PP 142: Articulating Your Intentions with Sharon Swing

Quick Show Notes: Sharon Swing

I am thrilled and honored to have my friend and client, Sharon Swing, as our guest on today’s episode. We have a deep conversation about finding meaning in our work, determining the ripple we want to leave, the importance of hope, and the benefits of mapping our life’s stories.

Sharon Swing of @oneLifemaps and @thekimsutton have a deep conversation about finding meaning in our work, determining the ripple we want to leave and the importance of hope. https://thekimsutton.com/pp142 #positiveproductivity #podcast #purposeClick To Tweet


Episode Transcription: Sharon Swing

Kim Sutton: Welcome back to Positive Productivity. I’m so happy to have you here and today I’m thrilled to have a client and dear friend Sharon Swing.

Sharon is the Executive Director of oneLife maps the Co-Author of Listen to My Life, a Certified Executive and Life Coach and an Organizational Development Consultant.

Kim Sutton: Sorry to laugh in the middle but, you are so… like, well rounded in doing so much. Sharon, I… Wow. That’s all I have to say. But, welcome to you. I’m so glad that you are here to join us today.

Sharon Swing: Well, thanks. I’m glad to be here too. And yeah, it’s a little busy in my brain sometimes. But all of those actually have a good convergence point, believe it or not. So maybe we’ll talk a little bit about some of how that works.

Kim Sutton: Not maybe definitely. With that said, can you share a little bit about your journey with the listeners and even jump into that convergence with us?

Sharon Swing: Oh, gosh, I guess the story would have to start with when I was doing, I was doing my master’s degree in Organizational Development, which is basically the I would say, the human side of an MBA.

Sharon Swing: For example, you know, MBA people would would put together a spreadsheet, but it looks like something will work but you have to take into the the human factor into account because it’s people that make it happen. So if you don’t have your leadership and your teams and your… your people swimming in a, in a, in a good culture, it’s very hard to be able to make things happen.

Sharon Swing: But when I was working on Organizational Development, my master’s degree, they had us working on our vision and mission statements. And it became very clear to me that the words almost felt like they were just given to me as opposed to something that I made up out of my own… In my own self. It was as if I was told that by a vision statement was to be a catalyst for generative change, and generative change being changed that goes on beyond me. And my mission statement is to help people articulate their intentions and live them out. So that goes for individuals as well as groups.

Sharon Swing: So sometimes I coach individuals, executives in a business setting or anyone who desires to get clarity about what they’re made for, and what they’re here to do. Issues of purpose and clarity and getting traction in that kind of way.

Sharon Swing: And I also work with executives that realize that leadership is a perilous act for for one’s soul. And it is a very, it’s very easy to get off track as a leader in your life, to be able to manipulate circumstances because you have the power and change things to your own liking and avoid what you fear most and what you dislike.

Sharon Swing: So those kinds of things all converge into being able to help people map their stories, and that’s what I do with Listen to My Life. Those that’s the name of the materials that help people map their stories. For the purpose of… In our case, it’s recognizing and responding to God and their story. So we come at it from a Christian perspective.

Kim Sutton: I love that. Obviously.

You know, I, I already do a lot of reading and materials that I’ve been studying for this past year, have done a lot of speaking about leaders versus managers. Is this something that you run into a lot with your clients?

Sharon Swing: Well, you know, the distinction between the two… What was interesting about that to you about the difference between leaders and managers? Let me turn the question around for you.

Kim Sutton: That managers, managers, to me in the interpretation that I was reading are less people focused. And they’re more about the tasks that need to get done, and the bottom line, and maybe I was interpreting that wrong. But leaders were all about the team and working collaboratively and helping take each person individually as well as the team to the next level.

Sharon Swing: When you look at it from that perspective, some people… Because there can be really really good managers and so you don’t want to disparage the word management because sometimes things need to be managed very, very well in order for anything to get done anything to be productive.

Sharon Swing: Leadership, however, does take that to me take a perspective of what does it take to guide a team in a way that unleashes discretionary effort. I love that phrase the hay group and and emotional intelligence kind of work. They talk about discretionary effort and I love that because discretionary effort is defined as as what people will give over and above what is required.

Sharon Swing: And the best cultures, the best organizational cultures are cultures in which people freely give discretionary effort because they feel good about the end result that they’re working toward. They’re working towards something that is in alignment with who they’re made to be. And the team as well, that they feel a part of it in a way that they’re doing something and you’re part of something that’s bigger than themselves.

Sharon Swing: And that’s a lot of what people really want and dream about. They want to be they want to be doing something that’s important. And you know, all this talk about managing millennials and all a lot of times, you know, there’s an author, I can’t remember the who said it, but he says, He says, most jobs are just too small for the human spirit. And that is very true. And a leader helps make a job into something that contributes to a person’s life as well as that person contributing to the goals of the organization.

Kim Sutton: That’s huge.

I’ve never shared this story on the podcast before, but when I was going through a huge life transition, I was actually working as a cashier at Chipotle of all places. To be totally honest, they had put me on the on the line preparing meals, but I failed at rolling burritos. My burritos always broke.

Kim Sutton: Anyway, I was I was the cashier, which also involved table touches. And one day, I was asked if I needed a prayer said for me, and I didn’t really know how to respond. But right there in the middle of the floor at Chipotle, these two gentlemen got on their knees and started praying for me. And table touches are such a huge part to Chipotle, and they want to make sure that every client and this is not a sponsored episode people. But table touches are so important because they want to make sure that their customers are happy.

Kim Sutton: But I sort of looked back to where my manager was standing, like, “What do I do?

Back to discretionary effort. I mean, I knew that I couldn’t leave. Because what I was doing, and Well, number one, they were praying for me, but by standing there and accepting and embracing what they were doing, I mean, it was going beyond my job duty at the table touch. It was as much for me as it was for them. And I could have just said, almost like when a solicitor comes the door, no thank you and walked away. But it’s all about making it a better experience for the customers and clients.

Sharon Swing: And I mean, a meaningful connection. I mean, that’s what we’re looking for. That’s what people look for, is a meaningful connection. And I mean, I…

Sharon Swing: One of the things I I get so moved by last summer I was listening to Victor Frankel’s Man’s Search for Meaning. And his idea that you know, as opposed to other psychologists of his day that that believe that the band’s core desire core drive is for, for power, or mans core drive is for it.

Sharon Swing: There’s other ideas but this he says no, it’s all about meaning. And he defines meaning as resonance with one’s core essence. resonance with one’s essence is what meaning is defined as. And if we’re lacking meaning in our lives, there’s something missing that is our that’s our core essence is not engaged in our core essence does not feel like giving discretionary effort.

Sharon Swing: And the fact of the matter is, we want opportunities to be excited about what we’re contributing. And there are a lot of people who don’t know what their core essence is. According to Victor Frankel’s definition, they don’t know who they are well enough to be able to find things that help them align with, you know, with their with, with experiences that move them.

Sharon Swing: We want to be moved to the core. we’re spiritual beings having a human experience.

Sharon Swing: Another author says, there’s something deeply human about finding meaning in our work. That this is even a thought that we want to make a difference in the world that we want to you know, basically the… the alternative is just to be bored and kind of tuned out. Right?

Kim Sutton: Absolutely.

Sharon Swing: All right.

Kim Sutton: How long have we been working together?

Sharon Swing: Almost… Probably a year? No, more than that.

Kim Sutton: Now, I think you’ve seen that shift even for me. You…

Listeners, Sharon has experienced all types of ups and downs with me. But I, I think I’ve experienced that shift just during the time that we’ve been working together. It’s true from working on the mundane. And they weren’t really mundane, but to me, they, I find my meaning.

(Transcription still being cleaned up. Thanks for checking it out!)

Sharon Swing: That’s what I’m trying to get to. There’s a difference between doing things because you know how to do them that are a means to an end.

And paying the bills is a noble thing.

And even even in a mundane task, your family has meaning your family resonates with your core essence. They are that you are. You are wired to be a mama bear to be a good wife to be a person that becomes the glue in your family. And you can endure any how for that? Why about your family?

But you want more than just enduring the how part?


And so what I observe in you is is is a deep desire to what resonates with your core essence is there’s a piece of you that has to multiply. There’s a piece of you that has to multiply your impact of good in the world. Would you say that that’s true? I would absolutely say that that’s true. So how would you describe what kind of ripple effect you want to leave?

This is Sharon Swing Show

me. Now I know how guests feel when I asked them a question that they weren’t expecting.

I want to leave a ripple of hope.

And knowing I want my list, specifically for the positive productivity podcast, I want my listeners to know that no matter what happens today, there’s always tomorrow. So let’s stand up and brush ourselves off and make it even better than it was to begin with.

Whatever is

and it doesn’t just mean our bank account, like I actually want the bank account to be put on the back burner, which for me, is huge to actually be saying that.

As you’re growing family requires some revenue. Oh yeah. Every day, they eat more

Those older ones. Oh, my gosh, yeah,

I swear my refrigerator was stocked yesterday and there’s not today.

Yeah. And you know, there’s there’s something inside of everybody you’re not alone in that. There’s some people who, who can find a way just to settle. But there are those of us that are awake to the fact that we don’t want to get to our to the end of our lives and regret it. Regret how we spent the lives that we actually chose to be bored.

I think one of the sobering the most sobering statistics I heard in the last year was that the average American spends 40 hours a week watching television. To me, that is about the most boring way I could spend my time I’m not knocking anybody who’s listening who watches a lot of TV. But I just know that for me, I have more to be done in that time.

Okay, but here’s the deal with that.

It’s not about the TV, it’s about living numb.

It’s about being numb to life.

It’s about becoming a consumer of life

as opposed to someone who takes responsibility for that only making their own lives better, but the lives of people around them.

And so some people are awake to this to this idea of, of meaning making, and other people aren’t.

And I would guess that people listen to your to broadcast their meaning makers. Right. Right.

And that is not everybody. And in fact, people like us that are that thrive on this meaning making thing. I’m sure we are highly irritating to people who are no doubt.

Oh, I have to completely agree. You Yeah,

we’re just kind of obnoxious terms of our, of our drive and our, the energy we bring to things and you know, the kind of you call it positive productivity and there’s that there’s that piece of it that is so true to your essence in terms of

positivity and hope. And and the fact of the matter is that, that the whole storyline is about hope. And if we lose hope, if we lose hope, we lose our belief that the future holds something good. And so when we lose hope we actually are imagining a future where we don’t have the resources needed to meet the challenges ahead. And when we have hope, we believe even if the challenges are great, that there’s somehow That we’ll figure it out. The other thing that Viktor Frankl says it is so beautiful. I mean his storyline. In Man’s Search for Meaning it actually starts out, he is describing the conditions of Auschwitz, the concentration camp, he was due in Vienna, and was taken by the Nazis and put in a concentration camp. His wife was sent to the gas chambers, immediately that he found out later, he suspected and, and all and so he’s describing the conditions and though in what’s happening in the concentration camp, which are as horrific as you could possibly imagine. And his purpose for reporting on them is to talk about the differences between people who can sustain hope and people who lose hope. What’s the difference between those people? And how do you have to look at what’s going on in life? In order to be able to sustain hope, amid the worst possible circumstances, and one of the things he talks about, is not asking what do I want out of life? He says that’s the wrong question. He says that the right question is, what is life asking of me? And so even in the most challenging times, to ask the question, what is life asking of me? There’s an opportunity in the midst of that question to be creative and resilient, and to live up to our best selves.

I’d never thought about it that way. That’s amazing.

Isn’t it? Isn’t that I mean, it’s, it’s such an interestingly deep thought that it’s still working its way into me. So even if someone is Facing a concentration camp or cancer or, you know, whatever the loss of a loved one or whatever, what is what is life asking of me right now? What needs to be drawn out of me to be able to meet this challenge. And those are the kinds of people that have courage and they’re vulnerable. And we end up calling them remarkable people.

People that rise to a challenge,

don’t complain

that they figure out a way to be resilient in the enlightened difficulty. So knowing what your essence your what your what’s meaningful to you. what resonates with your core essence and then asking this question is what is the situation

asking of me What’s life asking me right now and I think I’ve I came in contact with you

right before some of these shifts of mine were happening in me.

And there have been several times when I’ve been ready to put down something that I’ve worked on for 15 years that has brought all kinds of meaning into my life and the lives of others because some things are just really tough to have a financial engine that works. It’s really hard, but somehow, the way I see things anyway, God keeps making ends meet and keeps encouraging and keeps whispering although I don’t hear him audibly, I definitely sense sense a move in my spirit that is just like this Don’t give up and I don’t know if what I do on the listen to my life side. Things will ever be financially successful. I just don’t know that there’s a business model that works for what we do there without taking, taking the opportunity away from people who just could not afford a really high end program. You know, to me, I want to serve everybody. I don’t want to serve people who have a lot of money. I want to serve people who are waiting in their hope. And I want to make it accessible. And so given those values, I’m not sure it will ever make a lot of money with it. But is it worth doing? I can’t tell you how energizing this, this group of 19 people I’ve got right now going through the listen to my live workshops, virtually. I mean, they’re just they’re making so many shifts in their mindset. So the stories that they live in of the messages that they that circumstances have given them that just aren’t true of who they are. They’re not true, who got how God sees them. And they’re just not useful. And, you know, people take on the stories of people, from people that they don’t even respect. So some idiot that told somebody 40 years ago, that

that they better, you know,

in it just just shut up or they better just put put down the idea of pursuing this particular dream or whatever, they don’t even respect that person, but something inside of them took that message out and they start living out of it. And I keep talking about maturing gracefully. Another way to put it is growing up, you know, I mean, we’re all we’re all in the process of growing up Right doesn’t matter how old you are what’s going on as a matter of sorting out our story and deciding what it is that we’re going to take with us and what we’re going to leave behind and sometimes we don’t even remember where we got particular messages that live inside of us that when we say I am I have someone who can’t finish I’m someone who can’t. Who can’t make enough money to support my family and somebody who can’t you know, so we tell ourselves these these things. And exactly who decided that that was who I am somebody from my past, you know, what am I going to take with me? What am I gonna leave behind? What am I gonna? What am I going to believe is true about me and, and not only just make that up and kind of pull myself up by my bootstraps, but for me, it’s a factor of Going back to God’s story and what he says is true of me.

And if I live out of his story for me, which is all about hope and redemption,

even my worst mistakes can be redeemed. Even the worst circumstances can be redeemed.

And so in a way it comes down in my Who am I to tell God that he’s wrong?

I love that. And I’ve shared with you before and I shared with listeners that

I’ve been reading the power of I am by Joel Osteen. And out of that I number one created my own A to Z Im list. I have my Im statements when my kids are driving me crazy or when my clients are driving me crazy or life in general is driving me crazy. I’ll rehearse my items to myself. Today know that I can overcome but another big thing was He talks about how we can look in the mirror and tell ourselves that we’re not pretty enough, we’re not successful enough or, you know, we can tell ourselves 1000 different stories about how we’re not enough. But that’s not who God made us to be. We are enough, if not more than enough for what his purpose is for us.

We’re enough with him. For sure. Right.

Sharon, can you share with the listeners more about one life maps and listen to my life?

Sure. The full title of the materials is listen to my life maps for recognizing and responding to God in my story. And there are eight what we call visual maps. So listen to my life is not a book. It’s not just a workbook. It’s actually a portfolio of what we call visual maps that asked people to from eight different perspectives, map their story. And so it starts with a The app called my life now and just ask some basic questions about

you know, who’s involved? What’s drawing me?

In? There’s several different questions. But the keystone of that one is, is the lingering question. What’s your lingering question? What’s kind of working under the surface of this question? That is kind of active in your subconscious. Sometimes it’s very conscious. Sometimes it’s very practical. Like, should I move to this place? Or that or should I change jobs or something of that kind and sometimes it’s deeply personal or spiritual. For a long time, my lingering question was, what would it be like to live allowing God love to eradicate my fears?

And behind that was the idea that I want to live unresponsive. Any voice, but God’s, and to not allow fear to dictate my actions and my choices. So anyway, then the rest of the maps are my life story where you actually map out a piece of your story. And it’s not it’s not meant to be an exhaustive exercise. But basically, given where you are right now, what comes to mind about the significant things that happened across my story? And are there patterns and things that we need to notice? What were the dreams and aspirations at different points in my life? What were the what were the positive influences the negative influences? And then how did I notice got along the way, is another piece of that one. Then there’s peak experiences where we find out a little bit more about what gives us life so it’s not major accomplishments as much as when did I feel most truly myself and mapping eight of those and seeing if we can find some themes That run through that to give us clues to how we’re made. So that gets down to a meaning question like we were talking about before, then Valley experiences, there’s a process there that just asked you to take just one Valley experience and be able to walk through it in a productive way. Most people don’t know how to process negative experiences, daily experiences. And so that teaches how to do that. And then people could print out as many of those copies as they want, once they buy the materials and just and be able to be able to map out as many of those as is, is necessary and some people really resist going back to the negative the valley experiences, but then really in the valleys of life is the you know, in the valleys and in nature, that’s where the richest soil is for growth. And most the time that’s the case and once you find out that you can actually move through the valley not hang out there and not stay there. camped out there. People find the bit Valley experiences map is wildly freeing for what comes next. And then we do reviewing my days, which is a piece of just that recognizing and responding together. My story gets down to not only in my past, but in my present like for this day, how am I recognizing my highs and my lows? What’s energizing me what’s draining me? what’s, what do I sense God is up to in the midst of this day. And then desires and longings. So we take people up few years and ask them, What do you want your life to be? Like? What do you weigh your joys, your contributions, your accomplishments, and what does that tell you about your underlying longings and then we have one that’s called life giving rhythms. So how will I live in a rhythm that will be life giving and to be able to consider some choices of that. And then the last map is called following for word which is about following Jesus forward into my future. And so what’s what am I going to leave behind? What am I going to take with me? What? What are my next steps? What’s my bold prayer? What do I sense that wants to do through me to benefit the world around me? What are the themes that run through my story? So that those kinds of questions come on that one. So we run coaches and counselors and spiritual directors and small group leaders and different kinds of people use the materials and engage people in their story. We teach people how to listen to one another stories in the midst of it using some listening guidelines that kind of are the secret sauce of the whole process, I would say. So we also do workshops and coaching groups and all kinds of interesting ways that we get people to engage in the process and we’ve got to package in a way that people can use just one or one They can get one map or no facilitators can buy just one map and do like a half day workshop just on one particular topic, and lead people through it that way. So they’re real flexible project materials. And we’ve got facilitators that use them all over the place in different ways, shapes and forms. And it’s really an amazing community of people that gather around this stuff.

You’re not joking when you say that. It’s been used by all types of different organizations and the people I mean, I know that just in my journey with you, and even presence.

Yeah, we’ve got a facilitator that that’s using them in using these materials with groups of women. It’s Shakopee Correctional Center in Minnesota. And that’s just an amazing thing. I got to visit them. Do we have time for me to tell the quick story about that? Oh, absolutely.

As long as you have time. Okay, well

Actually I listened to the Viktor Frankl book on the way up to Shakopee, which is about a six hour drive I’m outside Chicago area. And so that was a really interesting book choice given the fact that I was on my way to go visit a bunch of prisoners there was a reason for that. So anyway, it’s the one that I did not plan I’m saying that there’s a God God had a reason for that one. But the lingering question that I mentioned on the on the my life now map, these women had just completed going through the entire maps process with some other teaching interspersed, and and all and they had taken a nice slow journey through the maps of nine months. Like I’m doing some I’m doing the whole process in 10 weeks with a group right now. So they were doing they took nine months to go through the process. And the facilitator they had completed the completed the nine the eight maps and they were redoing the my life now map so they could get like before and after. picture

and there was a piece of me that thought that that might be a little bit cruel because of the fact that

you know, we’re talking to a bunch of prisoners and their situation has not changed they’re still incarcerated right? So I was a little curious me have little faith walk into this kind of wondering about that. And I it during the time when they’re sharing their story they had done the homework of preparing the the my life. Now map for the second time after nine months. I’m sitting knee to knee with these two women who I have no idea what landed them there at all. But they’re, they’re comparing and contrasting their first my life now to the current one that they had just done this week. And one of the ladies in the process of her sharing, she says she’s crying, she starts crying and she says, I am just so grateful that I got to come here and I’m thinking myself Got to come to prison. Okay, that was a mind bender for me. But he was clear that she was she from bits and pieces that she said that I think she felt that she would have ended up dead if she wouldn’t have gotten to go to prison to get her addiction taken care of her drug addiction taken care of. And so she was grateful for her incarceration. And then the second woman begins to talk and she says that her first lingering question she says, When I first got into this, and we started this, I was kicking and screaming at the walls. I was so anxious I was on you know, really high doses of anti anxiety medication, she says, which everybody around here is on. And then she says, My first lingering question is can I endure this? You know, can I do this incarceration Can I endure this separation For my family can you know and it’s just but now she says I’m actually really calm I’m off all my anti anxiety medications and I’m actually happy. I think I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my life she says I just knew lingering question you know went from Can I endure this to now it is how much good Can I do today?


And I tears started coming streaming yeah by face because I made you cry.

In our listening guidelines I’m not supposed to speak while someone is swell someone is sharing. It just made you cry. I said only because that was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard. This is really

because why I said

I know a lot of people out there that are just free as you are in here. And I thought to myself, What then is a pretty If she can be so free here, and how many prisons have I erected in my own life? In my own mind?

I was thinking about that while you’re talking how many people who are not behind the literal prison walls are still in a prison in their own life?

Mm hmm. Yep.

I’ve erected a few to. Yeah.

And I have erected a few as well. And I have erected a few about what I think about myself. I’ve ever worked in some things about how I see how I see my husband at times, you know, and in my gosh, he needs to be freed for this.

And things are a whole lot better when I free him from certain

expectations and certain things that I think I need and I need to be able to recognize the presence of what I think is possible. And also the prison that past fears that emerge within me when I’m about to take a big step that keeps me from taking that step. You know, to be able to say okay, when have I felt this way before?

And am I responding? Am I reacting out of something from my past?

That’s just not productive for me right now

that I need to choose something different even though I’m feeling the fear.

So my actually living out of what is truly in front of me, or am I dragging my past the prison’s of my past into this present moment that are making me hesitate that in making me not pick up the phone to make to make a connection that could be key to my to my projects, advancement

and By choosing not to say something that needs to be said, because of my fears, that

just all kinds of ways we have we erect prisons in our mind.

That’s so huge. You don’t need to jump out of an airplane, to feel the biggest fear that you may ever feel in your life. You can be putting yourself through it every day.

It’s very true. It’s very true. So I mean, when it comes to productivity, I mean, I think part of being able to be productive is to actually recognize what story you’re living out of. And finding out what meaning is for you. And finding out Yeah, shift of mind that makes you ask what is this channel asking of me right now and how can I rise to the challenge? Am I even on the right path? Do I mean Am I not productive? Am I? Am I trying to be productive in so many ways that I can’t be productive in anything? Any questions about meaning about what’s meaningful to hopefully will will help you to sort out what you’re living out of in terms of other people’s expectations that need to be put down.

And what do you what do you need to say no to so you can be productive with the stuff that’s truly meaningful to you.

I can hear a whole lot of brain gears spinning besides my own.

Sharon, where can listeners find out more about you and one life maps

and get their own copy of listen to my life?

They can go to one life maps calm which is o n e. l IFEMAP s.com. So like I said, the materials are available. They’re called listen to my life. And hopefully, we’ll be starting a new virtual group sometime soon as well, that we can help. we equip facilitators extremely well to get group started on their own. And in addition to that, we’re going to be starting facilitator or certification sometime, probably starting in January. So as facilitators, people that can run their own groups, some people generate revenue from running their groups and other people do it on a volunteer basis in the midst of their churches or something of that kind. So we let people decide what they want to do with them, or how they want to run it.

And it’s been absolutely incredible having you here today. Do you have any parting words of inspiration or motivation that you can give to listeners? I know you do.

Oh, gosh, I was just going to ask you if you If you had any any favorite lines or thoughts in the midst of it, but I would say, find what resonates with your core essence what is truly meaningful and build your life around it and have little tolerance for for a lot of the clutter and boredom that can set in stay alive. For years for your own sake and the sake of the people around you go make some good ripple effects.