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  • Writer's pictureStephen

I've recently been reminded of a pattern that exists in our world and lives, namely that the Universal is lived out in the Particulars, and the Particulars helps to reveal the Universal.

Here's an example.  It's Spring so that means it's planting season, and we've been busy putting in flowers, vegetables, a few bushes, etc.  In our household, I am the hardscape guy. Someone else decides what to plant and where to plant it, then I help dig the holes, run the water, set the sprinklers, etc. The Universal reality is, in Redding, all plants need regular water. However, it's not enough for me to just spray a hose around every once in a while.  I have 6 Particular water lines that run in my backyard, and I have to make sure with many of our plants that each Particular plant actually has its own water. The Universal reality is, plants need water to grow, which means I have to consider how much to water each Particular plant.  

But what is so beautiful to watch over time (thanks to the smart people who decide what goes where!), is that as each Particular plant grows, they create a beautiful garden, full of sections and zones, and eventually, fruits and vegetables.  Each of the Particular plants helps to form the Universal garden we get to sit and enjoy as we sip our iced tea in the backyard!

Now if we take this idea and apply it to people and relationships (family, friends, coworkers, teams, etc.), we may have a Universal desire to treat people with kindness and respect. But, that Universal desire actually gets lived out in the Particular relationships of my life.  If I want to be Universally kind, that has to find its way into my showing kindness to this Particular person who is standing in front of me.  And of course, how I treat Particular individuals, viewed collectively, can reveal Universal patterns about how I am acting in general.  Often, if I am willing to lean in with curiosity, by examining these patterns of how I treat Particulars, I may be able to discover Universal patterns that contain bias or even prejudice that I want to address and change. And of course, those changes will have to be lived out in the Particular relationships I have with people I interact with on a personal level.

How might looking at these patterns be helpful to you?  What kind of Universal qualities or values do you want to be hallmarks of your life?  What does it look like to live out those patterns in the Particular relationships of your life? If you took some time to honestly reflect on the Particular interactions from your life in the last few weeks, what might those Particulars reveal about some Universal patterns you need to examine and change?  How could you adjust your interactions with Particular people in order to better reflect the Universal values you want to hold and live by?

Here's to allowing the Universal/Particular Dance to be lived out well in our lives this week!

Be Well,


Center was created to support individuals and teams so they can live from their Purposeful Center.  We specialize in professional coaching and leadership development and we’d love to support you!  Click on our Services page to book a free consultation.

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  • Writer's pictureStephen

Let's start this week with some true confessions.  I am a personality type that likes to avoid conflict at all costs.  Over the years I have learned that sometimes conflict is an important (and even necessary!) element in being an effective leader/partner/parent, etc.  In fact, I have developed a whole course for leaders to help them use conflict in a way that is productive, rather than always allowing it to be destructive in our teams (reach out if you're interested in more info on that training - shameless plug!). But, because my default is to avoid conflict, I can often fall into the trap of taking ownership for things that aren't mine to carry.

This is where the language of Responsibility & Ownership are very helpful to me, and why I use these terms a lot with leaders I coach. It's important to take responsibility for what is actually mine to carry. This includes my words, my behaviors, my actions, etc. The problem comes when I fall into the trap of taking ownership for what should clearly be someone else's to own, like their words, their actions, or their behaviors. In other words, it's critical that I take responsibility for what's mine to own, but it isn't actually helpful for me to take ownership of someone else's responsibility.

Part of the reason I think it's important to make these distinctions is because it's easy to slip into playing the blame game in organizations and systems.  Rather than everyone starting from the place of taking ownership and responsibility for what is ours to own (and ONLY what is ours to own), we often point fingers and look for who we can name and blame as being at fault.  However, most of the time that doesn't help us move forward or grow, it just keeps us stuck in unhealthy patterns of growing toxicity. We're always looking for the next scapegoat to place the blame on, and not actually making changes or improving as we move forward.

However, if we take some time to be clear about what we each need to own and take responsibility for, and no more than that, then we can start to look for solutions that can carry us forward. Hopefully this will also allow us to make appropriate changes and adjustments that will help all of us be better individually and collectively in the future. When we can be honest and take responsibility and ownership for ourselves and the part we are playing in this situation or system, and everyone else is doing the same thing, it naturally leads us into a solution focused approach instead of a blaming space that keeps us stuck.

What are your natural tendencies - to take too much responsibility and ownership for what isn't actually yours, or to play the blame game and figure out who is at fault? If you decided to only take on responsibility and ownership for what was yours to carry, how might that impact the team or situation you are trying to navigate? How might ending the blame game and just being clear about who owns what, help move us toward greater solutions?

Here's to taking Ownership & Responsibility for ONLY what is ours to carry this week!

Be Well,


Center was created to support individuals and teams so they can live from their Purposeful Center.  We specialize in professional coaching and leadership development and we’d love to support you!  Click on our Services page to book a free consultation.

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  • Writer's pictureStephen

I was recently having a chat with a friend of mine who is a psychologist.  He mentioned how in his work with couples and families he often tries to move them to a place in their relationships where they are assuming the others are functioning with good intentions.  To shorten the phrase, he challenges his clients to "assume good intent" in others. Of course, this was about the third conversation in a week in which this idea emerged, so of course it's finding its way here to our weekly message!

I think it's helpful to think about this idea by examining each word individually.


You've probably heard the phrase, "You know what happens when you assume - you make an ass out of u and me!" While I think that is true in some situations, especially when we are assuming from a negative perspective, in this situation, to assume good intent is about holding a default posture of positivity. It's about being the kind of people who prioritize a framework for life that is generous. To assume good intent means that our starting point is gracious and open.


There are some people I have a hard time believing they are good because their actions give strong indicators in another direction! With those individuals, it would be easy for me to assume they are just bad. However, that assumption has a pretty negative impact on me and my internal spirit and outlook. Instead, I choose (try!) to believe something else, like there is an inherent goodness in them they are just deeply hurt or wounded, or perhaps even sick or imbalanced. And when I can approach people with this framework of good, it makes it easier to recognize that what I need to do is use boundaries well, not just write them off as bad. It's allows me to have a more generous spirit, which is way better for my outlook and perspective.


When I focus on this final component of intent, it is helpful to think about it from the perspective of motivation and outcome.  For example, a person may have said something to me that had an outcome of actually really hurting me.  If I am going to assume good intent, then I am going to believe they weren't intending to hurt or wound me.  Perhaps they were speaking from a place of their own hurt and their motivation wasn't to wound me but was actually about protecting themselves.  When I use a more generous framework, I am able to separate the outcome from their motivation, and potentially see they aren't as connected together as I may think.

In what ways do you struggle to assume good intent? Are there specific individuals you find this especially challenging, and what would it take for you to shift your perspective to a more generous framework? How could using boundaries well actually help to change your internal spirit toward someone? Where do you need to focus on assuming good intent this week?

Here's to being people who assume good intent!

Be Well,


Center was created to support individuals and teams so they can live from their Purposeful Center.  We specialize in professional coaching and leadership development and we’d love to support you!  Click on our Services page to book a free consultation.

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