortable silence, I felt nurtured and safe as I anticipated our discussion. I was not concerned or worried about sharing vulnerabilities or my personal missteps.

Linda invited conversation, encouraging all to share their thoughts on the book. Each of us has a unique perspective, different parts of the book spoke to us in different ways.

Collectively, we agreed that this is a book that should be read in installments…read a chapter or two and reflect. In fact, you can open the book to any page and be inspired; it isn’t necessary to read the book chronologically.

This is not a quick-read; this is a tome that is meant to be savored and mentally ingested thoughtfully. There were excerpts that resonated with each of us, where we could identify with the author because our flawed responses mirrored hers. We came to understand that some beliefs that we conjure up in our heads are not necessarily truths.

I got the impression that several women were searching for something to deepen their faith or to live with more hope in their lives. In our journey through life, sometimes we collect unhealthy things, intangible things, like worries and negative thoughts. Collecting negative thoughts is the single greatest obstruction to success.

Here are some of the thoughts, the truths, the triumphs, the falsehoods, the quotes that reverberated through our minds and through our discussion:

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  •  “Our brains do not know who we are. Our brains can only create a sense of identity based on what they have been told, what they have imagined, or that they have experienced. It is crucial that we teach our brains to not get our identity out of our experiences” – Wendy Backlund.
  • Cultivating an inner unity within ourselves is our goal, bringing our subconscious and conscious mind into alignment. Many times we are unaware of what we subconsciously believe because we are more aware of what we THINK we should believe.
  • One of the attendees discussed a verbally abusive husband. When he died, the Lord said, “now you are both free”. She had felt her identity was based on her relationship to her husband, she didn’t have an individual identity, it was a package deal, masked by another. Most of her life she would preface a statement with “I can’t”. She had rehearsed these negative mantras for years, 80-some years. She is retraining her brain to respond to how God sees her.
  • “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit – you choose”, Proverbs 18:21.
  • Life is a learning journey. God is merciful, he lets us go through ups and downs to learn to be ok with worry, to fear, to go through what we are going through, but remember that we may think we are not victorious, due to our mindsets or our pasts, but we ARE victorious.
  • One of the attendees struggled for more than 30 years with her inability to have children. The Lord spoke to her, “I knew before you were born, you wouldn’t have children. I knew you’d be a teacher and would have hundreds of children”.
  • God has a plan for us. If our hearts are accustomed to hearing his word, we will be in harmony with the Holy Spirit. Joy is the result of being restored. Hope is the feeling of expectation. Faith is the full trust of confidence that we are restored.
  • As a young girl, one of the attendees was labeled in a disparaging way. The Lord spoke to her, implored that she not believe those negative things and bestowed on her the beautiful nickname of Sunshine. In her presence, you can feel warmth emanating and illuminating her spirit.
  • Next, we went around the room and some shared the nickname that the Lord had anointed us with and we discussed our interpretations and how they played into our lives: “Radiant One”, “My Precious One”, “Sparkle, “Warrior”, “Honeybee”, “My Dear” were some of the nicknames. What nickname does God refer to you by?
  • One of the attendees gets joy in helping someone that needs encouragement. Her advice: don’t be afraid to invite someone into your home (literally or figuratively), you each have much to gain from it.
  • We discussed emotions we’ve encountered and conquered. There were people-pleasers in the room. One attendee had many fears, brought on by her experiences. She had envied others with adventurous spirits but her internal dialogue of “I could never do those things” placed limits on her. She made up her mind to cast off that negative mindset and is in the process of planning her own personal adventure.
  • Courage isn’t the absence of fear, it is moving forward when you feel afraid. Even though fearful, we can overcome. – Joyce Meyer
  • At the end of each day or as a new day begins, express gratitude, the good things, the blessings that you have been gifted. Meditate on the positive.
  • “Gratitude for the seemingly insignificant, a seed, this plants the giant miracle” – Ann Voskamp.
  • “Our lives are a puzzle, don’t miss those little pieces”.
  • Our joy doesn’t have to be based on our circumstances.

That sun-dappled morning emerged into a day of victorious golden sunshine. Several of us walked away bolstered by profundity attributed to the depths of our book discussion and how it touched us personally. We have a renewed goal of rehearsing our past successes until they become a part of our new identity.

By surrounding ourselves with those that nurture and support us, and the ones that we trust to speak up to remind us to adopt a more accurate mindset of our true selves, we can switch off auto-pilot and some of our dogmatic beliefs and lay the foundation to build happiness as our default emotion.

As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives. – Henry David Thoreau

The centre of it all

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Image courtesy of Pioneer Town

He rode into town on a chilly spring day. The few that knew him called him Pete. He was tall, dark, handsome.

Pete was a stranger in these parts; where he came from was unknown. The townsfolk of Centre Hall knew he’d be drifting off before the sun set, departing as mysteriously as he had arrived.

His quiet charm caused the women to giggle shyly, some blushed as his gaze swept over them, unabashedly assessing them from head to toe.

The town of Centre Hall is nestled in the lush Penns Valley, smack dab in the middle of the Keystone State.

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This had been a pioneer town, founded 20 years after the end of the American Civil War.

Pennsylvania historical photos courtesy of John Zubach via Charlotte Tancin’s Freeland, PA history website; the Frankford Milk wagon image courtesy of Historical Pennsylvania images via Pinterest.

In 1885, as this sleepy little town awakened during the gilded age, Grover Cleveland was inaugurated, the Statue of Liberty sailed into New York Harbor, and Laura Ingalls married Almanzo Wilder, setting up their little house on the prairie.

Our anachronistic hero had traveled with two companions, the reason they were in town was completely obvious: they were famished and had heard of the unparalleled hospitality and authentic Italian cooking proffered at Brothers Pizza.

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Ooo-la-la, the large pizza we ordered and the personal service we received was delizioso and eccezionale (translation: we loved it!).

Pete, our Tennessee Walker, my husband and I were greeted by the gracious staff that delivered impeccable service at Brothers Pizza and Sweet Scoops Gelato, straight to our horse-trailer. Pete loved the attention and sampling the decadent soft serve ice cream.

Pete was overcome by their Hospitality Nonpareil; he couldn’t get the words out, but if he could’ve, he would’ve remarked that they were the best and the cutest carhops he had ever encountered.

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The town’s motto may be “In the Centre of it all”; that is exactly where they place visitors to their town, the center of their attention.

 

We had a long journey that day. We were two hours away from home, we had already traveled three hours. My husband, our horse and I were a bit weary, but the enthusiasm, and phenomenal service of the staff at both Brothers Pizza and Sweet Scoops energized each of us for the remainder of our travels.

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Centre Hall is inhabited by the friendliest people we have ever met.

Pete agrees.

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The Personality of Teams

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On an exceptionally lovely no-rain-in-the-forecast spring day last month, eleven curious and intensely engaged 14 West employees gathered around our conference table at 1217 St Paul Street, about to launch into a team building activity.  The group was divided into five sub-groups. The facilitator of this special meeting had strategically seated each employee at the table based on a personality assessment result. And that’s when snippets of clarity and understanding joined us at the table.

Flashback to 2 weeks earlier: Eleven of us experienced various feelings of enthusiasm, skepticism, optimism, and nervousness as we each completed an online Myers-Briggs questionnaire. Although there were 144 questions, it took only 20 to 30 minutes to complete the assessment (MBTI® Step II™ ). The instructions encouraged us to respond quickly/automatically, no need to deliberate over questions or phrases…whatever response dominates, there’s your answer. There are no right or wrong answers.

Flashback to 1 week earlier: Each of us met individually with the Myers-Briggs facilitator for 35-45 minutes, having our results explained to us. We also learned how our type personality was perceived by others. Enlightening!

Back to the intrepid group gathered around the conference table, where each of us were seated in an assigned position. We had just returned from a small-group breakout session where we had discussed a few questions that the facilitator posed. The three simple questions pertained to how we would respond to a particular social event.

Then the fun began. We went around the table, group by group, each team sharing their responses. Many of us were surprised by the answers shared and the perceptions that we had held.

By knowing one another’s personality types, we started to gain an appreciation of our differences in communication and leadership. We had a better understanding of why some people wait until the last minute to accomplish a project objective, while others dig in immediately, and can become anxious when the “last-minuters” delay providing the information they may need. We learned which environments we worked best in and where others provided supportive strength to our weaker areas, fusing the team into a single-bodied organism. This knowledge isn’t restricted to our work environment, it crosses over into relationships with friends, partners, and children too.

Prior to our team personality assessment, I had preconceived notions about a couple things:

First, I KNEW, without a doubt that I was an introvert. I had practically devoured the book Quiet, and felt an affinity to the characteristics and traits of introverts. While reading it, I quizzed my husband, family, and friends asking them, “Hey, do you think I’m an introvert or an extravert”?  When they all answered incorrectly, I nodded knowingly; my mother had taught me to maintain an air of mystery and obviously, even those closest to me had no idea about that facet of my personality.

Except I was totally wrong. I’m not an introvert. The Myers-Briggs assessment had uncovered my true self. While the way I recharge my batteries shares some introverted characteristics (for example, hand me a book, a cup of tea, quiet solitude…and 50-70 pages later, I’m ready for my next social engagement), my go-to core preferences are building relationships, public speaking, and proactively introducing myself in groups where I don’t know anyone.

Second, I have been a Certified Public Accountant for many years; in my mind, I’m about as imaginative as a can of spam. I was living by the stereotype that accountants are non-creative nerdy bean-counters, and that is how I visualized myself, playing a bit role in the idea-generation realm.

And then one day I took my own advice. I started to think differently and contributed clever ideas too (sometimes they were clever, sometimes…not so much). Maybe I had been sitting on the sidelines, not actively participating because my ideas may have seemed silly to me or I was reluctant to let myself be vulnerable. But ever since I jumped into the creative fray, I’ve enjoyed the energy that it provides.

I also found that with the Myers-Briggs acknowledgement, it made it “safe” for me to add my inventive and sometimes-ingenius-sometimes-quirky ideas because it was revealed that I have an intuition preference, which I often rely on to perceive patterns and interrelationships.

There are many benefits to having an awareness of personality types for the teams that you lead. Team performance can be optimized by clarifying the roles and traits that people bring to the team. Teams are made up of a composite of skill-wielding members, there will be a mix which may include a combination of those that are dependable, productive, influential, good at networking or delivering results, results-oriented, process-oriented, innovative, or relationship builders. As a leader, one of the ways that you can support your team is in finding and developing their distinctive strengths.

Sonya Cowen, a Partner and Director of Assessment at Winsborough LTD, an executive leadership organization that specializes in developing high functioning teams declares, ”A core strength of gifted leaders is to be self-aware. It can predict performance in managing teams and driving success in any business initiative. When you understand how you behave at your best and at your worst, you can effectively channel your most useful traits into building dynamic, winning teams and creating an organizational culture of achievement and team spirit”.

How did the team personality assessment project initiate at my office? I attended a PMI Baltimore chapter lunch meeting this past February; Deb Richmond, PMP*, presented a fascinating overview of MBTI® Step II™ to an inquisitive audience. This instrument can be used as a tool for personal growth, understanding yourself and others, team building, and improving project success…because projects also have an MBTI type.

After the PMI lunch & learn, I asked Deb if she would come to my office and do some team-building exercises and assess one of our accounting teams. Deb’s exercises and her shockingly accurate ability to predict the behavior of the various participants was awe-inspiring. We were provided illuminating insights into how we work together and provided tools to enable us to improve our various strengths.

The team unanimously requested that Deb return to provide quarterly workshops pertaining to communication and/or leadership; we want to build on the information that we learned and sharpen our collaborative skill sets.

To quote Henry Ford: “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success”.

Type awareness leads to better management of our energies, but is not predictive of a person’s behavior and does not determine a person’s competency for any particular task. The awareness of differences can encourage a respect for the varied ways people work together effectively.

Our curious and intensely engaged team are highly motivated to explore more about ourselves and our teams together.

 

*Deb Richmond, PMP is a member of the Baltimore Chapter of PMI, she is a Six Sigma Black Belt and a certified practitioner of the MBTI® Step I™ & Step II™ Instruments.