November 4, 2009

Guest Post: Michele Woodward on Alignment

MicheleToday’s guest post is from a coach whose work I not only admire, but also draw from in my work with clients. 

Which is why I was so excited when Michele Woodward accepted the invitation to guest post.  Enjoy!

We talk about being “in alignment” quite frequently, don’t we?  And sometimes the explanation of being in alignment sounds more like the Official Rules for playing Twister, than something simple and easily understood.

When I think of being in alignment, the first thing I think of is knowing my priorities.  Yep, knowing what’s important to me — and just how important it really is — gives me the ability to focus, set my intention and, maybe most important, give appropriate energy in respect of that priority.

Example?  Okie doke.  I met with my coaching client Julia this week.  She’s a medical doctor who stepped out of her residency and professional life when she and her resident husband had their first child.  She is now 45, has four children ranging from 7 to 14, and is getting a divorce.  She asked for my help in managing her time better — needless to say, her life is a bit chaotic.

As we talked, I jotted down some notes.  Finally, I said to her, “Here’s what I heard are your priorities,” and I listed them for her like this:

1.  Be an involved, steady, centered parent

2.  Be spiritually fed, and curious

3.  Tend to your health

4.  Explore your professional options

5.  Manage your divorce proceedings

Eyes wide open, as if I were saying sooth, she said, “Yes! That’s it exactly!”

(Which was good for me, because I could have been completely wrong.)

One of the things I Know For Sure is that each and every day I have 100 units of energy.  I can’t take from yesterday, because those are all spent.  And I can’t borrow from tomorrow, because tomorrow gets 100 of its own.  All I’ve got is 100… today.  And it’s how I use them that makes all the difference.

So, I explained this 100 Units idea to Julia and asked her to look at her priorities and figure out how she’s allocating her energy.  Eye opener.  No wonder she feels pressed for time — because she’s putting energy units on things that aren’t even remotely her priorities.

With nothing more than heightened awareness of what’s truly important to her, Julia was able to re-align her energy in the best way to serve her priorities.  She was able to understand where she needs to say no, and where she owes it to herself to say an exuberant yes.  

Plus, now she can be non-apologetic about being in alignment with her priorities.  Rather than beating herself up when she’s helping in her child’s classroom rather than — oh… not folding laundry, or dust bunny abatement, or returning to her medical profession — she can take satisfaction that she’s serving that which is most important in her life, her parenting.

And she knows that her parenting is more important right now than having a job.  Despite the well-meaning folks that urge her to get a job, any job, and quick, she knows that her fourth priority at this moment is to explore her job options.  Which she’s happy to do with an appropriate allocation of energy, thank you very much.

Finally, she knows she has to invest some energy units in managing difficult divorce proceedings. Which is hard. Boy, has that taken a lot out of her.  But now she’s able to put the divorce in context of her priorities and not allow any delays or roadblocks or idiocy to take more energy than she’s allocated.  How great! She can step away from the pointless, time-consuming drama and just focus on what she needs to do.

Time management problem?  Cured.  In alignment with what’s most important?  Done.  Happy?  Know what? Despite the upheaval in her life, she is.  And she’s growing happier and more confident and stronger every single day. 

All because she sat down and pulled herself into alignment with her heart.  Which has made all the difference.

Michele Woodward — Master Certified Coach, author, speaker and teacher — has the ability to help people get clear about who they are and what they want to do, and to develop a workable action plan to get where they want to go. 

A former White House official and corporate citizen, Michele works with people who want to be more effective in their work, find new work, or re-enter the workforce.  She lives outside Washington, DC with her two teenagers, two puppies and an optimistic outlook.

  • Mm. See why I love her, everyone?
    You give me goose bumps, Michele. 🙂
    HUGE love for you here!

  • Howdy, everybody, and thanks for all of your kind comments about my post. I understand there have been some questions about identifying priorities, and the difference between priorities and values.
    Values —> give your life meaning.
    Priorities —> how you put your values in action.
    So, here’s how it works. I have a humungous value around learning. Learning gives my life meaning. So, when I make time to read, or take a class, or have an engaging conversation with someone who has knowledge or a different perspective, I am prioritizing my learning value.
    Murky on your priorities? Easiest way to identify priorities is to call me up and let me listen to you talk. 🙂 But absent that one, sit with a friend who is a good note taker. Talk about your life. What are your challenges, your dreams, your passions? Where do you get hung up, fired up?
    Your friend will no doubt be able to discern your priorities fairly quickly.
    Let me give you a for instance. A client in my What’s Next? coaching group is feeling blue. At our group session this week, she was talking and I was taking notes. As she wrapped up, I identified these priorities: Taking care of her health, achieving clarity, being centered, being energized and being loved. She agreed with all of them, and swore she wouldn’t have been able to come up with that list on her own.
    A good listener/friend will be able to help you identify your priorities and then put them right into action.
    Thanks, Jeannette, for generously providing this forum. You are amazing.

  • With all this talk about 100 units of energy, it makes me wonder if anyone’s read Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz?
    They talk about how our opportunity isn’t in managing time, but in managing energy. And when we do that properly, we’ll find we have more energy for each day.
    Anyone familiar with that?

  • Michele,
    I love your 100 units of energy. That is a great way to describe it and my clients so get it! Thanks for sharing your wisdom and calm energy!

  • Iyabo Asani, The Inner Genius Coach says:

    Michele, brilliant! I love it. I have never heard of it this way. The way I use this system (and by the way, I prefer the standard 100 units of energy) is to ask what is important and what is urgent? I rank everything on my to do list based on what is important and urgent first and then what is important. There is too much that we do that is urgent but not important.
    Hugs and thank you for being a guest over here on “our” goodvibeblog!

  • Tiffany, maybe you could bring something that IS on the list TO work. ?
    Could be cool if so.
    I love how Martha Beck writes with sparkly gel pens to bring some “fun” to her “work.” And she paints while she coaches clients.
    Lots of opportunity we might not be taking advantage of to transform our “work.”
    Thanks for reading and especially for posting, Tiffany!

  • Tiffany says:

    I loved going through my priorities today! Work wasn’t on the list, but oh well! That’s where my life is. This is a great strategy for figuring out WHY some things don’t feel good and some things do. Thanks again! 😛

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jeannette Maw, Fabeku Fatunmise, KimFalconer, michelewoodward, Cairene MacDonald and others. Cairene MacDonald said: Intrigued by this "100 units of energy" technique from @michelewoodward – […]

  • Yay for “rest” being on top of the list, MissyB! I think a lot of us miss the importance of that for ourselves.
    (Like that’s what we’ll do once we get the rest of the list done. ha ha)
    Always a treat to see you here – thanks for pitching in on this conversation, girlfriend!

  • MissyB says:

    OMG – this so resonates with me post accident. I’ve been running on 50 energy units though ! I’ve tried to conserve for tomorrow, borrow from yesterday and felt totally worthless for not managing to keep on top. I’ve listed my priorities – and tomorrow I start ! Rest first – that’s the top of the list !
    Thank you – lovely guest post.

  • Wonderful post – and I too loved the 100 energy units a day!!

  • Pure Potential says:

    Used and am using Michele’s 100 units of energy and priority setting with clients routinely. A definite winner! Thanks Michele and Jeannette for inviting Michele as a guest post-er.

  • uberVU - social comments says:

    Social comments and analytics for this post…
    This post was mentioned on Twitter by michelewoodward: Thank you, @goodvibecoach, for allowing me to guest post on alignment and priority setting: – Mwah!…

  • Dani Webb says:

    Lovely post!! I am learning this myself everyday…. 🙂

  • Beth Andrus says:

    This information is brilliant in its simplicity. The way you presented the information makes it clear that this approach is common sense, but so many of us get off track. Thanks for providing a straight-forward solution for getting back into alignment.

  • I can feel YOUR ‘exuberant yes’ in your comment, Lynn!! Thanks for bringing your fabulous energy to the table!
    And I may consider switching up the term “hell yes” when I’m describing it to clients for “exuberant yes.” ha

  • Lynn Hess says:

    A resounding I AGREE! When I work with clients, we always explore the idea of “you can’t get what you want until you know what you want.” Taking the time to identify what is truly important TO YOU (not based on what anyone else thinks your priorities SHOULD be) is so key to feeling in alignment with your own life and soul. And I love your phrase “exuberant yes.” Yes!

  • Michael, maybe there’s a way to see “freedom and joy and being creative” in the everyday stuff.
    In fact, maybe asking the question is the way to reveal it … “how is there freedom in packing?” “How is there creativity in finding work?” With an open mind, not a doubtful one – you know what I mean.
    Cause there’s two ways to ask those questions, of course. One where we don’t see it, and one where we are open to seeing it.
    Oooh, and maybe this one: “How can I bring more freedom to this activity right now?”
    Hmm, I have half a mind to play with that myself today!!

  • Michael says:

    That is really such a no-brainer on a lot of levels.
    I guess what I’m wrestling with is making sense of my priorities. I’m also going through a divorce, child care and protecting him from the upheaval of splitting up, now moving, and all while trying to find work that fits he life I’m going to be leading (that is, work that allows me to raise my son when he is with me).
    I find myself going to other conversations where I’ve said my main ‘feel goods’ are ‘freedom and creative joy in my life’.
    I experience bits of that just now as I pack up, figure out what’s coming next, etc…but I have a hard time saying ‘my priority is freedom and joy and being creative’ and putting off packing up my house, looking for work, etc.

  • Mary, that’s the gift of having a conversation with Michele. She’s excellent at seeing what we don’t see so easily ourselves.
    And having said that, she probably has other favorite resources to share as well. I’ll ask her to pop in and share …

  • Mary says:

    I love the idea of “energy units.” But what about if you’re having trouble pinpointing your priorities? That’s where I stand right now. I feel like I could manifest my goals… if only I knew what they were.

  • I agree, Beth! It’s easy to wonder how we get so off track with life when it can be this simple.
    Thanks for reading and for posting, Beth!

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