Insights from collectibles: Our friend time

I am a collector.  Throughout my life what I have actively collected has changed but there is always something that I am “collecting”.  At one point in my life, that “something” was clocks.  I’ve now progressed from collecting clocks to having a collection of clocks.

Recently I realized that when I look around at my various collections there seems to be something underlying them all.  What does my clock collection reveal? I am fascinated by and intimately value time. I remain curious as to why we feel such a need to measure it.

Very few of my clocks reliably work.  Each one has a different time displayed most of the time.  It drives some of my friends crazy.  I gave up trying to keep up with them. They are now a reminder of the gift of time, not a measuring of it.

Time.  A moment. A season. A lifetime. Eternity.

Impossible to fully explain other than to say it is without question one place where everything and everyone is equal.  Time is time.  Throughout history, it has been studied and debated.  It is beyond anything else what we ultimately seem to covet most.  And it is something we cannot create or buy.  Many of the most quoted proverbs and sayings have indeed been about our old friend (or enemy!) time.  Here are two that are among my favorites:

Who forces time is pushed back by time; who yields to time finds time on his side.  ~The Talmud

Man measures time and time measures man.” ~ Italian proverb

Some of the most compelling thoughts on time are found in antiquity and the Bible.  Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 is perhaps one of the most quoted sections penned by Solomon celebrated for his wisdom. For me, it expresses eloquently the lessons we need to learn and remember: “For everything, there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.”

It brought to mind a song that is an old favorite – Turn! Turn! Turn!   This video is a wonderful opportunity to experience that music again and enjoy some incredible photography and images at the same time.  This bit of musical nostalgia for me reminded me of another favorite thought on time from an old English proverb: Time has wings.

Time.  A gift.  Invest it well.

 

For those times when you just want to quit!

Have you ever noticed that accomplished people seem to have an uncanny ability to adapt and adjust in just the right places at just the right time? They seem to fluidly keep on keeping on without losing a step.

Since I quite often have to actively convince myself to keep going on some of my goals, the apparent ease of others intrigued me. The reality is that no matter how easy it may look for others, it is in fact a universal challenge. The key is in how we face those times we simply want to quit.

What I’ve discovered is that there are two important and vastly different lenses when looking at these situations.

The first lens is that sometimes it’s okay to give ourselves permission to quit. Surprised? It really is okay sometimes to acknowledge we need to make another choice. It isn’t a choice if we can’t change our minds. And sometimes changing our mind is more than just our prerogative, it is imperative. Personal development expert Brian Tracy defines this as zero-based thinking. We ask ourselves: “Knowing what I know now, would I still…?” Then take the appropriate action if the answer is no. We have to allow for change.

The second lens is about finding our own motivation to keep going and not requiring ourselves to take on an approach that doesn’t work for us. Motivation and methods that work are unique for each of us and they also change for us as we move through our lives. And even when you have that perfect motivation, it doesn’t mean that “keeping on” is always easy. Sometimes it is just hard. But we can do it!

Here are five things to consider when you need to regain your confidence and perseverance power to stay engaged and reach your next goal or level of life mastery:

#1: Keep your eye on the finish line

What is waiting for you at the end? What is that promise? When we stay focused on the end goal, it gives it a magnetic quality that will help pull us through tough times and circumstances. Remember though that it isn’t just the goal — it’s what reaching that goal makes possible. Capture the feeling and lock onto that.

#2: Fuel (feed) your fire

Mother Teresa taught: “To keep a lamp burning we have to keep putting oil in it.”

How are you keeping your commitment vital and alive? What are you feeding to your internal energy furnace? Are you connected with others that have already reached the place you are striving to get to? Are you surrounding yourself with support and positive connections?

#3: Focus on consistent steps — not leaps & bounds

What we do consistently has a much higher impact on our results than what we do occasionally. The stream must be constantly moving to wear down the rock. When you are consistently working on something, you will attract even more opportunities. Use progressive milestones to help with this. No one goes from the white belt level to black without attaining each color in between. And each level achieved is a celebration.

#4: Make everything serve the goal

This is not just fortune cookie wisdom. Determined focus is what delivers destiny. That means you must bind together all your resources and deploy them as a single force of power. This is the secret revealed by Napoleon Hill in Think and Grow Rich. Get everything working in harmony with the same result and you will get there.

#5: Don’t be afraid of setbacks

What scares you? For most of us, it is failure. To move past the fear, we just need to redefine failure. Failure is rarely a valid judgment. Your plan is going to change. That is not failure. That is intelligence at work. Define attempt as research. It is welcome progress. Embrace that thinking and you will re-channel the fear and stay on track.

Be strategic about choosing and staying your course. And always, live today like you want tomorrow to be. Choices get really clear when we start there.

The Myth of Indecision

Do you struggle with making decisions? I didn’t consider myself particularly challenged in this area until some significant and disruptive changes occurred. I began to second guess myself at every turn. I doubted my ability to make good choices, even small ones. After all, some I had made certainly didn’t seem to be working out as planned. Indecision started settling over me and with that, a marked loss of confidence.

In very short order I recognized that there is a definite myth when it comes to indecision.

It isn’t indecision at all. It’s a surrender of choice.

When we fail to decide, we are in essence letting someone, or something else direct the results. When that happens, rarely will those results be what we would have chosen ourselves.

It was clear that I needed to take back the reigns and get on with it!

It is often said that we don’t truly appreciate something until we’ve lost it or at least faced the threat of losing it. That was certainly true for me here. I had taken my ability to make decisions for granted. It came easily to me. I needed to restore that ease and confidence.

How did I do it? It started with the recognition that decision making is not a talent. It is a skill. As with any skill, our confidence comes from the doing. I began to just decide, to make a choice. Big ones, small ones and many that were in between. The confidence came from the return to knowing that with each decision also comes the continued opportunity to evaluate and adjust.

Over time a pattern began to emerge that showed me where decisions were happening with greater ease and confidence. As they say, success leaves clues. In this case, a simple four step process had emerged that worked every time.

Step 1 – DETERMINE the real question or need

This is essential. If we think we are making a decision about A – but the actual issue is B, something is going to get missed and the decision is going to be made with a false sense of need. By drilling down with questions and getting to what the decision is really about, all of the distracting debris falls away.

Step 2 – Allow (and limit) an appropriate amount of time and effort for DISCOVERY

Big seems little and little seems big. When perspective gets out of kilter we can tend to over-analyze everything. Be brutally honest with yourself about the impact of the decision and respond proportionally. The way to do that is to consider is how long you are going to live with the consequences of the choice. It can be easy to forget that most things, including our choices, are temporary anyway. By putting limits on discovering what our choices will be in terms of time, effort and other resources we contain the situation effectively.

Insight: I also found a +3 rule invaluable. If I needed to make a decision, instead of allowing any of them to be between just two options, I would apply the +3 rule. If someone said choose A or B, I would challenge myself to come up with C, D and E. If there were 3 choices, I came up with 6. Sometimes the decision is tough because the right choice isn’t there. Instead of agonizing over which to choose, create the choice. Just do it within a process and time frame that doesn’t allow it to drift away from you.

Step 3 – Make a choice – DECIDE

When it’s all said and done, the skill can only develop as we practice it. For us to have confidence in our choices we have to make them. It’s really that simple. If we understand the situation and have an adequate array of choices, this step gets much easier.

Step 4 – The decision is only truly made when we take action. The fourth step then is to DO.

Non-action negates the decision. Implementation is the key to everything in life. We can fully understand our need, create truly innovative approaches for the solutions and make brilliant choices. But all of that will not accomplish anything if we don’t ultimately take the action.

The most critical insight for me was recognizing that how we handle the small things in life is the best predictor of how we’re managing the more significant things. If we aren’t making good choices within our day, ultimately that shows up as ineffective choices for our lives. Personal leadership and responsibility is the key.

Live (decide) today like you want tomorrow to be. Live (decide) well!

How much life are you leaving on the table?

There is a phrase used sometimes when talking about negotiations that, when you stop and think about it, has a broader application. It speaks to the difference between what someone actually pays and how much they were willing to pay. It’s referred to as the seller perhaps leaving “money on the table” by underpricing or giving in to negotiation pressure. It comes down to how much was possible from the transaction vs. how much was realized.

Let’s think about this beyond just financial negotiations and look at how we negotiate with ourselves about our lives and work. Over the past few months I have found myself asking: How much life am I leaving on the table? Is there a difference between how much life is possible vs. how much I am settling for?

In a word – Yes.

What is behind the idea of settling? It’s not all bad, is it? Sometimes we go along to get along. I’ve done it. I hope I’ve matured enough to know to choose my battles. But this goes deeper. It speaks to the dangers of too much compromise and not enough fight, particularly with (and for) ourselves!

As I thought about this, the first thing that came to mind was learning how to recognize when it is happening.  After all, how would we ever know?

Wisdom from Thomas Edison prompted this personal inquiry for me with this statement: “When you think you have exhausted all of the possibilities remember this: You haven’t!”

I thought about all the factors that might create a limited perspective of what was possible. There were five that kept coming up over and over. Here they are:

  1. Limiting Beliefs
  2. Limiting Choices
  3. Limiting Circle
  4. Limiting Practices
  5. Limiting Purpose

There is no question that when we limit what we believe about ourselves and our possibilities we are leaving life on the table. After all, if we don’t think it’s possible, we won’t even try.

And, the idea of only an “either / or” in choice has always befuddled me. I lean toward both or more instead of just allowing for one or the other. Since when did choices become mutually exclusive? One way of thinking about this is:  Why settle for A or H – why not choose both and create AHA! True creativity rejects choices that are limited. Just imagine if we had settled for red and blue and never discovered purple!

There is a belief often taught in personal development circles that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.  While there are nuances to that – there is a genesis of something very true here. Our sphere of influence is so important. How can you expect to stay inspired and encouraged if no one you are in the trenches with shares your vision or ideals?

The idea of limiting practices is typically my nemesis. Wanting to attain something is good and it’s a start but wanting something isn’t what gets it done. Our daily practices make that happen. We think of this for our health without question. But it’s true in your work as well. What must happen every day or every week to move your needle forward? When we limit what we are willing to do daily, we leave life on the table. As I heard recently, when we aren’t achieving what we want, it’s rarely a lack of knowledge or know-how. We know what to do. We just don’t seem to know how to get ourselves to consistently do it! Sound familiar?

Candidly, the last one on the list came first or second when I first started thinking about this, but as new ones came up, it kept getting pushed down. I’m giving that some thought but for now consider that if you don’t have an unfettered purpose you are leaving so much on the table. It speaks to belief but goes beyond it. This is where we think about 10X or 100X or possibly 1000X factors for what we believe we can accomplish. Not for ourselves, but as an agent of change in the world. I may have to re-think where this one goes in its ranking on the list.

What do you want to be true 90 days from now in your life or work? At the end of 2020? By the end of this decade?

Consider these factors for yourself. Make sure you aren’t leaving any life on the table.

Live today like you WANT tomorrow to be.  Live WELL!

Beginnings and endings… Are you ready for today?

My favored space where I write and work is filled with creative work from other artists as well as my own. My favorite pieces are where images and words collide and create illustrations that move me.

Just above my desk is such a piece. It isn’t a large work. It only measures 12” by 12” – one square foot. It covers only the basic measure of space. And yet it expresses the drive that fuels my work and inspires me every day. It’s a stretched canvas that has a transferred print from the artist Bonnie Mohr. It has a striking image of a tree in a field with open fencing against a sky with both shadows and the sun. The tree is mature with wide full branches. Its shape is lovely but has gaps through which you see the sky beyond it. You just know that this tree is the keeper of many secrets and dreams.

A tree tells the story of a seed that sprouts roots first and then grows to its fullness in time. We share a similar story. We are born, our roots begin to form even as we grow. For both of us, how we adapt to a changing environment and assimilate all of the elements thrown at us has a great deal to do with how we grow. The impact is in our shape, size, even character.  The tree in this picture has a strong character.

The image frames these words: “Nobody can go back and start a new BEGINNING, but ANYONE can start today and make a new ENDING.” 

We cannot begin again. We’ve already started. For me, it’s not even something I would desire. To start again, I would lose too much of what is dear to me. What I can start today is a new chapter. The ending is still being written. The ending is still mine to choose based on what I choose today. Like the tree, we just keep living. We keep growing and reaching for new horizons.

One of my personal mentors is Robin Sharma.  From his teachings, I incorporated a mantra within my morning reflection where I focus my day before it begins. It is this:

“Every day, in every way, I am growing wiser and stronger. Today will be my best day.”

It is the first part of the mantra that makes the second part true. As we come into each day we bring with us all of the strength and wisdom of each and every day that came before.  We have this incredible bank of experience and knowledge that is unique to us and that moment in our lives.  All we have to do is learn and leverage to make every day our best day. That does not diminish the value of any day that came before. In fact, it honors those days by building on them.

Are you ready for your best day? Are you ready for today?

Live today like you want tomorrow to be. Live well.