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Whether 2019 was the year you stepped into our life story or vanished from it, whether you have been a part of our lives and planing to continue the journey with us, in any case, I wanted to wish you a meaningful start of the year and share my yearend note. Thank you for taking part! May you have a glorious New Year!
Year-End Note 2019
Getting the yearend note started seems to be growing into more of an arduous task every year. Would it be wise to attribute it to age? Or shall I pertain it to more subtle attributions; less strength, less focus, less time. Less of everything that seemed so abundant in my twenties. Nevertheless, no matter how strenuous “ initiating” the yearend note turns out to be for me, as an Enneagram Type Seven, I am still better off than most people. I believe, for many people, most of the time, the challenge is to get started, to take the first step, to initiate. However, in my case, the challenge is “to complete”. So, here I am. Scribbling the first words on wrapping up 2019, with the hope and intention to arrive at the finish line. Both of 2019 and of my little note farewelling it.
Growing up I was always told that healing is much harder as you age. Your body just can’t recover as fast as it used to, I was told. Twenty-nineteen woke me up from my childish and snobbish youthful denial. I realize now whether it’s a fractured foot, a hypersensitive skin, a cornea undergone surgical blade, or a broken heart; healing takes much longer as we get older. And perhaps there is wisdom in this sluggish speed to pull oneself back up. More time to ponder, consider and redirect. Since there is less time to commit the same mistakes.
During the recovery time in 2019, which was extended from March( Broken Heart), June( Hives ), August( Fractured Cuboid and a Superficial Cataractomy Surgery), September( Cataract Surgery), to December( Another Cataract Surgery), I realized,…
…I can’t help but notice, that more means, do not necessarily improve this most valuable dimension of human development, communication. It takes mindful diligence to take advantage of technology and truly stay in touch with people who matter to you. May you find time in 2020 to connect in a meaningful way.
…I can’t help but notice, even a hundred and fifty “likes” on a social media post won’t fetch you a cup of water when you are disabled or won’t provide you transportation for a follow up visit after surgery. Human connection, authentic, compassionate connection, is the most precious asset one can rely on. May you establish a community of support in 2020.
…I can’t help but notice, acquaintances are a crucial part of our professional and social life. We need different people for different facets of our being; someone to go to the movies with, someone to bike, walk, hike with, someone to trust in business or someone to meet for parties. However, true friends are the ones that show up at your door with food and groceries when you are vulnerable. They call in to check on you. They carry you in their hearts and minds no matter how busy their lives are. And they don’t hesitate to remind you of that. May you be blessed with a couple of true friends and distinguish acquaintances from friends in 2020.
…I can’t help but notice, that most of the group classes at the gym are filled with women. Seems to me that guys prefer to work out alone while women depend on each other for support. They empower each other even when they compete, at least most of the time. Women hold our communities together. They are the glue. They are the blood in the vein of our society. Today, women are standing up stronger than ever and it’s a true honor to be a woman at this time and age. And it is important to send gratitude to all the strong women who made every bit of the freedom and equality possible for us, women of the twenty first century, across the globe today. May you find strong women to lean on and be grateful for, in 2020.
By now you know what a strange year 2019 was for me. I missed two days of work for my surgeries. Radeen and i still managed to enjoy a few of concerts, a trip to Universal, a relaxing stay in a yurt at Cloudland Canyon, a couple of beach trips, our usual walks around the lake, hikes and the normal shenanigans that we get into plus all my business trips. I attended conferences and trade shows on a knee scooter. We actually watched the 30th anniversary of CATS the same night I fractured my foot. I went to the show on crutches. I still took care of the house and the garden and of course my son, Radeen.
As for Radeen, he had an amazing year. He’s the shining star in Math, Science, Biology, Chemistry and Model United Nations ( MUN) at his high school. In March he won the international MUN competition and spoke at the United Nations. Or as he likes to put it, “addressed delegates at the UN”. He was inducted to National Society of High School Scholars and National Junior Honor Society. He was awarded the first place for Science Fair and this year he has been working on an independent study about antlions and Gene migration. He got nominated for GHP ( Governor’s Honor Program) in science, math and social studies. His social studies teacher simply didn’t give him permission to apply for the other two programs. He has passed the first interview for GHP and will most probably be spending the summer in Barry College. Swimming is going well. Rock climbing is better. He is tempted to compete in professional rock climbing championships by the end of this year. Getting his driver’s permit was exciting to him as much as it was scary to me. And suddenly short hair is a thing of the past. Being a teenager has not affected his wise, funny and kind personality though.
I am stepping into 2020 with a grateful heart, a body that is still recovering and the intention to be more mindful about who I surround myself with, what food I nourish my body with and how I prioritize. I am especially carrying the slogan “ SAIL THE SHIP TO THE HARBOR, FROM SHORE TO SHORE”, with the intention to avoid the many marvelous distractions of life, and focus on: learning deeply & completing diligently.
May the lessons learned in 2019 light up the torch for 2020.
Yours, in gratitude
I alone cannot change the world , but I can cast a stone across the waters and create many ripples.
Some of the strategies that help me are:
So, yes! I am building two businesses, I mostly cook from scratch, I am an avid gardener and a consistent blogger, I contribute my time to two boards ( Nana Grants and Prowin), I have daily exercise routine for an hour, I plan all of my family’s activities, I take any opportunity to dive, play trivia, entertain at my house, paint or craft, and I do communicate efficiently with friends and family all over the world. Not to mention that I am a chauffeur and executive assistant to a very active teenager as a single mom.
You are probably thinking, “ it makes me tired even thinking about it!” . I hear this one a lot, as well. For a Type Seven, life is too full to be taken for granted or taken lightly. But I don’t think it’s just about my enneagram type. I believe being a woman, especially a working mom, sets you in a different category.
On this woman’s day let’s look around and truly appreciate all strong and intentional women in our lives that paved the road for us to become who we are.
Even if it’s you, yourself!
Afsaneh March 8th, 2019
I didn’t come up with this! Thanks to our Keynote Speaker yesterday. In a very insightful approach she discussed how our culture pushes us to live life in a frantic manner with no reflection. Using the metaphor she suggested we need to move to a TEA culture. Whatever our goal is we need to give it
She furthermore dived deeper into what each of these aspects can contribute to our project or our goal.
Thank you @DebbyStone
You are my hero if you can claim you have never been criticized or received a feedback or have never given one).
Where there is conflict, there is, whether we like it or not, the language of criticism. Sometime quietly in our heads and hopefully, more often than not, communicated orally. So how do we offer criticism to someone?
A common approach to providing criticism/feedback is sugar-coating it with the word “ Constructive”. In a constructive criticism we assume:
Doesn’t feel very well to be in the receiving end of this conversation, does it?
Pause: How often do you take this stance? How do you give criticism? How do you receive it?
Constructive criticism is based on our Big Assumptions about the narrative and the situation. It is one way and an absolute dead-end. We are specifically putting our finger on what is wrong. We offer solution to a problem as soon as it arises. No matter how hard we are trying to offer a solution, we are demanding “ our own way” to be the right way. Sounds familiar?
How can this be any different?
Well, a different approach can be Deconstructive Criticism!
During a deconstructive criticism there is effort put into understanding the other person’s perspective and point of view. The possibility that, my perspective may not be accurate, exists and is considered. Both parties openly discuss their Big Assumptions and Competing Commitments as well as separate commitments that they hold individually some of which might be internal commitments. There’s a mutual intention to carry on a two-way conversation, listen with presence, learn about oneself and the other. In this manner, both parties are open to change, shift and growth.
A deconstructive criticism provides a space that:
I understand how different this approach is from what we are used to. I recently used the method in a conflicting situation with my fourteen year old teenager and the results was amazing! The encompassing condition though, for any type of conversation that involves a conflict is for both parties to be willing and aware of the dynamics that are ruling their conversation. Without awareness this conversation will not go far.
For more information on Leadership Language you can refer to the works of Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahay.
After the meeting John came up to Bob in the break room and immediately started commenting on Sally’s attitude during the meeting. “ Did you see how she dismissed your opinion? She totally ran over you! I don’t know about you but I would be really upset.”
A very common scenario, isn’t it? Co-workers getting together and one party immediately starting to gossip or comment on someone they know mutually. In a regular organization where Rules and Policies dictate behavior there’s little that can be done to prevent these toxic situations. Rules and Policies generally are common and institutional. They fill pages and pages of manuals but are never really tailored toward a special shared understanding or experience and they can be unrealistic to apply. Rules are frequently discussed after there is a violation and they are treated as a “private” matter with the violator. They are used as tools for authorities to “ correct “ a behavior, they can be interpreted in different ways and to emphasize the power of the authorities for setting boundaries. Rules and Policies simply don’t encourage any transformation in the individuals working together neither do they create any sense of camaraderie in an organization.
Consider different environments where you interact with others. What are some of the written rules? How often and how seriously are they being followed? What would be a better way of setting a rule?
Gratefully Bob and John work in an organization that instead of Rules and Policies all employees have come to Common Agreements. As soon as Bob hears what John has to say, he gently reminds him that they have come to a Common Agreement about discussing issues. Based on that Common Agreement John has to go directly to Sally and discuss his impression of Sally’s behavior with her. The conversation is directed to a different topic gently. No one gets hurt, no toxic thoughts are exchanged about someone who is not even present, the Common Agreement is re-enforced and John is slightly transformed in regards to dealing with a problem and treating co-workers.
Establishing language of Common Agreements is an unusual and rare culture that is only possible through intentional leadership. Using language of Common Agreements creates organizational integrity and supports a shared understanding of meaning and experiences where no one would feel trapped, limited or burdened. This language is created through collaboration and develops each individuals understanding of the reasons the agreement was put in place as well as drawing a clear picture of why the agreement should not be violated. In case of a violation, the subject can be discussed publicly for everyone’s learning. Peers feel supported by the language of Common Agreement since everyone has been actively involved in creating it. Last but surely not the least, language of Common Agreement is transformational both for the individual and for the organization.
Are there any Common Agreements created in your work environment? How are they affecting individuals vs Rules and Policies? Can you take one of the Rules and open is to discussion in your organization to create a Common Agreement instead?
The Sixth step in Language of Leadership is moving from the language of Rules and Policies to the Language of Common Agreements. This step is a part of building the social language. It certainly requires leaders that are aware, integral and intentional.
If you are curious to learn more refer to Seven Languages of Transformation by Dr Kegan & Lahey.
As they entered the room and shook hands in a formal manner, he sized up the crowd with a quick look. He found no familiar faces, except his coworker who accompanied him to the interview. Everyone seemed a bit tense. “Perhaps they don’t want to be here as much as I don’t.”, he pondered.
Very quick eye contacts were exchanged in passing between the interviewers and interviewees while everyone was taking their seats. No authentic connection, nothing more than a quick, insignificant acknowledgement expressed at a glance. A kind of glance that one grants the headlines of a paper or pictures in a magazine during a boring plane ride. Certainly not long enough to acknowledge the humanity of the other individual. After all, why should they even try? They didn’t choose to be here. It was part of “ the job” they were given to perform.
The presenters were asked to sit in a row at the opposing side of the table. They seemed a bit unnerved after the very cold and disconnected initial engagement. The official start of the interview was announced in a robotic, rule stricken way and the clock started ticking.
I was part of the interviewee team, mostly as an observer. My only task was to introduce the team and then I had the opportunity to observe. I noticed there is one, only one, interviewer in the room that is fully present and seems interested. Of all the five panelists physically present, one was sitting sideways playing with his pen ( at least not on his phone); next one sitting chin down and avoiding any eye contact; one was looking straight as if in a battlefield, making sure no trace of a smile or positive affirmation crossed his face and then, between him and the only engaged participant, sat a teenager in a grown up body whose fingers were moving rapidly on his handheld device and whose eyes never left the screen. Never. “ Is he tweeting? Is he taking notes? Is he playing?”, my mind kept wandering. And as I watched him, and observed the interview taking a very wrong turn, I couldn’t help getting lost in the repercussions of the generation we are raising. A generation attached to their screens, fully not-present with everything that is going on around them; from human connection and an eye contact to changes in the season and nature to their physical and built environment. What do they truly take notice of?
Looking back at my own childhood, teenage years and college, I can remember events so clearly as if they just happened. I lived every moment fully; from the 5 year old me ordering “leg” instead of “egg” for my parents’ breakfast in England, to the birthday sleepover when for the first time we stayed up all night talking, to the cup of tea on top of Touchal peak in Tehran, to the first job interview, the first overseas trip after revolution and the last spring celebration back home. None of them were tweeted. None of those moments I lived went viral on social media. They were never honored with “like”s. I didn’t check in on-line for the first kiss. I never tagged my friends for that picnic in the suburbs where we had to make fire in rain to grill our food. I didn’t “ go live”, I was ALIVE and PRESENT. Every moment of those memories was, and still is etched on my soul without the anxiety of having to “post” it. Life used to be lived, not screened.
I leaned back. The interview was a lost cause. They obviously were not open to even listening to us. I accepted the fact. Maybe I was supposed to be there to start thinking about my “ screen attachments”, my own and others.
What kind of memories am I creating?
What would be left of me when all my social media accounts are closed due to lack of one more breath?
How would my eyes thank me for using them appropriately, or not?
What kind of memories would I create if I am not concerned about “ post”ing them?
How authentic are the memories that live on my screen?
How much of the pain and discomfort that is a part of life am I including in my virtual memories?
A world of questions! I don’t have all the answers. I just know that every breath I intend to live; more wholeheartedly and more present. I intend to be ALIVE!
My thoughts go to the interviewer… He must still be on his screen….I wonder if he would even recognize me next time we meet, or if he would notice that the season has changed!
I am told, repeatedly, that this is a noteworthy day in the years of my life. A bloggable, perhaps more than half way, celebration of my living years on this glorious planet. A time of significant maturation in many dimensions of my being, one hopes. A maturation that calls for “letting go” more and “putting up with” less; planning more and wasting less; cherishing authentic connections more and doubting my instinct less; breathing, prioritizing, choosing, stepping up to the final act more faithfully and giving less space to paralyzing fear.
After all, I am stepping into the sixth decade of my life. A decade that marks a decline in my physical body and prompts a brand new sense of urgency to attend to self-care. It stirs an increasing nostalgia for a vibrancy, once exuded naturally, that I now have to actively seek. Yes, the Sixth Decade! The notorious Fiftieth Birthday!
On the verge of this life changing date I reviewed history. Curiously, I went through the events in the world, in my community and in my family. Events that shaped me, for who I am. Some that left their trace more obviously than others. Some that happened and affected my choices many years later, some that made an impact on every decision, every relationship, every response to life and some that remained a shadow never to be admitted or realized. This pause, this time of turning 50, is gently tickling my soul, making me realize how connected we all are as a human body. What an immeasurable affect we project on each other and on the lives of the generations to come. Just as Sa’di’s inscribed poems at the United Nation’s entrance remind us:
The sons of Adam are limbs of each other,
Having been created of one essence.
When the calamity of time affects one limb
The other limbs cannot remain at rest.
If you have no sympathy for the troubles of others,
You are unworthy to be called by the name of a Human.
And here is how my life was shaped and how the calamity and the joy, the victory and the defeat, the courage and the fearfulness of the past 50 years is carrying me into the sixth decade of my life!
I was born in the same year when students worldwide protested to Vietnam war, Apollo orbited the moon, African Olympic Gold and Silver medalists raised black gloved fists to affirm the Black Movement, Eastern Iran was shaken by the most destructive earthquake and when two reformists, Martin Luther King Jr and Mohammad Takhti were assassinated, far apart, delivering a very similar message of justice and fairness for all. I was there all along when Armstrong landed on the moon, Boing 747 made it’s first flight, United Arab Emirates was formed and become independent from England, Pink Floyd released Dark Side of the Moon and the first mobile phone was invented. My life was affected by the discovery of the Terra-cotta Army, the ending of Vietnam war, Apple Computers revolutionizing the world and the first test tube baby being born. I was growing up to understand my world while Britain received it’s first female Prime Minister and Nelson Mandela became the first black president. While the Shah of Iran went to Exile after the 1979 revolution and changed the lives and culture of one of the oldest civilizations. I was there all along when the ten year war between Iran and Iraq was wiping out human lives and historical monuments. I grew up hearing about the last African colonies gaining independence, the Lebanon and Israel war heating up, Chernobyl explosion bringing attention to nuclear power, Stock market crashing, Berlin wall falling, Iraq attacking Kuwait, the Soviet Union dissolving, the European Union forming, The Channel Tunnel opening, and the first sheep being successfully cloned. When Harry Potter was born to create the modern myth and Mother Theresa died. When google was founded and Euro was introduced. When Twin Towers were destroyed and Enron collapsed. While Queen Elizabeth celebrated her 50th Jubilee and Saddam Hussein was captured. I was affected, whether I like it or not, whether I admit it or not, by the Boxing Day Tsunami, Facebook penetrating human privacy and relationships, US celebrating the first black President, Haiti being devastated by earthquake, landslides washing off mountains in Brazil, Egypt erupting to dictatorship, Brexit seplitting Europe, massive fires burning Northern California, civilians being killed in Rwanda, tides rising and falling, nature erupting and reviving, cultures and countries vanishing and re-forming. Did I mention the sanctions, the nuclear weapon cold war and self driving cars? How can I possibly fit it all in one piece?
While affected by everything in the world, my small community, my country, my city and my family put me through challenges in their own way. Sometimes it seems that it has been a never ending evolvement of new buttons they discovered to push, day after day. From revolution and war to family drama and heartbreaks. I was there all along with my soul being pierced by every incoming bullet and my body keeping the memory of them all. I was there with my whole being.
I have been here, all these years, with many a humans; some who gently offered their kind and loving heart on a platter of friendship and support, some who strolled along maintaining the safe distance, some who intended to stomp on me or my values, and some who just appeared to teach me the power of “letting go”.
And now, during the passage through this grandiose gate of experiences, looking back mindfully, it strikes me more than anything, stronger than ever, that I have been here for a reason. This whole coming and living and going, this whole using of natural resources and leaving a foot print on the planet can not be aimless. There must be, and I know there is, a purpose, an intention, a reason, to my “being”. More than ever before, I am curious to know how will I be remembered? Who will remember me most? What will be written in my memory? And on the tombstone I never wish to have. Where would the winds take my ashes? And where would my ashes yearn to fly to?
I know memories will shed light to these questions. Memories together with what makes up my life, the essence of my being. Memories of the spark of light in my late mom’s eyes when she greeted me at the door after a hard day’s work, my siblings who connect to me everyday from overseas, the many childhood friendships that are still close to my heart, the students from 10 years of teaching that find me from all over the world and send a touching message, amazing individuals, from all walks of life, who have become an inseparable part of my life after immigration, many coaching clients that every other while drop a line “ you changed my life”, and of course, above all, my son. Watching this young man grow up has been more than a gift, more than a reason, more than an inspiration.
Until now, I know, I believe, I have been here to create joy, beauty and love in the lives that I have touched. I have been here to bring people together and to expand their horizons by sharing my memories, my food and my culture. I have been an instrument of change, growth and transformation. I believe I have been kind!
My intention is to continue, not repeat!
My hope is to remain an instrument of transformation, however delicate.
My dream is to create an environment to support this transformation through a unique professional organization.
My effort will be to be present, content and connected.
My focus will change from "quantity” to “quality”.
My “why” is “ Because this IS my calling”.
My fear …. ?!
I have none…
Why you should stop Praise & Prizing?
If you have been following the Language series it may not be a bad idea to do a quick review of the last few episodes. Especially that the first four parts constitute Internal Languages and the last three cover our Social Languages. Parts I-IV were building blocks for the next three episodes.
It was a big day for organization X. The day of the interview for the largest and most prestigious project they have ever been invited to. The fact that the project would also open a whole new market for the company had put more pressure on everyone. Everyone involved in the project proposal and interview had been working long hours in preparation for delivering a passionate, creative and top notch interview that would set the team apart.
Everything went as planned. The team left the interview feeling uplifted and confidant. Everyone was in high spirits and it didn’t take long till they heard the winning news. Time to acknowledge, appreciate, and celebrate.
“ I just want to express a word of appreciation to Margaret. She went out of her way to assure our success on this project. She did great! And I am so glad she is a part of this team. She is truly hardworking.”, the CEO confirmed, in praising the team.
Does the scenario sound familiar? What is not right with the picture? How could the appreciation be expressed to leave a more lasting and more heartfelt effect?
Well, three major red flags. The language of appreciation that the CEO is utilizing is the language of prize and praising. This language is:
How is it indirect?
Well, Margaret is only addressed indirectly as a part of the team. She is “ mentioned” as a third party and pointed out in a group. Appreciation and gratitude should be directly addressed to the individual, not as a third party, if it is intended to leave a lasting impression. Besides, direct appreciation will have a more powerful impact on everyone else present in the meeting as well.
Pause: Can you think of your own language of appreciation? How direct are you? Do you address others as third person or directly? What should change to create a more impactful language?
How is it Nonspecific?
Margaret’s performance is described “ great”! Great in what way? Did she have a strong leadership in regards to cognitive skills or graphics? Was she able to connect to the interviewer’s in a deep professional level or was she able to manage the team perform at their best? Which of her many skills exactly helped the team?
A specific appreciation will help Margaret be more aware of her abilities and the skills she can cultivate on. It will also indirectly help her recognize the areas she can improve.
Pause: How direct is your language of appreciation? Do you easily recognize and admire the gift each individual has to offer? At home? At work?
How does it confer worthiness on another?
This might be the most difficult of the three. It’s such a natural part of our communication that stepping out and looking at it objectively is not an easy task. We all use expressions such as “ She’s so kind.” “ He is hardworking.” “ She is a fearless go getter.”, don’t we?
In a context of appreciation and gratitude, however, when we use this language we are are not expressing gratitude. We are rather entitling ourselves to bestow worthiness and value on another individual. Almost like forcing a character to the other person.
Compare this language with a non attributive language such as:”Margaret, I really appreciate the time you took to orchestrate this presentation. The way you showed up and fully engaged in the process truly made a difference in the outcome.”
Pause: Remember the last time you gave someone the gift of appreciation. How much of it was attributed to yourself? How much of it was an outfit you made for that person and made them wear it?! How much was a clear description of their contribution?
A direct, specific and non attributive appreciation moves the language for praise and prizing to ongoing regard. It will create more sense of fulfillment and personal satisfaction for the person hearing it and it will, for sure, strengthen the bonds between the parties engaged in communication.
Making all these changes in one’s language at once is not an easy task. Where do you want to start from? Can you create a self observation around it? Would it be possible to implement change in small increments?
One can not know until one tries!
Yours, in gratitude
Pause. Breathe. Dream.
As someone raised by a single mom in a society where single parenthood was looked down on, I had a dream. I lived my life, growing up, dreaming of the day I would stand in front of a crowd and speak. Every breath I carried the dream of looking into my mother’s eyes in that crowd to praise her for all the love she cradled me with, to acknowledge all the sacrifices she made for me, out loud. Wanted to let the world to know that I owe it all to her.
Pause. Breathe. Dream.
Yesterday my fourteen year old son was inducted in the honorary membership of NJHS( National Junior Honor Society) during a most professional and touching ceremony at his school. He looked at me with deep gratitude. No words were needed. His smile told me: “This is just the beginning, I assure you!” My dream was just materializing …. with a little twist, with a little delay. I have no doubt my late mom felt it too.
Dreams do come true. Sometimes it takes longer. Sometimes with a little twist and sometimes we forget, this was my dream.
Never stop Dreaming
At the end of the day what helps you take that breath of contentment? The joy of fulfillment? The feeling of a day well lived?
For me it is knowing that I have made a difference. I have touched someone’s life in a way that the effect will stay not only with the individual but with the generations following them, in every human encounter they make. I look back at my day and ask myself “ If I die tonight, how will I be remembered for my final actions?” It’s not an easy practice but worth the effort.
In order to reach out to more curious, developing souls and make coaching more affordable and fun, I have created coaching groups. Each group consists of four individuals that meet once a week for three months. Each individual works on his/her own topic of growth while getting support from the group. I am finding these coaching groups quite fulfilling and productive. It seems that suddenly the impact is maximized. The group creates a strong bond and they take advantage of having an accountability partner. Seems like a win.
HALO is the name of group. Why? Because it’s a circle that intends to move towards more awareness, more mindfulness, a more self-observant and self-correcting behavior. More Light! Each HALO is named after a native flower in North America. Each HALO bonds through a flower. Encouraging curiosity & love of nature through the group name.
HALO A kicked off and is moving forward beautifully. HALO B is starting on March 17th and HALO C will kick off after the first week in April.
I wake up in the morning, curious about what difference I will be making in the world today. Through my daily interactions, coaching, group coaching and workshops. Grateful that I have found my vehicle.
What is your way of being remembered?