My son Jonathan joined Bravo Company a few weeks ago after a three-week detour in a holding platoon which in turn, pushed back his graduation date.
He arrived at Parris Island on April 15th to begin his journey and dream of becoming a United States Marine. I was inspired to write this after receiving one of my 1st letters from him and wanted to share some things I've learned along the way.
When my older son Matthew was in Parris Island 6 years ago, I remember someone sharing the idea when writing letters to include a list of questions in a self-addressed stamped envelope not only to save time for recruits but also to end the "Oh, I forgot to ask that question" now to be faced with the 4 - 6 day letter delay. So in my last letter to him, I included questions that I will share in just a minute.
Years ago, I transitioned careers from being a social worker to now, a certified life coach. One of the most powerful skills and strategies in training was asking empowering questions that require more consideration and thought to lead to more empowering answers. Not only has this impacted my own life and how I respond to situations, but also empowers and inspires others to do the same.
Another thing I have learned and have come to realize in life is that it is filled with challenges. Regardless of what we do, problems and challenges WILL show up, the question is, how we choose to respond to those challenges. Our reactions can impact the results we’re experiencing in life. The difference between success and happiness from anger and complacency for example.
There are simply 2 choices we have when faced with any difficult challenge, and in turn, will affect results.
1. To focus on the problem - Everything that is wrong with a situation
2. To focus on the solution - What is right or working well
Solution focusing helps to identify strengths and possibilities shifting one’s energy from the problem to the solution. Questions like:
What can I learn from this?
In what ways can I use my (specify strengths) to navigate through this difficult time?
How can I make the best out of this difficult situation?
What am I grateful for?
How can I use this experience to my advantage?
How can I support/ inspire others to do the same?
These are just a few questions being in a "leadership" mindset may ask which in turn will yield more successful results. When focused on the problem, our perspective is limited, and our eyes are likely to miss all the opportunities that are available for the taking.
As a Mom of 4 adult young men that I have raised as a single mom, I realize how much of my energy was spent on trying to control and protect them from problems, disappointment, pain and conflict when in fact, success and character are developed from how they learn to navigate and rise through difficult times.
As parents, we have the privilege to let our children grow and find their way as we support and love them from the sidelines. In all of our relationships, whether at home or at work, solution focusing will inspire growth.
In theory, this may sound all good, but my own experiences with focusing on solutions along with my son’s responses to my questions, were proof in the pudding not only in his own will to overcome and succeed but also in those recruits who inspire each other to do the same.
I asked Jon a series of 10 questions a few literally about the weather ("not so bad"), food ("great"), sand fleas (“lots of them”), sleep (“fine”) but also questions like:
What are your goals for the week?
What are your greatest strengths and attributes that you can draw from that will support you in getting to where you want to be this week?
Who have you met and how do you support each other?
What has been most challenging for you?
What have you learned and what thoughts are pushing you to keep going and succeed? In other words, what is working well?
I was so inspired by his responses that took a seemingly negative situation and shifted the focus from what’s wrong to what is working. He drew from and recognized his strengths enabling him to navigate each day more productively. All that I feared and stories I created in my mind as I imagined him in holding were wiped away and replaced with the truth, his truth, his story, and his ability to cope with all of his emotions in the absence of me, his mom.
So, regardless of where you are in life today, whether you are home or at work, you can choose to be a leader who inspires not only yourself towards action and change but also inspires others to do the same. Solution focusing will encourage, strengthen and empower your relationship with yourself and others as well leading to more successful results.