Noa Ronen

When Nothing Is Good Enough

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Today I want to write about my relationship with writing. The one place that can keep me stuck forever because of my “never good enough” attitude.

Many moons ago when I graduated from high school I had a creative moment which ended up with two creative creations and luckily in the small town I live, lived one of the most known book's reviewers in Israel. My father knew him and asked him if he is willing to see if there is some real talent in what I wrote. The guy who is a pretty cruel persona to other authors had a moment of compassion to yours truly and told me that I am very talented but I am missing some life experiences and he believes that with some life experiences along the way I will return with a really great book. It was a moment of you have It but allow yourself to be in the journey of learning more about yourself before you create. Who knew that one-day practicing noticing my life will be my main purpose…

  

I put the writing aside and 10 years after one night in a moment of creative passion I started my own blog about being an Israeli mom in NYC. I wrote the blog in Hebrew, my first language and people loved it, I started getting wonderful emails and calls from people who resonated with my experience, with my cultural, internal observations and got curious about my journey, then from the blog some Israeli travel magazines asked me to write for them about traveling with kids in NYC. It was such a special experience, the writing showed up in a moment of a total desperation of where am I heading with my life… You see, the book reviewer from Israel was right. After our relocation to the US, I was so stuck with my life, I loved the city like I never will love another place in my life, but I felt like I can’t fit in. I worked and didn’t feel fulfilled as I felt before our relocation, I stayed home with the kids but couldn’t be present with them because I was too focused on trying to figure out what will be my next step. It was the first time in my life that no matter where I turned there was an internal wall blocking me. I wasn’t used to feeling this way, I was always a resourceful person who figured out how to deal with hurdles in my life, I wasn’t used to not being resourceful.

But when more and more people reached out asking me the same question: “we enjoy learning about your life in NYC, how is it to live where you live with kids, will you recommend living there?”, I launched my first website that was about my blog because for the first time I saw an opportunity to answer those questions. But the cool thing about a journey that when you think you got into your destination you learn that there is another place across the corner and that’s what happened to me. When I launched my website few Israeli women who live in the US called me from different states and asked me how did I figure out this new business opportunity (ha!)? They have no clue what to do next and they feel so stuck with their life and will I be open to coaching them?
Few different women, same week, same ask. That was the beginning of a calling, first of many of others asking me to show up and lead their way in different ways. This is how the coaching profession found me and in a way I feel gratitude to the night I started the blog that has changed my life forever. It doesn’t mean that I didn’t have any struggles and bumps along the way, I had trillions of them, they slowed me down, but they didn’t make me stop. The one thing I did stop when I started coaching was writing. Funny enough since my coaching business was in English and related to coaching and not to what I have used to write about: being a mom in a foreign country, the observer of a new culture, my writing flame became smaller and smaller.

Actually, I am not sure if this metaphor is 100% true, because I felt as the flame was still burning, internally, but I wasn’t able to express it externally. When I am thinking about it now when I am trying to process and share with you the experience it might have been that the coaching conversation I was having with my clients and others overflowed my writing. In addition, there was the other matter that made my writing flame so small, it was my limiting belief that I can’t write and express my self in English the same way I was able to express myself in my first language, Hebrew. Every time I tried to write something my inner critique told me that it is not good enough and people will not want to read it, so before I gave it a chance it was already gone, back to my virtual drawer…

Until a few months ago, when a close friend of mind and a brilliant coach helped me realize that although I always ask others for their feedback about my writing, it wasn't others who I was worried about, it was me, Noa, who was never happy with my writing, it was never good enough!

Now – not good enough was never one of my mottos, but apparently, there are some areas in my life where things have to be perfect and writing is one of them. It is on my “top strengths points” and I am not willing to compromise on okay, or average, it has to be perfect in my own unique way which is very messy and me. It is not about perfect English grammar (I gave in to being perfect in my second language years ago), it is about the way I share my story in my own unique writing way, the way that I feel others can connect with me. So I have learned the hard way that when I give others to edit my English they kill my writing, not because they are doing a bad job, but because they take away my special voice as an observer of my own journey.  

However, to get this post done, I needed to wait 3 long months, 3 months of struggle, every experience I wanted to share and wrote about in my little booklet was not good enough. But today when I parked my car, I pulled out my laptop and the words went out easily, I felt like this is the story that has had to go out, my untold story, the one  I needed to write as a reminder to self when I sabotage myself again with the" this writing is never good enough" for me - my worst critique.

Done

Oh! question - where are you sabotaging yourself?

Followers?

Yes, I became one of these people who read 2-3 books at the same time. Most of them are books around what I do as a coach. I am looking for inspiration, nuggets, a line that will pull my attention to dig deeper and this week was no different. The inspiration came from the word followers. I got caught in the leader-follower term that we all use now. I think before it was the word "subordinates, " and since we are moving from the top down management to leadership so now we have the word: followers. But the more I think about it; I am not sure I would like to stick with this term, followers, let me tell you why.
 I believe that my role as a leader is not to make all the decisions, but to create an environment that makes others shine. It is interesting watching myself struggle with not going into solutions when I lead (or even when I parent). As a coach, you stay away from fixing, or go into solutions for your client which is 99% very easy to me. But as a leader to allow the other side to come up with solutions, experiment with them and see where it will take us that's a work in progress. Everyone talk about what the leader needs to do to make people follow them. Leadership by its very definition presumes that there are followers to lead. And if there are followers to lead, that creates the necessity of an actual leader. Essentially, leaders exist because of followers and followers exist because of leaders (Hogg, 2001). I admit that I see it the other way around. I think that as I see it, it is about what the leaders need to stop doing, or even just do less? The less they do, the more space they create for others to shine. So if you stay with me, we move into Zen approach leadership where less is more. The less you suggest, the more others shine, the more you go to the back, or to the side, the more others want to go to the front. Even in the messiness of others, I have learned that it is what I don’t do or try to fix in them that will allow their storm to calm down and come back different when they are ready. So that made me think… if... I as a leader go more and more to the back if I focus on asking questions, if I manage myself to do less and create more space for others to move to the front, they are not followers. 
Pause for our story time. Last time I talked about one of my biggest gifts, this time I will share one of my biggest weaknesses. My orientation, my sense of direction is just horrible. Put me in the car with GPS, and I will probably get lost. Every time I am sure that I walk or drive in the right direction without a map or GPS I walk/drive to the opposite direction.
When I was in college, my friend and I attended the same class for a year. For a year, every time we left the classroom, she slowed down and let me lead the way. Every time we left the class I took the wrong turn, then I would look at her and realized that she was giggling. After a semester she stopped and said: “Noa, I can’t believe, we come here every week, and every time we leave the classroom you head in the wrong direction”. 
Yes, luckily my husband and my two boys have an incredible sense of direction, and I follow their lead, which takes me back to the word: followers. When I walk with my husband in a new city I don’t even try, I trust that he will take me to the right place, but in that trust, I let go of curiosity or learning, I move the responsibility to him. You see, as a follower, I don’t need responsibility, it is my husband's job to make sure we get to the right place. Now, in the next day, if I will need to walk on the same route that my husband and I walked the day before, I will have no memory of the path, I will need to start from scratch with a map as I have never been there before.
So you see, my concern when we use the word followers is that as leaders we want our team, our employees, our client or members to be engaged, to be responsible – but we come from an intention/mindset of seeing them as followers. How can they take on responsibility??? by the way as a leader do you want everyone to follow you?

“Hey! I need your help” I texted my husband who was sitting in an Irish Pub at the other side of the world “do you have a different word for 'follower?'” 
Yes, that’s another problem I have, I start from my end thought and forget about all the intro. So I began my text message again, now with a full intro, or at least as much as I can write when my create brain wants an answer right here right now. I waited to see what words he will share. 
I know as a leader and as a coach that I can’t allow myself to use the mindset of wanting others to follow me or invite others to create a culture of followers. 
So I came up with the term: WALKERS.
When we walk, we can walk side by side and have a real conversation, but sometimes when the path is too narrow, you can walk before me, or choose to slow down and allow me to lead. It doesn’t matter unless we are hiking in North Carolina during spring, or summer or early fall and then I will probably ask you to go in front just in case we bump into a snake, but that's a topic for another post.

By the way, my husband came up with the word: “Devotee.”
What would be your word?
        

Easy Doesn’t Mean Yes

Focus. If you live in our ADD generation, many of us are struggling with how to keep ourselves focused. I see two levels of how I can keep myself focused. The first level is how to commit to myself to do what I promised to do, and the second one that I am going to focus in this post is how do I focus on my primary purpose and its goals without being all over the place.

I think that being a leader and having my own business open the door for me to be mindful of what and how I do things and what are my thoughts and emotions about every step I take (or don’t take). You need to deal with so many fears, demons, and challenges and for each one of us they are different, and since not doing results in no money, or no clients/people who support your vision – it is very easy to see when you are not showing up fully even though you want to. 

So here is a fascinating lesson I have learned in the past two years around keeping myself focused or being all over the place and not following my desired path.

What I have learned in the past two years relates to a gift, yes, a gift that I have. For me to take on a big project, a complicated project, something that I have never done before is really fun. In my former life, I was a project manager and change management consultant. I didn’t need to have complicated workflows and documents to run projects, I have had a simple workflow, and most of the other components were in my head, and I remembered EVERYTHING – yes it is crazy, but this is my gift. It is easy for me to orchestrate and run the project and then to bring on board the people that will join me to do their part. I am totally at flow when I execute a complicated project. So this is one of my biggest gifts. I can tackle complicate projects easily. And here is the BUT.... What I have learned is that my gift is also what stands between my desire to stay focused on what is important to me and my fear to be all over the place. 

What I have noticed is that whenever someone reaches out to me and asked if I can help and take on a complicated project, my answer was YES!
 
But then one day I set with my whole life projects, I made a long list and realized that I said YES to too many projects that are easy for me. When I looked even deeper, the sad news was that none of the projects on the list served what was important to me (no matter if it is in life or business). 
My YES was to “EASY”, easy to pet my ego.  What I mean is that if I will be very honest with you, saying yes makes me feel good that I can do it easily and I can save others' world at that moment. Of course, it serves them and it also serves my ego, but does it serve my goals?
And that’s when I STOPPED.
Don’t get me wrong; there are still moments when it feels like I can be the only one that can save the day and my first tendency is to say: “Yes, I can do it”, but I have learned slowly to control the four words and STOP. Then I ask myself: “What is the purpose of saying YES?” If it is only because it is easy for me, that’s not a yes. If it is to pet my ego, it is defiantly not serving me nor others. So now my focus is to say YES only to projects that serve my purpose. So next time ask yourself: Am I doing it because it is EASY for me, or am I choosing to say YES because it serves the goals that are the purpose of what is important for me. And YES it is okay to say NO.
 

Let it Go? Really?

A few days ago, I had one of those days that everyone I worked with gave me the itch, it was one of those days that every conversation I had pushed my buttons in a different direction and resulted in feelings and thoughts that followed me everywhere.

The Same day, evening time, I thought to myself that maybe when I move into dinner preparation mode and occupy my head with other tasks, my thoughts and feelings will all fade away, but apparently, they didn’t leave, or shall I dare to say that I didn’t let them go?

So the moment my husband got home and saw the squint in between my eyes he knew. I knew that I don’t need to wait for his next question: “what’s wrong?” I just went for it: “I need to vent," I said, "just listen and let me know what you think”. Three stories seasoned our food alongside with sweet paprika and chili paper.  Three interactions with three different people that I felt and left each conversation very uncomfortable for various reasons. To my surprise my husband didn’t say that I am over reacting, he acknowledged my emotions.

After dinner I took a break and wanted to move on, my craving was to let go of the thoughts that kept going in my head and stirred with the different emotions that showed up on my day.  I took a moment to see what was happening to me: It started with not being seen and acknowledged, then feeling manipulated and ended with a situation that caught me unprepared and surprised and made me feel upset with myself for not fully showing up. Three different human interactions along the day that left me upset with others and myself, three separated stories that caught me unable to let go of the labyrinth I felt inside my head (although there was a voice in me saying: "enough! just let go!").

Let go! Two short words that we say to ourselves and to others so many times, but let me ask you: how many times when someone told you to let go you were ready, or willing, or able just to do it?
I know the stories and what I make up of them don’t serve me, so my craving is to let go, but even though this is my wish I still haven't found the magic word to let go, and I am damn sure it is not: "let go!".

So I am writing to you from the midst of my messiness because I want to tell you something, something I wanted to write about for a while, but it had to wait until the right moment. I wanted to write about letting go, and how I, Noa, don’t believe in us letting go when someone tells us to (or even when we tell ourselves).

Most of the day we interact with others, and I am learning to notice myself in each of these experiences (even with animals). I am noticing what ticks me, and what makes me show up fully, what liberates me and what/who limits me. It is about how I want to show up with others, and in what situations I fall, stumble or do everything wrong.  I don't see my role or other leaders role as changing/fixing others' behaviors. They change when we change. For example, when someone says something to manipulate me, or hurt me purposely I can choose to react, or I can choose to respond.  From noticing myself, I have learned thatI prefer to pause and choose quiet. Not because I don't know what to say, or afraid to lose control, but because I need to bring myself into a place of resonating choice. Not the choice the other side is trying to impose on me, but the way I choose to show up with others and if after I took a big breath I will choose to lose control - so now it is a place of choice.

Back to letting go, when we hear others sharing their stories, their messiness, their hurt feelings, or how upset they are with themselves, many times our tendency is to help them heal, help them to be happy again but is it about their need or ours? A few years ago my daughter was practicing a new piece on the piano and was very upset that she couldn't figure out why her fingers get it all wrong, she yelled and her eyes teared up, and as always I wanted to make my daughter happy. Since I know how to play on the piano, I rushed to her and tried to comfort her, telling her that it takes time and she needs to let go, but she didn't. Then I realized that as always I am trying to make her happy, so I paused and asked her: "What do you need from me?", "Nothing," she said, "I need to cry, and then I will figure it out." I have tears in my eyes writing about this memory because it was one of those teaching moments when you learn that what you crave for others is not always their need. So maybe the magic word is: "figure it out?" maybe... I know I needed to write this blog post to get more clarity about what was my teaching moment from my three messy stories. I know I needed to understand my emotions and thoughts, I needed to find a place of forgiveness to others and myself, and even though I thought I was ready to let go, internally I still wasn't ready.

So next time, when someone is sharing their story with you and you think it is time for them to let go, ask yourself: what is uncomfortable for me that I wish for them to let go? Is it about their need or my need? I know you can figure it out.