Friday, June 10, 2011

Work / Life Balance, Shmalance!

I was facilitating an off-site retreat for 65 school administrators. We were discussing the idea of life as a whole expression of who you are rather than trying to find work/life balance. The reaction of the group was fun to watch.

There was a noticeable sigh of relief as people came to the realization they could free themselves of the artificial confinement placed on them by the concept of seeking life of balance that in reality can never be balanced. The energy grew as the pressure was released.

There is nothing to balance in your life.

Your life was not and cannot be broken up into parts or components as we are lead to believe. Work life separation does not exist. There is only a moment by moment life experience with people, activities, locations, challenges and joys that in its entirety is a powerful statement, a perfect expression of who you are. 

Now let me be clear, I am not condoning working long hours at the cost to family and personal wellbeing. That too is just following the collective expectations of society. Instead take the leap to another way of moving through life; that of wholeness.

Wholeness comes at life from a perspective of expression rather than fragmented activity through a daytimer. Wholeness implies seamlessness.   A life that moves effortlessly with all that must be included to be fully expressed. A whole life is lived from context (meaning and purpose) where activity flows out from there.

Wholeness is lived with a sense of peace and acceptance that what actions are taken IS a valued expression of who you are.

If this is true, then it only requires you to examine what your life is expressing to you and of you. The outcome of the observations will, if you choose, dictate your next course of action. You will include more of what you want, drop things or make the necessary life changes that make sense to you.

Attention on wholeness expression can achieve what we hope balance will do but never can; a life lead with deep personal meaning and purpose.

These transcend balance. It is only when activity is bathed in meaning that it has any energy and importance to us. 

So take a deep breath and relax. What you want to express your life to be will naturally unfold when you let go of the tension and inner conflict of trying to balance that which never could to be balanced in the first place.  

Monday, May 2, 2011

Maybe It's Time to Think Differently About Retirement

I am starting to read articles now about letting go of retirement as a viable option, especially the concept of Freedom 55 and early retirement.  They bring me back to a dialogue I had with a client (lets call him Joe).  We focused on his perception that he was running out of time and needed to work harder and how it was creating unnecessary pressure within him.  He turns fifty next year and only had 15 years to go until he “retires”.  He went on to say he wanted to have the capability to retire at 55 if he wants to.  The irony is that his father, 85, still shows up at the factory he founded 50 years ago.  Joe’s father clearly has no motivation to pack it in and retire. Of course Joe is his own man.

This conversation made me wonder where the whole retirement concept came from?  

Since then the idea has evolved somewhat but it doesn’t change the fact that retirement is a made up concept that we have completely bought into.

Take a “Thinking Differently” perspective and try this on for a minute…

See your life as a seamless expression of activities performed in a certain locations, with certain people over a period of time.

When Joe did this he began to see his entire life as one complete unit with no segmentation. This new concept was very freeing to Joe especially when he realized that there is no waiting there is just living right now. 

I am sure you have friends who have “retired” early to travel, play golf all day long, and will refute what I am saying.  Consider this your friends never did “retire”, instead in realty your friends merely changed what he/she did, who they did it with and where they did it. Making everyday an expression of who they are and what they want.

Mankind has been in some sort of civilized community form for about ten thousand years, struggling to make ends meet and slowly improving life longevity. For the first 9,900 years we shared space with our loved ones, passing on what little wealth accumulated, working till we dropped, and doing what we could to pass on knowledge.  Then approx 120 years ago, the German Chancellor Bismark had an idea.  He decides to pay any one who lives over the age of 70 an annual amount of money and the concept of retirement was born.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Finding True Productivity

Imagine for a moment the following scenario...

Bill a colleague of yours has just checked his e-mail and received a note from a person with whom he has a tense relationship. There is a recurring issue between the two of them, that won’t go away. He interprets this e-mail as “snarky” and bullheaded, so sits there at his desk his mind filling with scenarios and responses he would really like to send back. This internal “chatter” goes on for 5 minutes as he stews in his own emotions. He sends a reply in an equally “dry” tone and immediately regrets sending it, so stews further in guilt for another few minutes (say three minutes).
Total productivity loss: 8 minutes.

As he was working on something else at the time he needs to refocus his attention: another 3 minutes to build back momentum.
Total productivity loss now: 11 minutes.

As a result of this decaying relationship there is a heaviness and running conversation weighing within him he is barely aware of, that won’t go away. Total time spent in chatter, tension and loss of productive action and poor wellbeing – significantly more than 11 minutes.
Total productivity loss now: immeasurable with a significant cost to his inner well being.

Now multiply that over the number of employees that work at your company. It could run into the thousands of minutes, 100 employees translates into 1100 minutes a day (approximately 18 hours). Now I know that not all people everyday stew and keep tension inside them, so I exaggerate somewhat to make a point.

I work with management teams everyday who successfully break free of this scenario and significantly improve their productivity.

In error we connect productivity to behaviour, our actions.  Technological gadgets are invented to save time and effort; smart phones, e-mails, laptops, iPads were all designed to make our lives “easier and more efficient”. But my experience tells me that these endeavours don’t get at the answer to real and profound productivity improvement which exists within us and between us.

Let’s dissect this scenario for second. We find that Bill is unproductive because of his limited perceptions and thinking. Unable to break free of habitual responses, interpretations and judgments of whom this other person is and what happened to create this situation in the first place, he follows predictable responses that waste time and energy for all involved. And the funny thing is, if you were ask Bill if he was productive, he would say “Yes”.

Start to connect productivity to thought and perception rather than action and behaviour.

When Bill learns to examine his own thinking he is free to discover a more accurate “picture” of reality and certain things begin to occur. His mind begins to relax and open up, the resulting clarity allows him to accurately perceive situations, create options for responses and to reconnect with what is really what is really going on. With less head chatter and unnecessary emotions, Bill will be able to distinguish between actions he needs to take and those that are unnecessary.

The source of productivity is within thought and perception itself. We can perform efficient actions with the help of gadgets, but ultimately to find the final 5% of workplace productivity we will need to learn how to work with our thoughts themselves.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Stay Positive. Stay Up. Stay Motivated… Give Me A Break!

You’ve heard it all before, you have to feel motivated; you have to be determined to achieve what you want. I don’t know about you, but those words are feeling pretty empty and shallow to me these days. That’s because when you go beyond your reliance on those meaningless words, you uncover a power to concentrate that is so significant you know deep down that you will succeed and others feel it too.

There is no B.S., no trying to manipulate yourself into feeling positive instead your attitude and actions are quiet, humble and focused.

I had a wonderful conversation with a friend about why some people achieve their goals and others don’t. He used his own experience of feeling excited about “working out” and losing weight. His excitement and determination was high for about a month, and then waned significantly when he injured himself. After that, his interest in his goal fizzled out. He shared that he felt frustrated with himself that he couldn’t get back to his regime.

We have all been there, we start something with vigour and passion only to find our excitement and energy naturally dissipates.  The problem is we interpret this waning as a loss of interest which makes it difficult to overcome the natural ups and downs we are inevitably going to face. I can feel your head nodding as I write this.

The issue is not the loss of enthusiasm; the issue is where you have placed your attention and energy.

Typically, we place a great deal of emphasis on the initial excitement and passion we feel for our cause and this focus on that unbridled energy is what we rely on to move us forward. This energy is difficult to sustain because of its naive nature can disappear very quickly at the first set back. It can be seen in people and in companies wanting to improve; great beginning short lived follow through.

If we feel passionate and enthusiastic we move forward. If we feel it’s lost we unfortunately:
  • panic,
  • question our decision,
  • beat our self up.

An enormous amount of energy is spent on wondering why we are not excited any more. Our mistake is relying on a passion or excitement that isn’t deep enough to handle varying external conditions or fragile internal emotions.

Shift your focus away from whether you are excited and you will see that this lost energy can be directed to a re-commitment to the original purpose.

Contrary to what is said in motivational talks, you don’t need to get up every morning feeling passionate about your life. Nor is it necessary to be excited about your goal every moment.

You don’t need to artificially build yourself up. The energy it takes to do so is energy better spent on just achieving what you want.

The goal is to use your energy efficiently and economically right now.  When you do this you sustain higher levels of energy and focus over a longer period of time and ultimately achieve your goal faster.

The same occurs across companies when new initiatives are implemented. The classic assumption is to “bring out the band” build energy and enthusiasm for the initiative. This of course is unsustainable for when it is needed most. Many of you have experienced change initiatives which were perceived to be a failure and so die prematurely.

 It is never about the level of sustained enthusiasm, it’s about the efficient use of energy and focus over time at a high level that creates quality outcomes. And believe it or not this is easily attainable.

Whether in companies or with in yourself, your decision and commitment to who you are IS the driver, not the level of enthusiasm that you have.

When you place your attention on who you are and your abilities, you actually move beyond reliance on enthusiasm to experience, true passion and inspiration.

You will find something more profound:
  • a simple knowing that moves you forward regardless of external conditions and emotions
  • an unquestioning acceptance of what you do and why you do it - the true mechanism of achievement.
There is no struggle, there is no doubt. 

Friday, March 11, 2011

Books On The Bedside Table

So you have a stack of books waiting to be read and they are calling out to you every time you get ready to sleep. “READ ME”, “no read me I was the one recommended by your good friend.  Remember, he’s going to ask how the book is coming the next time you meet.” NO read me I am the book you actually borrowed.”

Is this the chatter you hear as your eyes close and you fall into a troubled sleep? You have the best of intentions but the books are never cracked open. What exactly do you want?

During a deeper dialogue with a client, we discussed living a “passionate life” and used the books on his bedside table as an example.

“A passionate life is one lived with natural ease, simplicity, peace and incredible power and energy." 

There is no passion in mind games, pushing, manipulating, guilt, shame or being dishonest with yourself. 

If you don’t want to read the damn books don’t read them! 

Running with this idea we moved to discussions that have even more significance to life, such as relationships with in-laws, the ex and other issues he deals with as leader of a couple of hundred people.

In my previous life as a business coach we would have discussed that he go home and take control of the situation and put the books away as a statement of finality and real honesty. This though not a bad idea, misses the point. 

In fact, he started to suggest he put the books away and stopped himself by saying – “so what you really mean is that I don’t even have to move the books do I?  I agreed saying that when the books need to be moved they will be. Either by being read or moved or given back. The issue I said was not the books it was the addiction to the emotions you are feeling by not reading the books.

 As you accept that reality you will be free to do what ever the hell you want to do with the books or anything else in life. It will be done naturally and with little or no effort.”  This is living a passionate life.

To live naturally and passionately is to merely observe without commentary or judgment what you are doing or not doing, thinking or not thinking and what is going on around you.

  • No commentary creates an opening for you to see the reality with clarity and allows you to respond ‘naturally” to situations and events that are occurring.

This maybe a leap, but it means that you can let go of the struggle of wondering what the best course of action could be, should be or ought to be. No amount of manipulation or cajoling will create enough energy for action so lighten up and start trusting that what you want is what you want.

The bottom line is, if you want the books to stay on the bedside table untouched, unread and taking up space, go for it!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Procrastination Doesn’t Actually Exist!

A few weeks ago I was talking with my brother who said he was procrastinating on a project at work and his lack of action was beginning to affect his credibility with his team.  I heard him beat himself up over his lack of action and blamed it on procrastination. I suggested to him that procrastination was a made up word and that it doesn’t actually exist. He of course had a hard time with this and it took quite a long time to convince him otherwise, after all both of us had grown up believing in the concept as real.
Procrastination is a concept, a word that someone at sometime in the past made up to describe a human condition of action or non-action. We humans believe we need these labels to help us understand ourselves but believing in the concept is the problem not the inaction or time passing.
The label allows us to:
·         easily become distracted from the real issue,
·         feel guilty,
·         beat ourselves up and generally feel bad, thereby wasting more time and energy.

Just for a moment take the concept of procrastination out of your thinking and free yourself to explore what is really going on:
  1. You may be going against your natural rhythm of how you accomplish tasks.
  2. The creative process and ideas sometimes require space, stasis or "downtime" to fully form.
  3. There is not enough information available to make a decision or take action.
  4. You don't believe that what you want is what you want.
  5. You don't really want to do what you think you “should” do.
  6. It's not yet time.
  7. You don't trust yourself.
  8. The task is too overwhelming when envisioned in your mind.
  9. Habit and conditioning.
When I had finally convinced my brother that his focus on the idea of procrastination was distracting him from actually discovering the issue of his inaction, I described it to him as a blanket over his thoughts, he was able to identify that, the real issue was his belief that he had to complete aspects he was not good at. Within 5 minutes of this discovery he had drawn out his strategy. The next day he made a phone call and the project was completed shortly thereafter. What was interesting for me was the sudden relief he felt and the corresponding release of energy and confidence the sudden insight created. This happens quite frequently.  Energy creates follow-through.
Many people feel this release, this freedom, when they realize they are not procrastinating at all. How could they be, it can’t exist. Like my brother they are merely missing a key piece of information that is outside of their discovery because of clouded thinking and blame.
Now I am not for a moment suggesting that there is not a feeling of time passing, or distracted action or a general shouting within your head that you “should be doing something dammit”. Rather release the idea of this being a problem from your thinking. This should let your natural insights and intelligence emerge to help you understand what is really going on for you.
Stop thinking so hard, stop trying so hard, let go and breathe. Feel confident in the discovery that procrastination does not exist.  By letting go of a fixation on language and a label and recognizing that what is going on is natural and fine we can give ourselves the freedom to act or not. This freedom after all is really what you want anyway.
How do you want freedom to show up today?

Friday, February 18, 2011

There Is No Box?

What is beyond those things we take as accepted solutions?

When you start asking a question like this the answer can be startling in its simplicity. All of a sudden freedom is possible, and meaning to life is clearer. There is an energy, a vitality you can tap into when you are free for instance, to end the need to, try and “think outside of the box.” It might in-fact be better to discover, that the box never existed in the first place.  

 Ask yourself, What is beyond the advice I feel compelled to follow? "

A new perspective is available. Acceptance and freedom from internal suffering, doubt, and chatter is possible. For instance when we let go of our incessant need to question ourselves and simply love who we are all our internal judgments and manipulations drop away. All the energy and time we take in distracting self chatter can now be used for more enjoyable pursuits like deeply connecting to those we love.

I have spent over 20 years exploring and creating models of personal and organizational change. Some worked brilliantly, other dismal failures. Throughout it all though was the drive and feeling that we were missing the obvious, that we were focusing on the surface issues not getting to the root of it all which just may be thought itself.

My job as an advisor to CEO’s, business owners and executive teams is to help them answer, unanswerable questions by teaching them to think differently . But to do this requires them to explore the assumptions and language they hold on to as truth.

What truths are you holding on to?

Together we will look at what if there never was a “box”?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Story Behind Thinking Differently®

I am someone who has, for as long as I can remember, been interested in how people think and operate in the world. Even as a teenager, while painting water pipes high up in factory rafters during the summer, I remember listening to people interact and wondering how they can work better together. It has been a lifetime pursuit that gets expressed through all I do both personally and professionally.

Though I do have a university degree, I was not a good student and it was not until my mid-thirties, early forties that my fascination for human development and the potential of the human spirit fully blossomed. I have created and refined over the years all the programs and the philosophy that I live and my clients use. It would have been no doubt easier to go out and buy into other people's training packages but I was driven to create, write and reflect on my own observations and conclusions.

The interesting challenge, of course, is to accept who you are and how you operate in the world and then to fully maximize this understanding. I would say that when this clarity hit me between the eyes my ability to help my clients increased significantly. I see my progress as the inverse to formal learning where you learn in order to apply knowledge and skills in the world.

For me, it can be described as "I am and now let's figure out what that really means to me and others." As you can no doubt conclude it is extremely important that I live what I teach. I believe to be truly effective in helping someone transform their life; I have to be prepared to go to the edges of myself. Life, after all is worth playing to the fullest.

I am happy to share this knowledge with Thinking Differently®, a philosophy based on how the root of thinking and perception influence actions and outcomes.

The Goal:To answer the unanswered questions you have within you that have probably been there for quite sometime, maybe even years; questions that have taken too much energy and time to answer. Questions about you, your life, your business, and what you really want.

I encourage you to share this new way of thinking and look forward to hearing how you have found the answers.