Archive for February 2012
People are interesting creatures. We create an artificial thing called time, divide it into little increments, and then assign meaning to those increments. Today is Leap Year Day. We won’t get to experience February 29th for another four years.
In my book, Relax Focus Succeed, I discuss the topic of looking forward and backward. There, and in seminars, I give the example of five, ten, and fifteen years. Today let’s look at four years.
Consider four years ago – February 29, 2008:
- Where did you live?
- Who did you live with?
- What car did you drive?
- Where did you go to work?
- How old were you? Which milestones have passed since then?
- What was your favorite hobby?
- Who did you spend time with?
- What groups did you belong to?
- Where did you go to church?
- Which books did you read?
- What was your favorite TV show?
- Were you prepared for the financial “crash” in late 2008?
- What was your relationship status (married, single, dating, etc.)?
- What color was your office?
You get the point. Consider all the things that can change. How many things stayed the same? How many are partially the same? How many are very different?
It is often difficult to see the future. Humans have a tough time with changes they don’t create. But look at those questions again and turn them to the future. Where will you live four years from now? What milestones will pass?
On a very personal note, the last four years has been quite a time of upheaval and change in my life. Four years ago I was married and didn’t know it was about to end. In the last four years I passed the 10th anniversary of being diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis.
I also passed the anniversary of my father’s death (at age 50). And I passed the age 50 mark with a strong heart and no worries about my health.
In the last four years my daughter went from 15 to 19, from girl to woman, and from high school to college.
As I look ahead, I see me being better off financially in four years (2008/2009 was not good to me financially).
In four years my daughter will be a college graduate and maybe even in grad school.
In four years I’ll be driving some other kind of car, live in some other house or apartment, and maybe live in a different city.
My plan is to transition into writing more and making more money from speaking engagements. I already make a living at it, but I’m still very involved in a technical consulting business. We’ll see.
- – - – -
Take some time today (or in the next few days) and consider where you’ve been and where you’re going. Place meaning onto this moment in time savor it. Soak it in. And begin building a plan for the future!
A mother walks into the kitchen and sees her daughter with the whole box of animal crackers spread on the counter top.
Mother: “Why did you pour out the whole box?”
Daughter: “The box says, ‘Do not eat if the seal is broken.’ I’m looking for the seal.”
I’m a big advocate of balance. In work and play and everything else. Ironically enough, you have to WORK at balance: It simply won’t happen by itself.
Part of balance means saying no. Make that “NO!”
Business owners tend to be doers and joiners. When someone drops a request on our laps, we tend to say yes. Whether its a client, a service organization, a church, or even our own business. When the world puts an abandoned puppy on our porch, we take it in.
But we all know that we have a tendency to do too much. We find ourselves on committees and members of clubs, starting new ventures, and joining others. At some point, we simply can’t live up to all of our commitments.
January’s gone and February is upon us! If you haven’t complete a beginning-of-the-year review of your commitments, there’s still time. Just ask yourself whether you might be over-extended.
When you’re over-extended, several things are wrong:
- You’re not living up to your commitments.
- Others are relying on you and you think you might be letting them down.
- Your business may be suffering due to inattention — or attention to the wrong things.
- You feel stress because you “can’t do it all.”
In the big picture, you’re spending time doing the wrong things. You’re energy is bound up trying to figure out what you should be doing — instead of doing something (anything) fruitful!
So why don’t we stop? Why don’t we drop some of these activities? The two primary reasons are guilt and habit.
Horace Mann said “Habit is a cable; we weave a thread of it each day, and at last we cannot break it.”
There’s very little we can do about our habits except to commit ourselves to change. Once committed, we must unravel our existing cable one thread at a time and begin weaving another to take its place.
Guilt is another matter.
Perhaps the best way to deal with guilt is to get some perspective.
Ask yourself: are you really obligated to [this cause/this committee/this organization/etc] simply because you have participated in the past? Probably not. So why do you participate?
Legitimate Reasons to Continue:
- I find it personally fulfilling
- I need a change from the other activities in my life
- I enjoy the people/the project/etc.
- It makes me feel good/important
- It helps me in my business
- People express gratitude for what I do. I’m not taken for granted.
- It makes me happy
- It contributes to my physical or mental health
- It is profitable!
Poor Excuses to Continue:
- Other people expect me to be there
- If I don’t do it, who will?
- I made a commitment at some point
- I started this and now a lot of people are expecting it
- If I quit, I’ll feel like a loser
Notice I added an extra line there?
Above the line are legitimate reasons to continue. Below the line are poor excuses to continue. Most of them involve you believing that the stuff won’t get done without you. Sorry to tell you this, but you’re wrong.
Some time ago I took on the job of program chairman for an organization because the president was over-worked and needed help. Two years later I found that I had taken on too many “outside” activities and needed to cut back. I felt that this one thing needed to be done by me because no one else would step forward.
Then I realized that was stupid. After all, the group existed for many years before I joined and has many members. Any group that relies solely on my participation for it’s existence has a pretty weak foundation.
Some people go through this filtering process once a year. Some more frequently. In January a gave up a number of projects and commitments that just we’re working anymore. Part of me wants to feel guilty about that.
But I know that achieving balance means taking stock from time to time and deciding where to spend my energies. It is not selfish to take care of yourself. It is arrogant and selfish to think that communities, organizations, and projects can’t survive without you.
When you re-evaluate and re-organize your commitments, you’ll end up with more energy to dedicate to the remaining activities. You’re time and talents will be more keenly focused and your contribution will be more meaningful.
So do yourself a favor: Re-evaluate your commitments. Put it all in perspective.
And have a happier, healthier, more balanced year!
A couple brought their newborn baby to the pediatrician for its first checkup. The doctor said, “You have a cute baby.”
Smiling, the man said, “I’ll bet you say that to all the new parents.”
“No,” the doc replied, “just to those whose babies are really good-looking.”
“So what do you say to the others?” the father asked.
“He looks just like you.”