Monday, February 9, 2009

Choose to Play

Your character is defined with every challenge life hands you, big or small.

Let’s take big challenges first.

When was the last time you tackled a good sized challenge?

With layoffs being at an all-time high of 2.5 million since 2002, , an $825+ billion dollar bailout in our banking systems, and record lows in the stock market battering our 401k retirement savings… chances are you’re tackling one of the biggest challenges of your life.

No doubt, these are special circumstances, and risk is all around. If you are acting a little “out of character” and being cautious to make safe decisions, its understandable…makes good sense.

Being crystal clear what you value, and who you are in the face of circumstance is the key to great decision making now more than ever. Compounding the circumstance is stress.

Admittedly, being “out of character” is normal when extreme stress creeps into our life. Being confused, not having a clear head, acting out of emotion is completely expected. And typically, doesn't give you the highest chances to play your best game in life…when it counts most.

What about the mini-challenges facing you every day? Opportunities to be in character, standing for what you believe in, practicing your strengths and playing the best game of your life ? Are you waiting for 'the right moment' - or do you create the moments of your life as its happening, every day?

When was the last time you spoke your mind, respectfully disagreeing, asking the unpopular question, making the unpopular statement, volunteering to go first, offering to take on that errand no one wants, asking someone for money to support a cause you believe in? These mini-moments pass by, almost unnoticeable. They are the tiny voices in your head, seated on the sidelines wondering if you're gonna move the ball 2 yards down the field in the moment. They are the voices that quietly sigh, and moan, when you fumble the ball, choosing safety over progress for your team.

So what is your REAL character? Regardless of the circumstance, how do you choose to play the game of life?

Do you sit on the sidelines of life, jump to your feet, running into the game full throttle?

If you are like most people you’re answering my question in one of three ways:
1. Sigh…yeah. I’m a sitter. I’m not ready to stand up, much less “jump in”. I’m going to wait and see what happens. I might actually get up and squat once and awhile, but times seem to be tough for me. When I have enough, I’ll know how to play better. When I’m ready, I’ll go. Just don’t push me.
2. It depends Kathy. What do you mean by “game”? What’s the situation? Sidelines are not always bad, sitting back is good before going full throttle. Then again, diving in headfirst shows initiative and leadership. So what exactly are you talking about?
3. Jump baby! Woo! I’m a player! I see every passing moment as an advantage. I know I’ll figure it out. I may not have a clue what I’m doing, but I’m clueless with style! What’s the worst that could happen? Plus, somebody has to play, it might as well be me!

These are three attitudes that play at the center of who you decide to be every single day: passive, objective, and active.

Every single one of us come into this world mostly with the “Woo-Hoo!” attitude. But as we get older, we touch the hot stoves of life, and by the time we reach about 27 years of age, our attitude on life is pretty set.

If you are passive in life, you rarely imagine the best you could be and have. And you are safe. If you are objective all the time, you play half of the time a very knowledgeable devil’s advocate. And you are safe.

When you are active you are fully engaged, you sacrifice comfort for the possibility of living the full life. You learn from experience, and have a biography of stories about the lessons and gains you have earned by choosing to play. Only those who practice, and get in the game, make it to the top. Choose any sport, any field of entertainment, any industry or cause. Only those who get fully into the game, look back amazed at all life has brought their way. And what do they say? "I was just living my life, doing my thing."

One of my favorite books is written by a dear friend, Larry Wilson. His book, Play to Win lays out two types of games people play in life: the playing not to lose game, and the playing to win game. The first is all about ensuring your life a safe as it can be life. The second is all about living out your best potential.

During these worst of economic times, it is too easy to put living your life into the hands of another person. To put your happiness into the decision of business and government – creating as much safety to maintain security as you can. Don't live your life, giving others the power to define it for you. Don't read about your life in the newspapers of history - pick up the pen and create the headlines you want to see.

Despite the circumstances, choose to play an active role in your life. Take charge of your game. There will be many reasons to bench yourself, or to wait and see.

Choosing to play means creating a vigorous future for yourself, jumping into life full throttle.

Be dedicated to your character and recognize when you have fallen victim to being afraid, instead of taking the stance to be bold.

If you want to do this now, it will take some work. You will need to begin using a different type of thinking, and rationalizing than you typically do. Literally - you will be using different parts of your brain (check out Hermann Brain Dominance Theory). Going it alone will be tough. It will take a long time, and it will be exhausting. And... it will be the best decision you’ll ever make for your life.

As a coach, it has helped me out tremendously to be a coached. Just because I’m a thinking styles, personality, and leadership styles expert - I too have a forest that is difficult to manage through at times. I too am human, and find myself playing to be safe, especially with a 4 year old and a mortgage! Having a coach helps me stay honest with how I really want to spend my time on this earth. Having a coach helped to kick that bucket out from under the butt of my pity party - so that I could back up on my feet, grounded.

If you are ready to make the choice, and your choice is to start playing – congratulations to the rest of your life. If you're overwhelmed with the next steps, feel free to reach out. I’ll help you find the map and can serve as your guide while you climb to the top of your mountain!

“I know I’m not dead, but am I alive?” – Frank Conroy

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