How Do You Feel About Time?
How Do You Feel About Time?
Time. It’s a constant in all of our lives. Each of us operates within a container of time, creating a relationship (whether we know it or not) with what feels like an intangible commodity.
The thing is, your relationship with time – how you feel about it and operate in the face of it – has a huge impact on your success. How you are with time influences how you are with goals and ultimately, whether or not you tend to achieve them.
Let me explain.
Many folks — dare I say, MOST folks – interact with time from a place of scarcity. The phrase “I don’t have the time for _____________” is used almost without thought. It’s bandied about and applied to everything from scheduling meetings, attending social functions, making self-care appointments, connecting with loved ones, or taking time for fun. Too many people tell themselves that time is limited in quantity.
These people are always racing against the clock. It’s as though time is constantly running down. Within this construct – if time is scarce and limited – your focus isn’t on doing your best or achieving a goal. Your focus is on beating the clock – with nothing more than average results at best.
So, what’s the solution? A shift in perspective.
Instead of thinking of time as a limited commodity, what becomes possible when you think of it as an expansive one? Try it. Close your eyes for a moment. Take a few deep breaths. Now tell yourself that “time expands as you need it”. Focus on whatever task or goal you have as your current priority. And again, tell yourself that time is expanding to allow you to complete it. Time expands as you need it. No need to rush; no need to panic; just the opportunity to focus, hone in, and do what needs to be done, properly.
Having worked with this particular perspective – one that I learned from a former coach of my own – for quite a number of years now, I can tell you from experience, that the shift is tangible. When you slow down and stay in this moment – rather than racing against an upcoming moment – your ability to focus and get things done increases. Your capacity to achieve a goal expands. In short, when you take your eyes off the clock and place them firmly on the task at hand, you’re not distracted in any way. Which necessarily means you can get things done with greater ease.
Bottom-line: time is a commodity. Whether you feel it’s scarce or abundant is simply a matter of perspective. The perspective you choose impacts how well you will achieve your goals. Choose to see and experience time as abundant, and you increase your capacity to focus. This will in turn, increase your capacity to achieve.
Leadership Rut? Shake Things Up!
Consider this: in an effort to maintain a sense of sanity, people often resist change. At the same time, they wish that their lives could be richer, fuller, happier, or whatever other superlative seems relevant.
Do you see the contradiction? In case you don’t, I’ll defer to Albert Einstein who so eloquently said that the definition of insanity is doing what you’ve always done and expecting different results (at least, I think it was Albert Einstein…the other way to frame it is to use the Dr. Philism, “if you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’re gonna get what you’ve always gotten”).
The distilled wisdom being imparted by these two folks is that you can’t expect things to be different if you’re so resistant to change that you’re unwilling to try a different approach. What I call the “you-all-change-while-I-enjoy-the-benefits” mentality only serves to keep you stuck, circling endlessly on the merry-go-round when you really want to be on the ferris wheel. If you want things to BE different, it’s time for you to SHOW UP differently and DO things differently.
Why exactly does the thought of change result in heart palpitations for so many people? My experience has been that people often assume that “different” has to be radically so. Logically, it makes sense that the bigger the change made, the bigger the change experienced. But logic doesn’t always apply; sometimes the opposite is true. A very small change can result in dramatic differences. In other words, change doesn’t have to follow the “go big or go home” ideal all the time, or any time for that matter. Instead, change can be made in small increments, until the desired effect is obtained. Want an example? Well, look at these for a start:
- You sit down to work on a project and feel utterly uninspired, so you turn around and face the window. All of a sudden, ideas start flowing and the project gets done easily.
- You walk into your office and feel unmotivated to get anything done. You decide to tackle the pile of papers on your desk — filing, recycling, shredding as appropriate — and find your energy level goes up.
- You incorporate a regular “family budget discussion” time into your week, with you and your partner sharing financial tasks — bill payments and such — and notice that you no longer feel burdened and weighed down all of the time.
- You decide to brighten things up at home, so you add a few throw cushions in your living room, and all of a sudden your furniture “pops” (if you’ve watched any home renovation shows, you know what I mean).
These are all concrete examples of how you can implement change in a small way. Sometimes the change you’re going for is less tangible, but the theory is the same. Whether you’re feeling drained at work, overwhelmed by client demands, or struggling to spend time with your children, if you want change to happen, you need a different approach. At the very least, your outlook needs to shift. So ask yourself, what needs to be different in your life? What new perspective will you try on? What small change can you implement today in order to have your life feel fulfilling, meaningful and rich?
Bottom-line: if you’re walking around feeling stuck in a rut, it doesn’t have to be that way. Things can change. But they’ll only change when you start to do things differently. Start small if you need to; and start to change in some way. Change begets change. And if you’re wanting things to shift in any way, this is a concept you’ve got to embrace. In short, it’s time to shake things up!
3 Steps to Discerning Leadership Vision
This time of year is always an intriguing one from my perspective. It’s that space of “betwixt and between”. On the one hand, we’re wrapping up one year; on the other hand, we’re ramping up another (or at least we’re preparing to do so).
For many, this time of year can feel muddled. You may feel challenged to finish up whatever outstanding goals and objectives are hanging in the space; simultaneously you can feel pushed to get started on the new objectives of the year ahead.
As a leader, this ‘betwixt and between” space is the perfect incubator for vision. This is the space where possibility, potential and energy converge. Your job as leader is to tap into the energy of this space and get clear on vision, at least for the foreseeable future.
As a leader, your mandate is to discern, hold and manifest vision. In other words, you have got to make time in your schedule for visioning, even while you might feel more task-oriented. Folks around you are looking to you to set the course, to remind them of what they’re working towards and why. If you don’t have a sense of vision, you cannot do this.
So, how do you discern vision? From my experience, there is actually a simple, three-step process to this.
First, create a suitable space. Remove distractions. If possible, move yourself to a new space, one that fosters creativity, whatever that might look like for you.
Second, ask yourself a series of questions:
- What matters to you? What matters to your team?
- What’s needed within your world? What’s the “thing” that you are being called to provide?
- How do you need to show up to make the next stretch of time meaningful?
As you ask and answer these questions, you will start to gain clarity on specific tasks that support the vision. The third and final step, then, is to note these as goals and objectives in order to focus your vision in a concrete manner.
While this time of year lends itself to visioning in a meaningful way, you can always explore vision whenever you wish. Whenever you do, you enrich your own capacity to lead effectively.
Bottom-line: as a leader you are required to have a vision, to hold it, to enroll others in it and to enlist their support in making the vision a reality. You cannot do this if you don’t take time to engage in visioning. The best leaders understand that leadership and vision are inextricably intertwined. Leadership is about so much more than getting things done. When you understand this, embrace it and create space for vision, you elevate your leadership game.
‘Tis the Season To Be…Stressed Out?
The holidays and stress. They seem to go hand in hand. This is something I’ve had opportunity to ponder over the last couple of weeks, as I’ve watched folks around me start to spin into frenzied madness. Let’s face it; it happens every year. It’s as though the intention of this time of year is often in direct contrast to what many experience. Why is that? Why are things so crazy-busy, driving many to the brink of breakdown, when the season itself is supposed to be about something completely different?
Before I share my thoughts on that, let me confess: overall, I’m actually okay with the busy, hectic pace of the season. There’s something very vibrant, and alive about the whole thing. The hustle and bustle is part of the experience that I savour. It’s busy. The malls are crowded and loud. I have to wait in lines – sometimes really long ones! – to make my purchases. But I’m okay with that. I always have been. There’s something about the energy of people that I just love (although admittedly, I am particularly grateful for the peace and tranquility that awaits me at home following a day of shopping).
That’s not to say that such frenzy cannot be draining. It can be, and I need to choose how much frenzy I’ll partake of, before retreating a bit. The point, however, is that I get very deliberate about where I’ll be, how long I’ll be there, and with what energy. It boils down to consciously choosing how I will enjoy my holiday experience.
Now, I get that not everyone enjoys the sort of frenetic pace that seems to go hand-in-hand with this season. But I have to wonder how much of the frenzy gets created by the unwillingness that many have to just be patient. What might be possible if, despite the busy-ness that abounds during the holidays – whether brought on by shopping, baking, wrapping, decorating or whatever else – every one of us could make a conscious decision to flow with things, to be kind and patient, to be at our best in the midst of it all? I’ll tell you what would be possible: a thoroughly enjoyable holiday.
No matter who you are, what you celebrate, how you celebrate or with whom, what I know for sure is that when you can make the decision to breathe, to slow down, to savour and enjoy the experience – whether that’s the mad holiday shopping experience, or the tension-filled leadership meeting experience, or anything in between – everything flows with greater ease. That line-up that’s 50 people deep? It passes much quicker when you can converse with the person in front of you, or do a bit of people watching. That parking space that seems so elusive at the mall? It somehow shows up when you just exhibit a bit of patience. Those crazy family-folk who drive you nuts because they’re just so not like you? Somehow you can find the humour in being with them – and the loving connection – when you determine that you will enjoy the holidays and all will be well. How do I know this? Because I’ve been there, done that and lived to tell the tale.
Bottom-line: ‘tis NOT the season to be stressed-out, miserable or grumpy. Unless you choose that. If you do, my guess is it really won’t be all that fun. It really is the season to reach into your soul, clarify how you want to experience the holidays, and then determine to do just that. ‘Tis the season to create the magic, even when it seems like it’s nowhere to be found. You have the power. So engage it. Be deliberate about your holiday experience. And watch the frenzy turn into fun.
Leadership: Blending Greatness & Humility
What makes you think you’re so great? This is a question I hear a lot of people ask of others. Heck, sometimes I hear people ask it of me. Often, there’s a sneering energy that accompanies the question, a taunt of sorts; the underlying suggestion is that you are not as great as you think you are.
Sometimes, the people on the receiving end of this question are deserving of the taunt; they’re holding themselves as better than others, placing themselves on a pedestal, thinking that nobody measures up to them.
Often, however, the person on the receiving end of the question isn’t the culprit that he or she is being portrayed to be. Instead, the culprit is the asker of the question. Why? Because he or she is stuck in their own perceived shortcomings. So rather than take a moment or two to discover their own inner greatness, they’ll stand in their perceived “weakness” and endeavour to bring others down to that level. After all, it’s so much easier to stay stuck where you are, rather than rise up to where you want to be, right?
One of the things I’ve learned over time is that there is a fine line between excessive pride and excessive humility (actually, this week’s quote to ponder nails this issue on the head!). Neither of these perspectives will serve you very well, no matter who you are. When you hold yourself as greater than what you are, needing to learn nothing from others and always at the top of your game, you will eventually take yourself out of the game. On the flip side, if you place yourself on a “lesser playing field” of sorts, you’ll rarely be asked to join the game and, if you are asked, you won’t be able to play to your full potential, because others won’t necessarily put in the effort to find out what your potential is. Or, if they do invest the effort, they won’t do so for long; they’ll stop championing you forward the minute they realize that they’re more invested in your success than you are.
Part of your job as a leader is to discover, know and own your inner strengths. What are the particular gifts and talents that belong to you? What are you great at? Where do you shine?
Another part of your job as a leader is to balance this knowledge of your strengths, with knowledge of your weaknesses. Where can you use support? What is your Achilles heel? Where do you fall short? Once you know these two sides of you, you need to stand in what makes you great, while acknowledging where you need help. This is the essence of confident, effective leadership.
No matter what your spiritual beliefs, one of the things I know for sure – and this is confirmed for me as I look around the world – is that each and every person on the planet has an innate set of gifts, strengths, and talents as well as areas that need some refinement. Everyone knows something; nobody knows everything. As a leader, your responsibility is to truly stand in your greatness, knowing that there is greatness in you, and balance this with the knowledge that there are aspects of you that need some work.
Bottom-line: downplaying your greatness is just as much of a disservice to your leadership as making yourself better than you are. There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance; and there’s a fine line between humility and lack of self-esteem. In both cases, bring yourself right up to the line – and make sure you don’t cross it. Own all of who you are, completely, and watch your leadership capacity soar.
The 3 Most Dangerous Words for a Leader to Use
“Dangerous” might be an odd adjective to use when it comes to words. And yet, as I went about my work this past week, it occurred to me that a particular phrase – comprised of 3 words – could be very dangerous when used by leaders. And my guess is that you’ve heard this phrase used – by leaders and others – many, many times. The phrase is…
“I Already Know.”
I can feel the incredulity as you read that phase. I can hear the disbelief. How on earth can “I already know” be a dangerous phase?
Here’s how: it gets in the way of growth, learning and expansion.
When you approach a situation with the energy of “I already know” it closes you off from becoming something more. It shuts down your willingness to absorb something potentially new, if only a fresh perspective. Saying “I already know” actually keeps you small.
This is problematic for anyone, and for a leader in particular. Effective leadership requires growth, expansion, stretch. This in turn requires you to hold a beginner’s mind, an open mind, especially in the face of learning opportunities.
So, when you’re presented with a learning opportunity of any sort, saying “I already know” cuts you off from becoming what you could be.
Here’s another thing. If you truly KNOW something, you act on that something. In other words, if you KNOW how to be an effective communicator – you’ve taken all the workshops, attended all the PD you can – then you will communicate effectively. Period. If, however, there are times when your communication is ineffective, there is probably more that you can learn. AND THAT’s OK.
Sometimes, especially for leaders, there is a mistaken idea that if you don’t know something then you’re not capable or good enough. This simply isn’t true. Not having knowledge isn’t a problem in and of itself. Not being willing to gain knowledge, however, that is problematic. Which is why the phrase “I ALREADY KNOW” can be problematic.
Bottom-line: effective leadership requires a willingness to be on a constant learning curve. It’s about growth, stretch, expansion and evolution. The only way to grow is to expand knowledge. Telling yourself that you ALREADY KNOW gets in the way of that expansion, which then inhibits effective leadership. So embrace a beginner’s mind, forget what you know, and open yourself up to new possibilities.
Leadership Lessons Post-Election 2016 (They Apply Whether You’re Running for President or Not)
At this stage of the game – nearly one week out from the US election – it’s quite possible that you’re very tired of hearing about Donald Trump and our expectations (or fears) for his presidency. I get that. And, I have a few thoughts that have been percolating, that I believe are share-worthy.
As I watched things unfold last Tuesday evening, I found myself pondering what leadership lessons could be extrapolated from this particular moment in history. The lessons I gleaned had a common thread: the need to listen to one another. And the lessons themselves come from different angles. Here’s what I’ve come up with:
- When we people feel that it’s unsafe to speak, they go silent.
In and of itself, this is not surprising. Although they are silent, however, their beliefs and thoughts don’t necessarily change. They simply don’t share. And so, while we might look out and think that everyone is of a similar viewpoint, they’re not. Erego pre-election predictions that were far from accurate; folks couldn’t have been being honest about who they would vote for. The lesson from this is that we need to find a way to create space for all people to feel safe to express their viewpoints. We can’t allow folks to hold back on their opinions, just so we can feel like we are all on the same page.
The solution: We must create environments where even the most unpalatable opinions can be spoken, without fear of hostility (I know, this is one heck of a tall order!).
- When folks feel unseen, unheard, or unvalued, they rebel.
Even when the rebellious choice goes counter to values they may subscribe to. In the US election, for so long, many have been clamouring for change in the establishment. Change hasn’t been forthcoming. And so, finally, when faced with the choice to back someone with experience who had a proven track record of doing good public service but was clearly part of the establishment, and an individual who was in no way linked to the establishment, they chose the latter – even with his proven woeful lack of credibility, integrity and capacity. It was almost as though they would rather try something new, at any cost, than risk having the same old, same old.
The solution: We must ensure that we see, hear and value EVERYONE on our teams, even when we disagree with them.
- As leaders, we simply cannot take ANYTHING or ANYONE for granted.
We cannot assume that we have anything in the bag. We cannot imagine that just because something has happened in the past, it will happen again (or that a lesson has been learned and it won’t happen, as they case might be).
The solution: As leaders, we must continually stand in genuine curiousity and respond to what we notice, with integrity.
- Bonus lesson: Sometimes, even the best-laid plans go awry. When that happens, there’s something to be said for graciousness in defeat. Tenacity is admirable; and, at the same time, when you’ve lost, there’s wisdom in conceding graciously. This doesn’t mean you stop fighting for your cause. The work still needs to be done and if it was worth fighting for before the election (or whatever your equivalent is) then it’s still worth fighting for. Working for. Taking a stand for.
The solution: pay attention and know when it’s time to step down – for the moment. There will be a time to rise again, if the cause is just and worthy, and if you’re willing to pay attention and listen.
Bottom-line: I know that for many folks in my world, the 2016 Presidential election did not go as planned. And, the lessons that were held in that event’s unfolding are valuable for leaders everywhere. It all boils down to respect, creating space, and learning to be with one another even with our differences. When we can figure this out, we are able to be truly effective leaders.
Are Leaders Allowed to Jump Ship?
I know, this week’s article title seems facetious. Surely it’s obvious that leaders are NOT allowed to jump ship! Leaders are meant to stay the course. To hold tight when things are rough. To shine the light and set direction. But jump ship? No way.
Or can they?
Based on an experience I had this week, here’s what I’ve discovered. It’s not about whether or not leaders are ALLOWED to jump ship. It’s about understanding that there will be times when every leader WANTS to jump ship. And those are pivotal, game-changing moments.
It’s the moment when the best-laid plans seem to unravel without any warning, rhyme or reason.
It’s the moment when leaders feel pulled in a million directions and they’re about to break.
It’s the moment when folks are looking for answers, and the leader hasn’t had a minute to consider the question.
It’s the moment when leaders feel at a loss, unsupported and on their own.
It’s the moment when leaders discover that they’ve given everything they’ve got, and the results still fall short.
Every leader has moments like these. And jumping ship feels like a viable option.
In these moments, leaders are the folks who put their egos aside, and ask what will serve in moving forward. Leaders recognize that in the face of whatever is falling apart, this is the moment to pause and consider what will be best for all concerned. These are not the moments for a rash decision. These are the moments in which leaders take a breath, take stock, and allow the waters to settle as best they can, before deciding what will be the best course of action in moving forward.
Following such discernment, jumping ship may in fact be the solution. If so, it won’t actually look like jumping ship; instead it will look like stepping back and making way for something better. Jumping ship carries with it an energy of giving up. Making way, however, has the energy of being of service. And great leaders always stand in a place of service.
Bottom-line: from time to time, all leaders will feel the urge to jump ship. After all, desperate times call for desperate measures. In the face of desperation, however, leaders aren’t the folks who act desperately. Instead, leaders are the folks who take a step back, pause, take stock and then decide what will help to move things forward. If making room for another leader is what’s required, that’s not jumping ship. That’s leading with integrity. That’s leadership that serves.
What’s Standing In The Way of Your Happiness?
Happiness. The concept has been on my mind a lot this last week, as a result of a conversation that I had with a friend. This particular individual is going through a lot right now. So many challenges and roadblocks seem to be at every turn. During the course of our conversation, in frustration she finally said, “I can’t wait until ________________. I just want to be happy again, and have some fun.”
My heart broke for her. And not because I agreed, but because I saw what she was denying herself. Let me explain.
Happiness is not a function of your outer circumstances. Instead, happiness is a quality that resides within you. As such, it is accessible at all times. It looks a lot of different ways, and can make itself felt in varying degrees. Sometimes, happiness can feel like excitement, elation, joy and exuberance. Sometimes, happiness can be expressed and experienced in the company of others, in shared interests, in laugher and lightness. And sometimes, happiness is quieter, more subtle, a feeling of contentment, or even just a knowing that “this too shall pass.”
Since happiness resides within you, since it isn’t actually a function of what’s going on outside of you, here’s the kicker: if you’re waiting for your circumstances to change in order for you to be happy, you never will be. If you can’t find a way to access your inner happiness, in even the smallest of measures, no matter what is going on, you won’t be able to be truly happy when your circumstances change.
One of the things that you’ve got to understand about happiness is this: it can coexist with feelings and circumstances that we don’t typically associate with happiness. For example, during a funeral, there is usually a sense of sadness. Grief. Loss. AND, there is often a corresponding sense of happiness that exists within the memories that you hold about the deceased. Can you understand this? It’s imperative that you do because otherwise you will continue to deny yourself the opportunity to experience happiness no matter what is going on. You’ll continue to link your happiness to circumstances outside of yourself and that simply isn’t in your best interest.
All of this is not to suggest in any way that you must comport yourself with giddy happiness at all times. Sometimes, your over-riding emotion and expression will be sadness, anger, overwhelm, confusion. This is okay. In no way should you deny yourself the expression or experience of any emotion. What I want you to understand is that you don’t need to wait to be happy. Don’t hitch your happiness wagon to the circumstances of your life. Instead, know that if you truly want to be happy, all you have to do is look within. And access whatever quality of happiness you can latch on to in that moment.
Bottom-line: life can be tough at times. Circumstances can feel overwhelming. In various situations you may well feel things other than happiness. Just remember: happiness is present nonetheless. Happiness resides within you. It’s available to you in some measure at all times, if you choose to access it. Don’t wait for circumstances to change in order to experience happiness. Instead, allow yourself to be aware of and feel your inner happiness no matter what. This is the essence of living your very best life.
What Others Think of You Doesn’t Matter; Until It Does
Somewhere out there in the world is a quote, which has been attributed to many people in various forms, but here’s the one I came across most recently, and which I rather like: “The opinion that other people have of you is their problem, not yours” by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. Another variation is the ever-popular “what other people think of you is none of your business.”
When I first became acquainted with this idea, my heart resonated with it powerfully. There was such freedom and liberation in being told that the opinions held by others were not nearly as important as my own opinion of myself. I can totally get behind the wisdom of that, you know? That being said, I’ve come to believe that the quote needs to be tweaked a bit; because sometimes, the opinions of other people do matter. Here’s what I mean.
As an individual out there in the world who’s trying to do something, accomplish something, create something – whatever that “something” might be – your reputation is important. wWen it comes right down to it, your reputation is nothing more or less than the sum total of what others think of you, the opinions they hold. If a majority of people hold a similar opinion, and that opinion flies in the face of how you’d like to be experienced, that could be problematic. Why? Because there will be a gap between how you say you want to be experienced, and the actual prevailing experience of you.
If you go around in the world believing that the opinions of others are irrelevant, then you run the risk of being like an ostrich with your head in the sand, unaware of the reputation you’ve got in the community; or, perhaps more accurately, you’ll be completely aware of your reputation but unaware of the effect of that on the work you’re striving to do. This lack of awareness can result in your desired impact being less than it could be.
Is that what you want?
The best way to be with the opinions of others is to truly know yourself inside out and backwards. Know what matters to you, what you’re striving to create, the impact you’re working to have. Once you know this, you can show up with the express purpose of bringing all of this to life. And, if or when it comes to your attention that somebody’s opinion of you is less than desirable, or when those opinions fly in the face of who you’re trying to be, you can evaluate and determine how to move forward in a way that serves your vision.
Understand; I’m not for a moment suggesting that you need to take on the judgments of others, the insecurities of others, or even the opinions of others. Their opinions are in fact just those – their opinions. Knowing how those opinions line up or deviate from your own opinion of yourself, however, is important. When you can confidently articulate who you are and how you want to be experienced, you can address any deviations with the power of this confidence. You can question another’s opinion of you, without giving it validation. You can attempt to set the record straight, if it matters to you. And if it doesn’t, you can move on; but you’ll move on with integrity and wisdom, rather than with an attitude of “your problem, not mine.”
Bottom-line: pretending that the opinions of others are irrelevant to you is naïve. On the flip side, giving complete credence to the opinions of others is unnecessary. No matter who you are or what you’re up to in the world, your job is to know the impact you want to have, then pay attention to the feedback you get, and tweak as necessary. What others think of you does matter; it has to line up with who you are at your core. When your reputation matches your character, you’re definitely in the zone.