Friday, March 28, 2008

What is Coaching?

I recently became a member of the International Coach Federation (ICF) and in reading through their code of ethics, I thought they did a good job of summarizing and defining coaching and it's purpose.  Here's an excerpt taken from the ICF Code of Ethics:

Part One: The ICF Philosophy of Coaching
The International Coach Federation adheres to a form of coaching that honors the client as the expert in his/her life and work and believes that every client is creative, resourceful, and whole. Standing on this foundation, the coach's responsibility is to:

* Discover, clarify, and align with what the client wants to achieve
* Encourage client self-discovery
* Elicit client-generated solutions and strategies
* Hold the client responsible and accountable

Part Two: The ICF Definition of Coaching

Professional Coaching is an ongoing professional relationship that helps people produce extraordinary results in their lives, careers, businesses or organizations. Through the process of coaching, clients deepen their learning, improve their performance, and enhance their quality of life.

Coaching is still quite new as an industry, with many coaching specialties and niches being defined each day.  My corner of the world is career coaching for overachievers.   

From reading the coaching description above and looking through my Overachiever Coach website, if you're interested in learning more or setting up a free 30 minute coaching session to give it a whirl, email me:

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Chronic Sadness of Late Sunday Afternoon

From today's NY Times article The Tension Builds (It's Almost Monday):
The feeling is familiar: you are savoring the last of a leisurely Sunday lunch or a long walk in the park when you abruptly realize that your weekend will be over in a matter of hours. In an instant, you are deep in what John Updike called the “chronic sadness of late Sunday afternoon.” As you envision the to-do pile on your desk, the meetings on your calendar, and that trip to Topeka on Tuesday, your mood shifts again, your muscles tense, and your head begins to ache.

You have a case of workplace-related stress. You also have plenty of company.

Poll results released last October by the American Psychological Association found that one-third of Americans are living with extreme stress, and that the most commonly cited source of stress — mentioned by 74 percent of respondents — was work. That was up from 59 percent the previous year.

More of the article...
Like many overachievers, I lived for many years with those Sunday afternoon blues; whether it was the week of classes and problem sets or the week of meetings and presentations, Sundays always had a distinct feeling. I think that in addition to this "workplace stress," there are other factors that go into this "chronic sadness of late Sunday afternoon."

In some cases, it might be from having to end a fun weekend or experience. Maybe you had so much fun skiing or hanging out with friends that you want to savor the last few moments before thinking about the daily routine again. You could also be working on a project and it pains you to put it on the back-burner again... if only the weekend came with 3 days! In this sense, the Sunday blues come from having to cut short some enjoyment that doesn't come frequently enough.

These blues can also come from not having used your weekend time as you had hoped. Maybe you slept in really late, or didn't get to that back-burner project you've been meaning to work on. The feeling of "What did I really do with my time?" or "Why did I spend so much time doing ___?" On Sunday night, as we naturally reflect on the weekend, we have a feeling of squandered time and opportunity that puts us into a funk.

Yet another variation is the Sunday night anxiety that comes as you see the sand slipping through the hourglass in the last remaining hours. For me, it's usually around 7pm when I know I have 3 hours left and I want to make them count. Should I watch a movie, go out to eat, work on that project, or get in a few hours of work? When there's less time available, it makes it that much more valuable. Especially when you know it'll be at least 5 days before you have it again!

And of course, there IS the workplace stress of the over-full inbox, the morning meeting, the memo you have to draft, or the presentation that you'll have to cram for. The week might hold in store for you long hours or an overbooked schedules, keeping you running frantically from one activity to another. Workplace stress may also be the result of a less-than-desirable working environment, difficult colleagues, or an onerous boss. Stress can also come from feeling unfulfilled or unchallenged in your position, knowing that you could be putting your potential to better use. Maybe it's the nagging thought that there's a better match for you in terms of industry, career, or position and either not knowing how to get there or not knowing exactly what that is.

I work with clients who are facing these situations and help them reach a more fulfilling, yet less stressful, place in their careers and personal lives. If you're feeling the Sunday afternoon blues, a few weeks of coaching might be just the thing for you. Email me at and begin managing your workplace stress!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Being Happier: Friends and Where You Live

Sorry for the lag in posts, but I was in California (the Bay Area) enjoying life! I had a wonderful trip and it helped me remember 2 important things:
- Life is much better when you can share it with friends

- Where you live can have a big impact on your happiness
My closest college friends are in the Bay Area and it was great to spend time with them. There's something special about feeling comfortable and "at home" with old friends. They know you well, they understand who you are, and you can easily talk about anything. It could be a serious topic, embarrassing experience, or frivolous banter - all are welcome and expected.

While I have a healthy number of friends, as I get older I've been finding it more important to hang on to the good ones. It takes a long time to build up a "crew" that you can just hang out with. Especially when moving to a new location, it takes a while to build up that base of friends that you can call up for dinner randomly and feel comfortable sitting around with playing cards and looking up choice YouTube videos.

I used to think that I could be happy in any environment. While it's basically true, I know that I could be even happier in certain locations over others. I think it's important to find a location that is a good match for who you are and what you enjoy. There are certain universal factors to consider to help find a match:
  1. Weather (seasons, amount of sun, rain, cold, etc.)
  2. Type of people (friendliness, ethnic mix, acceptance)
  3. Culture (art, music, events, food)
  4. Lifestyle/Hobbies (what people do, popular activities)
  5. Values or Priorities (what is important to the people who live there)
  6. Existing friend base (who do you know where?)
  7. Rural vs Urban (population density, access to nature, commute, strip malls, etc.)
I've sampled a number of places and have lived/spent a lot of time in NY (Queens, Long Island, Manhattan, Brooklyn), Boston (Cambridge), CA (SF, Oakland, Palo Alto), and DC (VA). I've found that certain pockets of the Bay Area would be an ideal match for me in terms of a place to live.

It's frequently sunny, people are happy (for the most part), it's not too cold, there's culture if you want it, people are generally concerned about health and the environment, and there is plenty of open space and access to different types of nature in a 3-4 hour car ride (beach, mountains, foothills, desert). Just being there for a long weekend was enough to remember why I like it so much.

A walk around the Stanford Dish or Arastradero Preserve, with a short drive to Mount Tam or my favorite winery Chateau St. Jean are reason enough to move back. Then the thought of being able to enjoy them with my close friends and I'm sold!

  • How much of your happiness based on where you're living?
  • How much of your happiness based on being able to share it with good friends?
  • Which is more important to you?

Monday, March 10, 2008

RSS, Feeds, Newsletter - Oh My!

A few people have been having trouble with my RSS feed to Google Reader. If it hasn't been updating regularly, fear not... for I bring you good tidings of great joy! Behold, RSS (Really Simple Syndication) information:

Blog posts to your favorite RSS reader:
Please delete the old feed, go directly to my Overachiever Coach Blog ( and subscribe using the link on the right sidebar (big orange RSS button that says "Subscribe in a Reader"), and you can choose the RSS reader of your choice (btw, Google Reader rocks!).

Blog posts to your inbox:
If you'd like to get blog posts pushed to your email inbox, use the link on the right sidebar (Subscribe: Email feed to your inbox) and you enter your email address there and hit submit.

To get my Overachiever Coach business newsletter:
My blog is separate from the business newsletter I send out by email each month. To get the latest client testimonials, coaching exercises, and upcoming events, please subscribe to my Overachiever Coach Newsletter and you'll be totally in the know!

Services brought to you by...
For those of you who are interested, both the RSS feeds and the inbox post delivery are done through Feedburner (which is now owned by Google!) and I use iContact for sending out my monthly email newsletter. If you want more information on other services I use for my business, please let me know in the comments section and I'll be happy to share!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Being Critical vs. Catch Them Doing Something Right

Question for discussion:
  • Are you more critical of the people closest to you?
I find that as overachievers, we have such high expectations of the people closest to us that we tend to dwell on what they could do better. We want them to be incredibly amazing all the time, so we get frustrated when we think they're not living up to their ability and greatness.

It could be that we are so used to dealing with driven and ambitious people all day at our jobs that we forget that our family and friends aren't employees or co-workers who get paid to do a good job. We expect them to dot their i's and be proactive in home life and in things that might not really matter much to them.

Strangely, we'll lay out our criticism in a much harsher way when dealing with the people closest to us. Maybe it's because we feel we can be "brutally honest" with them (that doesn't sound like fun), or we don't feel obligated to sugar-coat something in the way we otherwise would when dealing with a co-worker or acquaintance. Or maybe it's that we lose patience more easily or expect them to read our minds on how we want something done and get frustrated when they don't.

Of course, the criticism starts with us. We have a specific expectation that might not have been communicated well. Or maybe we have difficulty accepting something that's done differently from the way we would do it (similar to the Not-Invented-Here problem in business). This way of thinking undermines our relationships and creates an environment that isn't supportive or empowering. I know that I can personally be better about how I deliver my "suggestions for improvement" to the people around me to have a more positive effect.

Often times, we're so focused on criticizing what's wrong, that we forget to notice what's being done well. The short business book "The One Minute Manager," by Ken Blanchard, offers the idea of "catching an employee doing something RIGHT" and celebrating it as one suggestion for being a good manager. This public praise encourages them to continue doing things well and motivates others to follow suit. Everyone wants to be acknowledged for being good!

Catching a family member doing something RIGHT could be celebrating when your partner takes out the trash, or when your kids make their beds, or how much you appreciate it when your brother picks up food on his way over to your house. The more public of a statement, the better! The idea is to get everyone in on the praise so it means more. As you start doing this, I bet you'll find that a little positive reinforcement goes a long way.

When you find yourself getting overly critical, it's important to remember that we can control this perspective and these thoughts because they're generated in our own minds. We can affect the way we perceive the situation by recognizing:
  • Not everyone thinks like we do
  • There isn't just one "right" way of doing something
  • Each person has their strengths and challenges
As much as we may think our way is "best," we have to recognize that this isn't always the case. And even if it were the case, how miserable would it be to live with someone like that?! Why not focus on appreciation rather than criticism?
  • When can you catch your partner or family member doing something RIGHT and celebrate it?