I believe that the pandemic has caused people to take stock of what's important in our lives - how we want to spend our time, how we want to show up and how we take care of ourselves and others. This has prompted a surge in self evaluation and an interest in personal growth work.
I reached out to my good friend and executive coach Pennington Amos to get some advice from her on how to help people approach this exploration in a positive and nurturing way. Enjoy this week's In My Network interview.
How, where and/or when did we first meet?
Years ago, when I moved to Seattle from Chicago, you were part of a Starbucks Dinner Club. One of the members invited me to ‘audition’ for the club. I made it in, and we became friends. Over the years we have had the opportunity to work together too.
You are an executive coach working with the power of mindset. What is your primary focus when working with clients?
Identifying where a client wants to grow in their life; and understanding what is holding them back. We access the limiting beliefs that we all carry with us. Limiting beliefs are the stories we tell ourselves; either consciously or unconsciously, that constrain us. It is the “I am/am not” “I can/cannot” tracks that either help propel us forward towards the life we want; or hold us back. There is usually a healthy dose of self- judgement in these stories. We develop specific strategies to move forward.
I have been in a lot of conversions with people recently who are evaluating their careers and/or how they want to show up in their lives. I think the COVID-19 situation has exposed this in a good way. Are you hearing or seeing similar themes?
Absolutely yes. Covid -19 has upended our daily lives in a way that opens up space for us to really examine who we want to be. In my practice I am seeing a lot of grief about where we are today and fear for the future. Once acknowledging that the fear and grief are real; we can also see that we still have choice and control in many areas. All of us have skills and tactics we have learned from past challenges that can help us move forward.
If someone is wanting to do some personal growth, how can they get started? The process seems overwhelming...
It can feel overwhelming, so the key is to approach it in stages. I use a process that enables clients to first gain a clear awareness of the current situation - without judgement. Once that is understood, the next step is acceptance of where they are. I often see people get frustrated here, wanting things to be different and change to come faster. Next is recognizing that we have conscious choice. In all actions we take we first have a thought, which leads to an emotion, which leads to an action. The art is in finding the space in the pause, which allows us to respond vs react.
I had a conversation recently with someone that wanted to make change in their life but had a hard time moving from vision to execution. What are some small steps to take to actually move forward vs stay stuck?
The blueprint is to take small, incremental steps daily. Setting small achievable daily goals that we promise and keep to ourselves builds momentum. At first these can be really small goals – i.e. reviewing the vision daily with no expectation to make changes yet. Or identifying one small change to make daily. The momentum starts to build as we show ourselves that we keep our promises to ourselves. This is also where it is important to understand our limiting beliefs and how they can hold us back.
Any advice on how to deal with the negative self-talk that creeps up? I struggle with this at times, doubting my abilities or capabilities.
You are not alone; everyone has a version of this. That negative voice is often based on experiences we have had in our lives that were difficult or painful. Our brains take these experiences and use them as example of ways we can get hurt, so to try to keep us ‘safe’ they send up these warnings. Identifying that voice and recognizing that it has been helpful to us in some ways is a powerful way to begin to neutralize. Actively name it and practice how to speak to it when it shows up. I find that being playful with it can help too.
You once told me how important it is to use the lens of self-compassion when taking on personal growth work. What does this look like?
I work on this constantly. I spent years wrapped up in comparison to others; focusing on what I ‘should be’ and beating myself up for perceived failures, which led to an overarching feeling of fear. Actively cultivating self-love and learning to speak kindly to myself helped me to take chances that I never would have 5 years ago. Similar to moving from vision to execution, small daily (or hourly) reminders strengthen our belief in ourselves.
What is one question a leader can ask of their teams to do a check in as to where they are at emotionally?
How are you, really? As a leader, showing your own vulnerability and allowing true vulnerability for team members is even more important today. Show them when you are taking steps to care for yourself; and encourage them to do the same.
Thanks Pennington! Time for your rapid fire round. See if you can answer in one word:
Favorite outdoor activity: Surfing
Favorite indoor activity: Reading
Book you are reading: You Are A Badass (again)
On your bucket list: Get back to international travel
One thing you indulge in: Raw cookie dough
Pennington Amos is an insightful and effective coach and consultant specializing in Personal and Leadership Development, Organization Design and Change Leadership. She helps high achievers level-up their self-awareness, presence and leadership capabilities by building on their successes and strengthening their ability to lead in the midst of ambiguity and complexity.