Time For Something New

One of my favorite insights on life comes from Golda Meir. When asked for her thoughts about her achievements and the role she played on a global stage, she offered this advice:

“Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life.

Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.”

The power lies in the fact that we determine which achievements and which sparks to fan into those flames. There is the key – WE must decide. WE must do.

Here are three questions that can help you determine if you are on your own best personal path or if you have become a bit too comfortable in that easy chair of your life:

#1:  When was the last time you tried something new?

Think about this for a moment. Do you always eat the same food?  Listen to the same music?  Read the same authors?  Go to the same places?  Spend time with the same people? If you aren’t exposing yourself to any new experiences, the rut is going to happen naturally. You’re going back and forth in a groove.

#2:  How much are you learning and growing right now?

There is an unlimited curriculum in life for learning. What do you want to know that right now you don’t?  Do you have a learning strategy that is aligned to your life strategy?

#3:  When was the last time you took a REAL risk?

Has something happened in your life or work that has made you more risk averse? Perhaps the economy. Disappointments in relationships. Missed opportunities. When that happens, it can be like the first time we touch a hot stove – it’s pretty rare for us to go back again. We experienced something that didn’t pay off. The danger is that once we’ve started thinking in terms of risk we begin to see all risk the same. We’ve forgotten that risk itself has changed.

Not taking risks today is in fact the greatest risk. Are you employed and know your industry or function is in decline?  Are you taking any risks to change your situation?  Risk could mean investing $$’s in education; it could mean starting your own part-time business; it could simply mean facing your fears and going to a networking function and meeting new people. What we fear the most is usually what is in truth holding us back. Face the fear and remove the obstacle.

If any of these questions resonate with you, it is important to remember that you hold the power to break the barrier of that comfort zone.

There are only three things you need to do:

1)      Decide you are ready for change

2)      Decide where you want to start

3)      Choose one action you can do NOW and BEGIN!

Once you are moving in the right direction, momentum will take over. The fresh energy you experience from changing one thing will also fuel other fires. The sparks will carry into every area of your life.

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

 

Seasons: They are about more than the weather

From our first breath, we live our lives in cycles, in seasons.

This can mean very different things. A climate season, a learning season, a life season and so on. But there are definite cycles we experience that bring with them influences and nuances that factor into our lives.

Seasons are also a factor in life in terms of our own development and acquired wisdom from experience. We refine our philosophies along the way and become increasingly aware of our value and influence in the world.

It’s been my experience that seasons are one of the best gifts of life. They keep us from stagnating. They keep us moving. They create a current of change that continuously pushes us to what is next. While some might argue that a lovely, mild climate might be ideal year round, others would definitely miss winter. Others would miss summer. That is the other gift. In many ways we get to leverage seasons based on what is ideal for us at any particular season of life.

This is also why we must stay in design mode throughout our lives. Because there are always new and exciting factors coming in and those that have finished are moving out even if only figuratively.

As I move through my current life season, this is something I am thinking about quite a bit because I believe this is where a collective conversation can bring meaningful individual growth. What about you? Where do you see seasons shifting things in your life and work? One thing is certain, change will happen. The key is whether or not we are designing it and celebrating it or something altogether different. As with everything in our lives, it is our perspective and how we see it that makes the difference.

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

“What an abundant harvest has been collected in autumn! The earth has now fulfilled its design for this year, and is going to repose for a short time. Thus nature is continually employed during the greatest part of the year: even in her rest she is active: and in silence prepares a new creation.” ― Christoph Christian Sturm

5 Clues You May Need A Balance Check

Work-Life balance is something we hear about, even talk about, but it would seem we rarely achieve.  A popular belief is that we can proportion ourselves out in some measured way across all the demands of our life and work. That hasn’t been successful in my experience. It just doesn’t match reality for most of us.

The more we attempt to create silos or compartmentalize our various roles, the more we face conflicting priorities and ultimately, always feel like we are failing somewhere or someone. Quite frankly, it’s not a recipe for success on any level.

We are multi-dimensional beings, and that means that instead of creating unsustainable boundaries, we will be better served by creating an integrated view of who we are and the value we bring to our world.

Victor Hugo expressed it well when he said: “To put everything in balance is good, to put everything in harmony is better.”

Our lives are very much like an aircraft as it balances and levels itself during flight, continually adjusting its positioning to stay on course.

When we look at it from that perspective, certain clues will tell us if we need to make adjustments to remain on course.

Here are five checkpoints I invite you to consider:

  • The first one is the most important, and if this isn’t in check, there’s no reason to go further until it’s addressed. I learned this lesson from life and success mentor, Jim Rohn, and it is simply this: Wherever you are, be there. That’s my first check. If I’m working and thinking about something else, I’m not going to be effective. If I’m with friends and family but thinking about work, I’m not going to be engaged. I need to focus on the moment in order to course correct.
  • The second one is what I call my calendar check. When I review my plan for the week each Sunday, I check ALL of my current goals against my calendar. Where are my health goals showing up? My learning goals? My relationship goals? If all the parts of my life aren’t there, it’s time for tuning, rather like a flight plan before take-off. We need to know we’ve got everything working as required for a successful journey.
  • My third check-in is for a focus on my core value of personal growth. I want to ensure that I am growing across multiple disciplines. My growth needs to align with all of my goals and not just my profession. Whatever it is we seek, we also need to study. I found that I wanted to grow in my knowledge of finance and investment. But my development plan didn’t reflect that. Now there are books in my library on the subject. I also attend seminars and follow podcasts that are deepening my understanding.
  • The fourth checkpoint is related to the first one, but its importance merits further reflection, and that is relationships. Each week I check in with my inner circle and review where I’m growing and need to expand that circle.
  • The last point is less specific but matters a great deal, and it is this: Am I happy? Do I feel satisfied with how I am showing up in the world and the contribution I am making? We can get so busy with the demands of life we forget to enjoy life.

Five checkpoints – clues in each one for adjusting and calibrating how we are living our lives to ensure we are making our highest possible contribution in each moment.

These are disciplines of legacy and deserving of our attention. Balance? Perhaps not. Harmonized? Guarding that every day.

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

 

Have you considered the gifts of change?

The value of any disruptive change is whatever we choose it to be.

Does it in fact matter? How could it be helpful? Does it cause concern? Does it include joy?

In other words, are we happy about it? Sad? Angry? Afraid?

These are all natural and normal responses.

The key is recognizing they are also choices.

However, choice is not where our response begins.

Our attitude toward change shows up long before the choice is made and to some degree dictates the outcome.

In his book, Jumpstart Your Thinking, recognized leadership expert Dr. John C. Maxwell offers that our attitude acts like the “advance person” of our true selves. In other words, it shows up before we do, long before the main event. Over time it becomes almost instinctive. Because of that, every choice we make begins here.

It would seem then that this is an important concept to focus on when we consider where we want to grow. Do we have an attitude about change that is preempting its value?

If that is true, how do we change our attitude toward change? In the same writings, Dr. Maxwell offers this commentary about the role it plays: “It is the librarian of our past, the speaker of our present, and the prophet of our future.”  This statement holds the key. If our attitude is the speaker of our present, to change our attitude it would seem to mean we must first change how we speak about it.

Let’s start by considering what is on the other side of change – what gifts it brings and will leave in its wake.

#1- New People

Our lives expand based on the growth we allow in our inner circles. Every new relationship represents growth which is just another label for change. What are you encountering just now? What new connections are waiting there? Every best friend was once a stranger. Every business partner was once unknown to us. Change brings new ideas from new minds, new people.

#2- New Places

As a writer, place has been somewhat of a conundrum for me. We like the comfort of our “creative space” and can even begin to rely on its trappings. That was certainly the case for me. But when the creative flow stalls, quite often it is a change of place that allows it to begin streaming again. Once I realized that going to new places was a core fuel for inspiration, my attitude toward them shifted. But it’s not just about our craft. We need to experience new places to see life from a different lens.  Robin Sharma teaches that “The value of travel is not just the travel but what the travel makes of you.” Whether your travel is across town, across the country, or around the world – seek out a new lens on your life and work based on what you experience there.

#3- New Skills

Perhaps the most compelling gift of change is arguably this:  Change always brings something new to learn. That can be a daunting roadblock if we are afraid we may not be able to acquire that skill. As with people, recognizing that everything we know at some point was unknown to us can turn the dial of our attitude up. Everything we can do today, at some point we did not know how to do. And with new skills come new opportunities.

#4- New Ideas

Change is a wonderful stimulus. What we consider (or reject) changes based on new information. We find that we have greater agility for transferring knowledge and skill. We are able to cross-pollinate our understanding of how we work best. The words of Marcel Proust come to mind for this point: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” Even what is familiar can take on new life, new breath when we allow change to adjust our lens and spark a new perspective.

#5- New Possibilities

This is my favorite because it’s the culmination of everything else. It’s the pinnacle of success when it comes to real change. When we integrate new people, places, skills, and ideas into our strategies, the possibilities exponentially grow.

We can change our relationship with change by changing our attitude toward it. We change our attitude by changing our perspective and how we view it, how we speak about it. What new people can I meet and serve? What new places can I experience? What new skills can I acquire and master? What new ideas can this generate? How does this expand the possibilities for my life and work?

In summary: What does this make possible? Once we embrace that question, we begin to master the power of true resiliency.

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

Rethink productivity: Balancing your list with your life

Hourglass time clock with sandEverything we have or do depends on one or more of these three resources:

Time – Money – Energy

It is easy to miscalculate their priority if we don’t understand one essential fact:

Only one of these resources is actually limited.

The other two can and are continuously replenished and remain available to us in far greater quantities than we can even imagine.

Only one resource is universally finite: Time.

Coming to terms with time being the most precious resource I will ever have caused me to re-evaluate and re-organize how I approach just about everything in my life. That understanding also created a marked change in my personal productivity. Those changes began to make time seem less finite because I was getting so much more accomplished! Where did all of that time come from?

Those results came down to five essential keys that have unlocked true productivity for me. They aren’t the usual suspects.  It’s not about “touching things once” or having a killer app on your phone or calendar reminder for “what’s next”.  Those can be important but they aren’t the essentials.  What I have learned and embraced is the importance of partnering with time as an ally. Seeing time as our most valuable resource and loving it for what it allows us to do creates a powerful partnership with it.  Perhaps these keys will open some life locks for you as well.   (These are written in first person, counting down in importance. Here’s a tip: Read this out loud. Say them and claim them for yourself!)

#5 – I don’t have to do everything.  WARNING: This point isn’t about delegation.  This is about choice.  I do not have to do everything.  Long to do lists do not create more meaning for my day. They only clutter the day with things that diminish what I can give to what really matters. It is far more satisfying to have 5 things finished than to have 10 things started.

#4 – Sometimes I serve others more effectively by NOT helping them (This was my hardest one to learn..) Allowing others to DO for themselves or even SERVE US is quite often a better choice.

#3 – Things sometimes take longer than I planned.  And that’s okay.  It’s important to be prepared to miss cutoffs or deadlines and to have a backup plan.  Delays are not failures.  They are just delays.  Accept them for what they are:  a change in the schedule, not a change in the plan.

#2 – New information needs to be factored into existing plans.  New knowledge can show up in many forms.  Our ability to remain fluid within change and discern when it is creating a “new” decision point is an important skill with managing our investment of time.

#1 – Being clear about what I want to accomplish is ultimately the most important factor in true productivity. Being clear means more than a general feeling or desire to achieve something. It means being really clear.  Less impressionistic – more photographic. Sharpen every pixel in the image.  This is what makes all of the decisions along the way productive in their outcome as we partner with time.

Five essential keys that have unlocked time as a partner in my life.  Perhaps they will for you, too.  Which of these would make the most productive difference for you? Start there.

Live today like you want tomorrow to be.

Live well.

 

 

 

When strangers shift our lives…

In her Sunday Paper this week, Maria Shriver talked about the fact that it is almost always a stranger that ends up shifting our lives. I had to think about that for a moment but in the end, I would agree.

The words of strangers can cut thru the fog of what is familiar. And when their words move us, we want to take the conversation deeper.

Certainly, the authors of books and poems that touch us fall into this place of meaning.

Maria’s words brought my thoughts from this past week together.

Have you ever visited somewhere you’ve never been, and immediately it felt like home? The photograph above is of the house where some fellow writers and I lived for a week on Cape Cod last year. It is a rambling old house, originally built in 1858.

It’s an author’s house dedicated to authors.  Each of the six bedrooms is dedicated to a notable writer from New England. Every morning we would gather around an old wooden table.  One of us would represent the author of our given room for the day. We would read, then agree on a writing prompt and do what we came to do – write.

One of those writers was the Pulitzer Prize winning American poet, Mary Oliver. The morning that we read her work was special. I already owned some of her writings but had never delved into them. That changed with that morning’s exercise. Since then her work has shown up frequently in my chosen daily readings.

When I learned this past week that Ms. Oliver had breathed her last breath here on earth it took me back to that time and place. She was extraordinary. Through her seemingly ancient and yet forever young eyes she could see, and then help us to see, the astounding world we live in.

We would all be well-served to follow her advice and instructions for living our own lives.

I’ll be returning this year to that old rambling house in Cape Cod. I’m hoping that this year, Mary Oliver’s room is mine.

In the meantime, I’ll be spending time with her voice in my ear hearing that most important question:

Tell me, just what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?