5. ARE YOU FIT FOR THE JOB?
Introduction: physical fitness is the basis
John F Kennedy said, ‘physical fitness provides the basis for everything we do. It is the root of dynamic and creative activity.’ My claim is more straightforward. Without a measure of physical fitness and some respect for the human body, many of our aims will prove to be less achievable.
Roger Bannister was the first man, in 1953, to run a mile (1.6 kilometres) in under 4 minutes. He reflected on how the nature of life and work had changed. Physical exercise (labour) plays now a lesser role. Therefore, it is very important that we compensate for this. He was convinced that there was a role for running here. ‘Running helps us to do other things better. It gives a man or woman a chance to bring out the power which might otherwise remain inside.’
Running is a favourite pastime of mine because it can be done anywhere, according to my own rules and at little cost and, in terms of its effect on general fitness, is probably the most productive. I have played many different sports, some to a respectable level, but I running remains the basis. This is both physically and psychologically. And under running I include everything which moves us forward on our own two feet, where at least, during certain intervals, there is only one foot in contact with the ground.
Of course, running is not the only way to achieve fitness. But however you plan to reach your desired level, it must be feasible, the facilities must be available and there must be room in your diary.
In 2003, I was involved in a career transition, returning to my original actuarial profession from a management function. This was somewhat forced on me following a restructuring of my organisation. I was unsettled for a time, but running provided peace of mind. I trained to take part in a relay race between Rotterdam and Paris. The goal was to raise money for the Daniel de Hoet clinic for children who are being treated for various forms of cancer. I ran 75 kilometres as my contribution to a team of eight runners. One of the eight always had to be running. This was a question of team management. I not only received a lot of pleasure from the endeavour and teamwork at a difficult time, but also from the fact we were helping children who would never be able to enjoy physical fitness and pursue the sports which gave us so much.
Why is fitness important?
You might actually say where is physical fitness not important? It is essential for countering diminishing stamina, reducing sickness absence, controlling body weight, maintaining powers of concentration, managing stress, recovering quickly, being highly motivated and having personal pride and confidence.
However, fitness, once at the desired level, requires maintenance otherwise it declines, but more importantly, the subsequent bodily effects from lapsed training can be negative.
According to the Harvard Medical School, sport stimulates the capacity of the brain. The dopamine system responds to physical activity.
Some more technical aspects
Fitness is achieved by managing an increased but regular number of heart beats induced by exercise. Your maximum heart beat rate should not exceed 220 minus your age (Karvonen’s formula). Lactic acid builds up in the muscles, ultimately reducing performance, unless you remain under this level. In fact, it is recommended not to exceed 160% to 170% of the number of heart beats at rest level.
The body extracts energy from various sources, for example; sugar, carbohydrates and fats. But there is only one which is never exhausted and that is fat. Fat burning is slow and the body needs to adjust to this by requiring energy only gradually, running slowly for instance. Further the sugar intake needs to reduce (drastically) otherwise the body will turn to this reservoir. Carbohydrates were popular, particularly under marathon runners, but the body finds these often difficult to manage. So an important ingredient in exercise is slow running, or, in any event, very rhythmical running. Chi-running can help here, where gravity (leaning forward) is used to propel a relaxed body. So slow down! You are the hunter not the hunted. Further, other aspects of bodily functioning also improve, because they then have more energy which is readily on tap.
Conclusion: what is your plan to achieve physical fitness?
There are lots of areas which I haven’t touched on, such as the effect of dopamine and serontin which are produced in the body during exercise. Also the ways to regulate breathing and the ways to relax during exercise, and many others.
But let’s end on an optimistic note with the advantages of running quoted by Runners Magazine in August 2015 (but, of course, to a certain extent, applicable to other forms of exercise in relation to the degree to which the heart beat is required to be increased):
- running helps to generate new brain and nerve cells and to improve the plasticity of the brain to adapt to changing environments;
- the volume of blood which is pumped around the body can increase by a factor of 6;
- muscle fibres and bones become stronger;
- the volume of air being circulated through the body can be increased by as much as 20 times.
But even if you decide against the more strenuous forms of exercise, it is generally recommended, that, per day, there should be at least a half hour of physical exercise. So volunteer more regularly to take the dog for a walk and cycle to your work if this possible. But this is just a stab in the right direction. In my view everybody needs their own plan, possibly after consulting a professional coach or a doctor. I would recommend that you commit yourself to a weekly physical routine – what is yours?
4. SETTING OBJECTIVES FOR YOURSELF CAN BE A POSITIVE EXPERIENCE
Introduction: why set objectives?
Setting objectives for yourself can be a stimulating exercise. Getting somewhere where you actually want to go is very motivating. Especially if it is unlikely that you will reach your goal without directing your energies in a specific way. But the objectives need to be the right ones otherwise we will only succeed in creating frustration, when no objective will ever be set again (the new year situation for many people)!
The reason why we come to set objectives for ourselves has to do with being unhappy with some aspect of our life. Unless we are (a little) dissatisfied we will always be able to convince ourselves that we can live with the status quo. Just as important is that our environment (home and business) shares this dissatisfaction, or need, and will support any move to improve the situation. So the process can be deeply psychological!
As you get older it tends to get harder to subject yourself to objectives, which confirms the dissatisfaction point. Why should you now change after living with your current self for such a long time. Your environment is usually even less happy with change because, if it wasn’t, then action would already have been taken! But, nonetheless, older people could still benefit (delaying dementia, for example) from continuing to work towards new things.
Vision and method: practical ways to start
Goals always require a mental picture first and only later will they be given a more physical appearance in ‘flesh and blood’ so to speak. You need to see yourself, as clearly as possible in your new situation. There are two ways you could start.
Draw up a mindmap
Mindmaps were created by Tony Buzan, a Canadian, who wrote several books on the subject. They can take a very simple form but usually start with an image created in the middle of a clean sheet of paper. Maybe the image is of a dissatisfied you or, alternatively, a vision of you in your ‘new place’. Draw lines from this centre, each reflecting a real need (what?) such as wanting more money, a better education, a sporting achievement, a new job, a partner etc. You should allow your imagination to do its work by only writing things down when they come to mind and after you have had time to toss them around. Once the main branches have been constructed, and as many as possible, should you start with the smaller sub-branches, using them to define the why? and the how? The who? was already at the centre! One of the advantages of mindmaps is that, in the beginning, no search for an overall order is necessary. This can be left until later.
Construct a balanced scorecard
Two Americans, Kaplan and Norton tackled the subject of finding suitable objectives for businesses. But the method can be just as easily applied to individuals. The model consists of four adjacent squares, making a bigger square, each designed to create a separate focus for financial, personal, commercial and service activities. The balance refers to achieving a spread across different areas by filling in objectives, with as much specification as possible, in each of the squares. A more or less equal number of objectives per square is the aim.
Criteria which apply to objectives: take a relaxed approach
Much has been written about the criteria which objectives should satisfy such as being SMART (specific, measurable, agreed, realistic and timed). But there are many more: for example PURE (positive, understood, relevant and ethical and CLEAR (challenging, legal, environmentally sound, appropriate and recorded). However, I am in favour of a more relaxed approach otherwise we may never get started.
You might like to bear the following in mind:
Goals sometimes need to be set within a range (high, low) to encourage both response to the challenge but also to increase attainability.
Goals which are too narrowly focused on performance can diminish how much we are willing to risk in the service of learning.
Objectives should be pursued in a fulfilling manner. The journey is often just as important as reaching the destination. ‘Work’ and ‘personal’ objectives can often be met at the same time.
Get the balance right between rigidly determining the route to the goal and leaving room for flexibility.
Believe in yourself and that you, by reaching your objectives, can make a difference to the world (even if this has not been required of you).
When planning to reach objectives spend just as much attention on not doing the things which could ultimately prove to be obstacles, except if you are a politician!
And don’t hesitate to change your objectives if they do not fit the bill anymore or are even just no longer attainable.
To conclude with Suzy Welch and an exercise
Suzy Welch uses a 10-10-10 method which is actually quite handy when (re)appraising your objectives. How do your aims look in 10 minutes, 10 months and 10 years, the emphasis being placed on the latter. But you have to take the first two also into account, because this is what others notice first. This can be a major obstacle, also because you often need their help and their patience. Long- term objectives have to survive short-term problems. Short-term objectives can turn out to be the wrong route to the longer term. This is where vision, judgement, wisdom and conviction begin to play a role.
I would encourage you to draw up some objectives for yourself. Then use a mindmap to give each of your chosen objectives more body, or help you to discover if you have made sensible choices
3. HOW DO YOU MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR TALENTS?
Introduction: talents or self-discipline?
Talent is a word which everybody uses. Further, everybody has some sort of feeling about what it might mean or involve. We know we are born with talents (the basis is genetic) and observing people deploying their talents often gives rise to studied interest and sometimes even excitement. Talents can be discovered and developed but they cannot be created or destroyed (just like gold).
But this is only half the story. Talents don’t exist in a vacuum. They can only be exploited if the necessary skills and knowledge are present, and there is a focus on what one is trying to achieve. This requires self-discipline and this is not necessarily correlated with talent. The problem is that the presence of talent, the facility to be able to do something more easily and better than another, tends to work against wanting to work hard to establish the relevant basis. I am almost tempted to say that talent is only important at the beginning of any development when it can give you a head start.
Talents to strengths: passion is key
To give you a definite advantage a talent has to become a strength, which is not only the ability to do something well, but to do it with passion. It is passion which is the key.
Marcus Buckingham, an Englishman living in the USA, realised how important strengths were. He even went as far as to say that we could almost ignore our weaknesses. I tend to share his view, but it does depend, to some extent, on how important the exploitation of weaknesses by an ‘opponent’ might become.
Sport looks at weaknesses differently. With the curiosity of the media which we now have to tolerate it is not difficult to pinpoint weaknesses. Every sports team has an organisation which is set up to exploit the weaknesses which are demonstrated by an opponent. But they should also be careful. Weaknesses can be plugged, maybe even before they can be targeted. The great teams don’t spend their energy on weaknesses, they concentrate on identifying, developing or acquiring strengths and building on them. This provides a focus on consistency of performance. Your strengths are also necessary to combat your weaknesses.
Exercise: what are your strengths?
So what are your strengths? Because you are not only not strong at everything, you are not strong, relatively speaking, at the majority of things.
Marcus Buckingham designed a test (see link at the bottom of the blog) to try to concentrate your attention on what these strengths might be. He built a list of 34 types of ability and believed that any individual should focus on no more than 5. The selection is difficult (there are many similarities) but this is what makes it a worthwhile exercise. This is because it is important to identify exactly the right areas on which to concentrate your energy if you are to become as effective as possible.
Ton Rath wrote a guide called Strengths Finder 2.0 (2007) which explained the 34 categories of Buckingham in detail, facilitating your own analysis.
Strengths of those around you
You can repeat the exercise which you have just conducted for yourself for those who you work with. Of course you can make your own assessments, but it is probably better to make them with the person concerned. This is important because a spread of strengths in a group or team can be very beneficial and provide more options than if you are operating alone. But remember, real insight in others will not be achieved without considerable effort, even for those who consider themselves good in this area.
From passion to flow
We noted earlier that passion is part of a package (talent, skill, knowledge and passion) which can be qualified as a strength. However, it is also good to look at passions separately. They make it possible to make use of current capabilities but also to develop new ones.
Mihaly Csikszentmihayi describes how we feel when we are pursuing our passions. He calls this flow. One of my passions is running alone, without any considerations of time, in the dunes in the Netherlands. Not even inclement weather can ruin the experience. I first discovered exactly what flow was in the marathon in London in 1989. By good fortune, I had judged my acceleration just right (this seldom happens actually). As I made my way back to the city centre after about 35 kilometres, running just seemed to be effortless, which it mostly never the case at this stage of a marathon. I even ran on the other side of the road to ensure that nobody was in my way. Once you have experienced this you will be looking for a similar feeling of flow in your other activities, and even once again when running!
Just think about your passions for a few moments. Try to describe them as accurately as possible so that you can focus on them whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Flow or grit?
Flow is not actually so far removed from grit. This is a term which is very old but which now has acquired a modern interpretation. Grit means having interest in what you are trying to achieve, the capacity and inclination to practise correctly, having a clear purpose and hoping that your efforts will deliver something worthwhile. Those with grit don’t overreact to failures or setbacks. Because these happen from time to time when you are engaged in 10,000 hours of practice (thought to be necessary to become an expert in any field, and then not even the best). They take a step backwards, analyse the situation and learn from it.
Conclusions: having a talent is a start?
Having a talent is a start. Recognition that you have a talent needs to follow this. But many other aspects are more important. This concerns the ability to make use of the talents which you have and to practise hard to maintain and hopefully build on the advantages which these talents provide.
In general, having talent encourages an attitude which is based on taking talents for granted. This is an unhappy state of affairs. Exploitation is a serious business requiring not only skills and knowledge but a fair amount of passion. The choice is yours.
2. GETTING TO KNOW YOURSELF BY RECALLING ‘MOMENTS OF INSIGHT’
Developing a strategy for life (philosophy) has to begin somewhere and, in my view, this is by achieving a reliable understanding of yourself. After all, a strategy which is in line with your own strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, is bound to be more durable and therefore a better basis for building towards a successful future.
Learning to understand yourself would seem, on the surface, to require less effort than getting to know those others who are influential in your environment. Whilst this is probably true, and doesn’t mean you should ignore those in your personal environment, it does not mean it can be achieved without considerable effort or without a method.
The route which I follow, and which I recommend, is to analyse how you have reacted to circumstances in the past, by searching into your memories of these reactions to see what these may reveal. I choose to do this by recalling ‘moments of insights’. These are events which have happened to you which tell you something pertinent or important about yourself, your values, beliefs or behaviour. These discoveries, when established, may well be difficult to change even if you would like to, and they are, therefore, something which you need to take into account.
Moments of insight
When I work with people who are trying to get know themselves better, I ask them to try to recall five moments which were important for them and which gave them a seemingly new insight into themselves. If you are not used to this sort of reflection then finding five ‘stories’ can be quite difficult.
Why is this? Well, firstly, it is not that the incidents can’t be found, this is not the problem, but realising what they reveal takes more investigation and selection. Secondly, the process not only takes time but cannot be programmed. The memories, sometimes concerning things from way in the past which haven’t been thought about in ages, emerge at unplanned moments but require immediate attention. They need to be described and analysed. It is not then so much the question if the memory is reliable or not, it mostly isn’t. It is the fact that the reconstruction of the situation helps to explain an aspect of behaviour enabling temporary conclusions to be drawn. This then gets stacked away awaiting the next piece of the puzzle, never in a chronological order and never with the same message.
An example: clearly on my own
Perhaps some examples from my own past will help to illustrate what I am getting at.
When I first attended Oxford University I was nineteen years old, from a working-class background and from a family which had never experienced university education before.
The Oxford system in those days provided an individual link with a tutor in the subject which was being studied, and indeed one of my first obligations was to meet my tutor. Well mine had a room at the top of a dark staircase. He was an old man with a long beard which was highlighted by a single lamp on his desk in an otherwise invisible room. The light was also focused on a pile of white paper which was positioned ready to record my thoughts or to be used to support answers from my tutor to the penetrating questions I was going to ask!
It was not long before my tutor chose to get his message across. ‘You must remember you are no longer at school where your teachers told you what to do. (If I am reliably informed then we are tending to return to this situation where we wait to be given direction). How you study now is your business. I’m only here to answer your questions’. At the time this was devastating clarity. I was clearly on my own. This took time to sink in, but now when I look back, I am eternally grateful to him. I decided to design a system of self-organisation which would convince me that I was being productive. Secondly, I documented my learning so that I could ask intelligent questions, demonstrating also that I had done my best to find out the answers for myself. Both of these have proved invaluable supports to my way of working since then.
A second example: becoming the best no. 2 in the world
At a later stage in my career, now in the Netherlands, my boss confronted me with the remark that, in my next appraisal interview, I must not expect a further promotion which I had become used to. ‘You see’, he said, ‘you are no.2 now and I am no.1 and I am not intending to leave.’ I think I must have been expecting this because I took little time in replying. I suggested that ‘becoming the best no.2 in the world must also be a pretty good job.’
After this I realised that no.2 was probably my role in the many aspects of my life, being there for continuity and support but also to develop strategy. In my experience, no.2’s who leave to become no. 1 are not no.2’s. And no.1’s without no.2’s are often less successful. I continue to find this very useful guideline and discipline when ambition breaks unrealistic bounds as it sometimes did and does. If you are not a natural no. 1 (leader) then it does not mean that you can’t carry out this function, because sometimes you have to. It just helps you to focus on the best use of your energies.
More on moments of insight
These ‘moments of insight’ are typical of what you may also wish to look for. They emerged into full consciousness years after they had first been experienced. They proved useful in pinpointing and explaining a part of my philosophy which was constructed to solve an immediate problem. They were also retained, not only as a result of my belief in their usefulness but because they apparently fitted with how I liked to work. These are then a basis for further study and refinement. Once they have demonstrated their value the rest is down to self-discipline as they are included in a more permanent platform, my approach to the matters which I will meet along the way.
What is further amazing is to realise that there is no end to these revealing anecdotes. Just when you think you couldn’t possibly find anymore, another one pops up to explain a part of your subsequent views on life. And if it can’t, then it has to be dispensed with. There are, of course, also many incidents which, on first recall, seem important but either subsequently prove not to be, or have been replaced by a better justification.
I hope these examples will inspire you to start digging deeper to discover how you normally behave or like to work. In fact, you will almost be writing your autobiography. But remember, this one is never ending, and mostly a very satisfying hobby.
Action: putting this into practice
Find five ‘moments of insight’ describing why these, on reflection, proved to be important. Try also to draw some initial conclusions as to your strengths and weaknesses.
What are the next steps?
So what can you do as a result of this study of your past. Well you are now in a position to clarify your strengths and weaknesses so that the future use of your energy can be better directed. This will help you to concentrate your focus on your strengths, only working on weaknesses when they become obstacles. The platform is starting to be formed for building the strategy for your future life.
A Strategy for Life
Not everyone has a strategy for their own development. Some people are quite happy to see where they end up as events naturally unfold. However, if you wish to use your energy, and the energy which you are able to extract from your environment, as efficiently and effectively as possible, then having a life strategy, and/or a personal plan, may prove to be a sensible idea, maybe your best idea. Some people are able to achieve this on their own and do not need much help, but others need guidance in the form of coaching.
However, coaching is only useful if the person in question (and his family) sees the possible advantages. On the other hand, the person who is considering coaching may believe that nobody is likely to be able to help, given the nature of the perceived problems. Or he may not wish to entrust his thoughts with somebody from outside the close community. He may forget, at that moment, how difficult it can sometimes be to share (personal and/or changed) thoughts with somebody from the ‘inner circle’. Personal environments have the tendency to be both too subjective and too constricting, preferring actually little or no change.
But what is coaching then? In short, coaching acts as a support for self-development. If carried out effectively, it does not seek to impose but helps an individual find and release what is inside him, by helping to build a better internal understanding of the capacities which are actually available. We are referring here to the discovery of strengths which arise by the combining of skills and ability in the context of the passion which may be generated. This can lead to the formulation of desirable but realistic personal objectives. Coaching helps with establishing these and discovering a way to reach them, providing encouragement for a start to be made on the (long, but worthwhile) road to achievement.
Self 1 and Self 2
Timothy Gallwey was a professional Irish tennis coach. His experiences from the tennis court enabled him to develop a model for visualising the coaching process. For this he created two mutually co-operating parts of a person, Self 1 and Self 2. Self 1 embodies knowledge and conscience. Self 2 is the capacity to perform without help. Self 1 has the steering capacity to release Self 2, who normally knows what to do.
In normal circumstances Self 1 and Self 2 work in tandem. Self 1 ensures that Self 2 has a reliable basis for operation, knowing the rules and being practised in adhering to them, and will always warn Self 2 of approaching pitfalls. Self 2 operates automatically and needs to do this if Self 1 is to retain sufficient mental resources for further development.
My son, who is now a professional golf teacher, once asked me when he was still learning the game why, that every time he reached a new level, there appeared to be a period when golf was no longer as enjoyable as it had been, in fact it was suddenly very difficult again. ‘Golf is still the same game and I am still the same person, so why does performance dip?’ My answer was that he had been reliant on Self 2 who knew how to perform at the previous level without being asked. This saves a lot of energy as 80% is then automatic, and this is the necessary level and condition for success. Further, the ability of Self 2 is not doubted, it has been demonstrated so many times. At the new higher level, the demands imposed by Self 1 go up and Self 1 is more involved in an operational sense while a new basis is created for Self 2 to carry out its tasks. Self 2 is then no longer operating automatically. On the other hand, if Self 1 does not insist that the player aims for a higher level then Self 2 tends to operate by ‘going through the motions’, that is more than 80% is carried out automatically. In this situation, boredom will set in, attention drops and performances will fall anyway.
The question is, of course, how do you draw up the motivation and the encouragement to build every time to a new level of proficiency. And this is where coaching comes in, either by self-teaching (Self 1) or with the help of an external coach. The coach can help with the objective analysis of where you are now, where you would like to get to, whether your resources are strong enough and your attitude positive enough for taking the first steps, and what may be the way ahead.
My own coach
I realised at an early stage in my career that extensive knowledge, I was an Oxford mathematician who had become an actuary at an early age, was not enough for future success in a career, unless it was purely academic. From my brief experiences with leading others, I was doubtful. I was curious how knowledge was used to assist in promoting the functioning of people, what they needed in addition to this to get to where they wanted to go to, and how they were motivated to start the journey. Although I didn’t know it at the time, my general manager acted as my coach. Also a mathematician and actuary, he had had enough experience to realise that I would only quickly get answers to my questions if I were transferred to the Human Resources department. I was required to recruit in London at the height of the racial tensions in the City of London in the early 1970’s, just when many people had decided that it would be a better idea to seek work outside London. I soon realised that Self 1 had a lot of work to do. I don’t suppose that any coach would recommend this now, but I have always been grateful that I had help to realise what was, in fact, a career change, albeit within the same company. I spent a time in various human resources functions before wending my way in a more general management direction. Every time Self 1 had to prepare Self 2, but I now no longer doubted that Self 1 would succeed in this.
It was at a certain stage in my development that I began to see that what was happening to me could happen to anybody else. As I acquired experience, I became more sure that I could assist in this process and would enjoy doing this. For a while I turned my back on the more technical world (Self 1 insisted ultimately on returning to it!). Fortunately, within my company, there were opportunities to gradually adopt a coaching role and to provide help with both career and personal matters. I combined this with general management just as my former coach had done. I also conducted an introduction for new employees and taught on management courses.
At a particular point in time, I started making my own notes regarding what I found was important in my own personal development. This was not only to assist my own learning process but to provide guidance when I was coaching others. I also felt it was only fair to subject myself to anything which I was expecting from others. I knew then, at first hand, what it was like. Since then, at least a part of every week, if not every day, has been dedicated to my own manual, ‘Developing Yourself’, expanding and improving it in the light of new experiences, relevant reading and the opinions of others, but substantially strengthened by a degree in psychology from the Open University in the Netherlands. This manual also provides directions for me when coaching others.
The coaching process consists normally of a number of conversations with somebody who wishes to give more substance to his own personal development, sometimes for personal reasons, sometimes for career reasons, sometimes when starting a new job or sometimes before commencing a new course of education.
I tend to concentrate first on ensuring that the person being coached gets to know himself more clearly, his strengths and weaknesses but also his passions. This leads ultimately to the drawing up of a personal profile and the setting of personal objectives. We then look at some of the qualities and skills which might be needed to achieve these objectives (more easily). Lastly, if desired, we reflect on the wider concept of self-development. Every course (series of conversations) can be made to fit the person in question. This is determined at outset, and if necessary as the discussions progress.
Recent trends in career/personal development
According to Charles Handy, a long-time business consultant and author, who is reaching the end of his working life (he is over eighty!) people now need to think continually during their career about ‘the second curve’. By this he was referring to the fact that careers these days tend to be shorter while the total working life is only getting longer. So this is completely new. He constructed a series of interlocking S’s lying on their backs to illustrate the initial investment in a new venture, the harvesting of the returns from this investment, but then just before the crest representing maximum exploitation, just before the curve moves downward, to start a new investment period, the second curve, and then the third etc. This is independent of whether this is within the same company or not. And incidentally, this doesn’t only apply to careers, but also to companies and institutions. You can picture this better by noticing how successful sports teams bring on new players before the existing stars have reached their peak, and this takes place earlier and earlier. Coaches can play an important role here, not least by being able to draw parallels with their own careers.
How to start?
If you are interested why not invest in an initial conversation, which will enable both parties to decide if a programme of coaching would be a worthwhile exercise; for example, four monthly sessions of 2 hours at €150 per hour followed by an evaluation. It is recommended, in the in-between periods, to prepare for coming conversations by conducting specified reflections on current qualities and performances. This will also help to determine what, if any, follow up would be productive.