If you missed our workshop, here is the heart of what we cover. Essentially, it is a facilitator’s guide. If you use the concepts here, we would love to know how it resonated or what you learned. These concepts are simple, but not easy.
1. We start with the Why behind our work. For a longer discussion, see the Why page on this site.
2. What are you talking about??? We try on and apply some of these principles to our own experience. That is the focus of this blog post.
3. How?? Let’s do it! Here comes the hand’s on workshop. We don’t include full workshop notes and comments here. But is a super simple process – just discuss which principles resonate with you and think about how you can apply them. Think about how the principles leverage each other. In the workshop, this is done as a group activity so that participants can share ideas with others. If you want to try this on your own, print out the principles and apply them to your daily actions, goals, wants or needs.
4. Last Step: Call to Action! Attendees make a personalized commitment to themselves (and possibly an accountability partner).
Intended workshop outcome: that participants can walk away with an idea of how to apply the principles as well as run the workshop on their own.
See below for a sample narrative of an Agile Best Self Workshop. Why the word ‘sample’? The content is dynamic. The principles do not change, but the application examples do. Brian and I are constantly finding ways to live and breathe the principles, so our insights are evolving and changing. For example, when we started, we talked about burnout. Now we are doing bucket list items and going beyond burnout and on to awesome.
a. Ideally, tables of 4-6 are put in rounds. Groups can be larger than this, but 2 pizza sized teams work the best.
b. The 12 Agile Best Self Principles worksheets and pens are put on the workshop tables. Attendees can take notes on the principles during the presentation.
c. Post-It notes are put on tables if the facilitators want to capture ideas or workshop feedback.
d. Facilitators are familiar each principle and real life scenarios that cover the application of each principle.
The Presentation Flow – Why, What, How, Call to Action
Our work started by mashing up the 12 Agile Principles with ‘best self’ insights. As Brian says: “Who is going to take care of coach?” Our response: These principles give us language and a framework to help take care of ourselves and to support others. Tell participants: “You have the 12 Agile Best Self principles in front of you. Feel free to take notes on that sheet”.
Our workshop discusses each principle from Brian’s perspective and my perspective. To model that, we have 2 slides for each principle – my selected supporting photos are first, and Brian’s selected supporting photos are second. It just worked out that way.
As we pull up the PowerPoint with each principle, Brian and I discuss what each picture and principle means to each of us. It is important to note that we have different viewpoints and different ways to honor each principle. Keep reading to see what this means…
Agile Best Self Principle #1: Our highest priority is to be our best self and enable others to be their best selves.
Michaele: As a busy working parent with a couple of side gigs, I’m always dangerously close to burning out. It is very important to me that I can emotionally support my family and friends. I can’t do that unless I use this framework to understand:
1. What does my best self look like?
2. How can I be my best self – what do I need right now? My best self is when I can be a connector, catalyst and coach. That is when I feel energized and alive.
Brian: Congruent with the thought of immunizing ourselves against burnout, I also think of this overriding principle is a call to create the next best version of ourselves first. The beautiful thing is that means something different to each and every one of us.
Growth happens when we venture outside our comfort zone. This viral video of a girl on a ski jump illustrates the point exactly. We train and prepare ourselves for the moment, but true vulnerability happens when we put ourselves in situations where success is not assured and go for it, like this girl did. Growth mindset in action. Stretching our boundaries is exactly what best self is all about. Why? So we can help others be their best.
Agile Best Self Principle #2: Welcome change with curiosity.
Michaele: The application of this principle snuck up on me. I entered 3 submissions for a global conference. None were selected. Instead of being upset, I immediately (and authentically) thought: “Good, now I can focus on being a conference attendee, and avoid the stress of presenting.” If I had been overly tied to a specific outcome, I would have wasted time and energy being upset about not being selected. Now my energy is going into presenting locally and getting the word out in other ways. My focus is on being curious about “where the universe sends me” (thank you Andy Nelson for the quote).
Brian: Applying this one really helped me with taming the inner critic recently. The big question I used to help me with this was “What is the story you are telling yourself right now?” It’s amazing what you can learn when you really answer that question and then you can look at those thoughts almost as an outsider, and can see better options to move forward. In essence, it can disarm that critic and create a positive thought pattern, which scientific research shows is a prerequisite to getting into a flow state.
Agile Best Self Principle #3: Build daily self-care habits.
Michaele: Daily habits are hard because they are, well, daily. This means I have to carve time out every day. I focus on working out daily; staying hydrated and getting some time to connect with people and/or ideas.
Brian: The core daily habit I am working on is mindfulness training. Even more recently, I have focused energy on tracking a daily happiness metric to help me visualize progress toward building my best self.
Agile Best Self Principle #4: Engage your trusted circle daily.
Michaele: I have a large, global trusted circle. I engage them by reading their tweets and checking in on the LinkedIn community. I also try to schedule lunches or 1:1 time with those geographically close to me.
Brian: With current technology solutions at our fingertips, connecting with those that matter to you is relatively effortless. Most days prioritization of connecting is the barrier. Even a few minutes of connection a day helps us feel like we belong and connect each of us to our purpose.
Agile Best Self Principle #5: Create a best self environment of motivation, trust, and support for yourself and others.
Michaele: This is challenging because motivation ebbs and flows. My meditation and workout practice feed the motivation (as well as shut down my fragmented monkey mind). Here is an example of trusting the process. From the first minute on my treadmill until minute 19, my monkey mind and internal critic have a lively counter productive dialogue. I ignore them and turn up the volume on whatever HBO series I’m watching while I do HIIT sprints on my treadmill.
- Inner Critic (IC): Why are we doing this? This won’t help.
- Monkey Mind (MM): The workout room is a mess. I’m tired. I’m bored. Why are we doing this? What’s on TV?
- IC: This is stupid. We should just go back to bed. Working out is a waste of time.
- MM: Yes, let’s go back to bed, or watch TV or eat chocolate. Oooh, what just happened on TV? Shall we stop the treadmill and watch? Rewind.
Twenty minutes in, without fail, I feel better and my best self surfaces.
Brian: In my mindfulness practice, I have learned that it’s about doing the exercise for its own sake. By doing that, it shifts the expectation from some magical reward at the end of the session, which does not happen, to one of enjoying those quiet moments and trusting the process will do what it is supposed to do — build new connections in the brain to help me become capable of more.
Agile Best Self Principle #6: The most effective way to be your best self is to be mindful and intentional.
Michaele: First a comment on effectiveness vs efficiency. Focus on effectiveness first, then efficiency. Otherwise you will fill your day with a never ending task list. You’ll get a lot done, but was any of it worth it? This principle strongly leverages principle #8 and #1.
Regarding mindfulness and intent, I know my intent for things, and I try to be mindful, but goodness still slips past me. See the Beyond Burnout blog. Sometimes it is better to be mindful of the impact your actions are having, as opposed to being a fortune teller who can see the future. The fortune teller is almost always wrong.
Brian: Being mindful and intentional starts with a personal philosophy as a foundation. This philosophy needs to be crisp — short, connected with emotion – so that it can be called upon in any circumstance. For me, it is to “Be a Light.” Then, intent is easier to establish — am I connected to my philosophy? Does this help me be my best? This has proven for me to be the most efficient way to be mindful and intentional, especially in moments when the stakes are high.
Agile Best Self Principle #7: Investing the time in yourself is the primary measure of progress.
Michaele: Follow the Nike slogan: “Just do it”. Meditation is not about having laser focus with no mind drift. Meditation is about noticing when the monkey mind takes over and gently bringing your mind back. Just doing it can also be about grabbing a parking spot that is the furthest from the building to get some steps in. Or getting up on stage and singing a Hootie and the Blowfish song (go Brian!).
Brian: Yes, just do it. Being your best self means taking an active role in making that happen. This is hard and sometimes lonely work. This lines up with Einstein’s class definition of insanity — repeating the same thing and expecting a different result. This principle is actually the positive version of this same quote.
Agile Best Self Principle #8: Prioritize “being more” over “doing more” for sustainability.
Michaele: This one requires the largest paradigm shift. Warren Buffet and Bill Gates focus on avoiding busy-ness. Be careful with your time. Be more.
Brian: When we wrote this principle, it was derived from some things that Dr. Michael Gervais says about how high-performance mindsets are shifting from “doing more” to “being more.” Many of us were raised to believe if we work harder, we will achieve the next promotion, earn the next prize and so on. I am not saying hard work is not important, but prioritizing effort to being the next best version of ourselves is essential to create additional capacity to do more or create a bigger impact. My software engineering friends would say this is a much more sustainable and scalable architecture.
Agile Best Self Principle #9: Continuous attention to scientific research enhances best self.
Michaele: Use science to understand things like habit formation, good sleep hygiene, why gratitude practices have a positive impact on our bodies and why we should avoid fads.
Brian: Science is our friend in the quest to be the next best version of ourselves. Making sure whatever practices we engage or tools we use have a solid foundation in science is important so that we can maximize benefit and see the changes we want faster.
Agile Best Self Principle #10: Simplicity – focusing on what energizes your best self — is paramount.
Michaele: Much harder than it sounds. More matter with less art.
Brian: This one was so true when we were thinking about our best selves that we didn’t need to change a word from the corresponding Agile principle. For me, the philosophy I referred to earlier is a great tool for me to say no to things that are not helping me get to the “next level” of myself.
Agile Best Self Principle #11: The best inspirations and insights emerge from like-hearted communities.
Michaele: Put the power, energy and goodness into the hands of those doing the work and needing the output.
Brian: Taking time to engage in these communities, not just show up, is an effective way to discover what your next best version of self might look like. In my entry into the Agile community, I found the time I spent engaging here my speaking and networking gave my inspiration and a new support network from which to learn and grow.
Agile Best Self Principle #12: At regular intervals, reflect on how to become your best self, then tune and adjust.
Michaele: Our old friend effectiveness comes up again. As we learn and grow, we will have new challenges and opportunities. How can you tune and adjust to turn up the good?
Brian: Ah, the retrospective. Much like I emphasize with the teams I coach, the habit of retrospective — looking back on what worked and did not — is important. In that retrospective exercise, the best teams find kaizen, which is the one thing they will do differently to become a better, more effective team. We approached our workshop similarly, with a call to choose one thing to try to create the next version of yourself. And, by the way, when you do that retrospective, be kind to yourself. It is just data and will help you see what’s next, not to be weaponized to fuel the inner critic’s monologue and bring you down.
How ?? (aka: Let’s Do It!)
1. Attendees are given X minutes to silently write ideas on Post-It Notes about the cornerstone #1 principle and specifically what it means to them. Why the silent exercise?
- Gives attendees time to think.
- It is private. This is not a trust fall exercise. Some people may write things that don’t need to be shared with the group.
- Honors the introverts.
2. Attendees share (if they want to) for X minutes.
This process of: “read, silently write, openly review” continues. Brian and I have experimented with a couple of different approaches.
Smaller groups: we let the group vote on which principle they want to put through the process.
Larger groups: prior to the session, we select the next principle (s) to discuss. Typically, this is the ‘simplicity’ or ‘be more over do more’ principle. Why? Because these principles all work together. If you do not have a clear vision of what it means to be your best self, you don’t know how to leverage the simplicity principle to say ‘no’ or the best self principle to say ‘yes’.
Example 1: ‘Simplicity’ principle discussion. I love being a connector, catalyst and coach. I do not love being in the middle when I connect people. It stresses me out to feel like I’m the gating factor holding up a key conversation between people I’ve connected. I connect 5-10 people a week – especially if a coaching client, a student or a colleague is initiating a job search. To honor both the best self and the simplicity principle I’ll include a short note saying “You two can take it from here” if I connect people online.
Example 2: ‘Be More’ principle discussion. To be my best self, I have to work in things that help me ‘be more’ over doing more. Sometimes ‘being more’ is just throwing away my task list. I still struggle with this one and focus too much on output over outcome (yes, I know that is backwards, but habits are hard to break).
The daily habit principle is much easier to discuss. This discussion frequently comes down to a general task list or the mantra ‘what you do every day is more important than what you do once in a while’ (a paraphrased quote from Gretchen Rubin’s book called The Happiness Project) I haven’t read the entire book, so it is not on our Curated Content and Resources page.
Call to Action
To anchor in the principles, our workshop ends with a call to action. The only way to learn something is to try it, and adjust.
Copyright © 2020 Michaele Gardner and Brian Hackerson