Tell Me Something Good

 

There are times in any of our lives when we feel off step, out of sorts, maybe even stuck. For some of us, these moments come when we find ourselves at a moment of change.

Maybe that change is something you’ve invited. Maybe it’s univited. Maybe you don’t even realize there’s been change until it’s done.

Regardless.

You find yourself completely at sea and there is no breeze to fill your sails.

What do you do?

Will you stay stationary? Or move?

Will  you stagnate? Or grow?

(In case you’re taking notes, “movement” and “growth” are always preferable to “stationary” and/or “stagnate”, just FYI.)

But how do you do it? How do you start moving when you’ve been in the doldrums for so long?

Good thing I know the answer.

There’s one thing to do that’s guaranteed to move you.

One thing to ask yourself. One thing to get clear on. One thing to own and implement.

Here it is – you ask yourself: “Where in my life, right now, can I do something good?”

Sounds kind of simple, doesn’t it? But it’s really kind of hard to do when you’re locked in a box and can’t seem to find a way out.

And you owe it to yourself to find a way out.

You know, I’ve long held that all of us humans have the same purpose in life – to be a force for good in the world, in our own way. And meaning comes from however we decide to do good.

So when you’re stuck in place and can’t seem to find a way out, look for something good to do.

Look for some way you can contribute.

Maybe you focus on customer service at your job.

Maybe you mentor someone.

Maybe  you volunteer.

Maybe you buy coffee for the person in line behind you.

Maybe you figure out what’s missing in terms of creating good in the world… and you do it.

Regardless.

There is a ton of research that shows that finding the way to matter in the world – in ways large and small – is more impactful on your life than even being happy.

So work on finding meaning in your life. Do something good.

One thing. You can choose.

Then drop me a line and tell me how it goes so we can sing one of my favorite songs together.

 

 

How The Really Successful Get That Way

 

The pendulum certainly does swing.Pendulum Of Foucault In Pantheon Of Paris

Seems to me like we are in the widest part of the arc these days with…analytics. Maybe the better word is “metrics”. Or maybe “algorithms”.

Oh, shoot – let’s just say “math”, shall we?

I continually hear stories about how organizations are driving accountability by taskifying every single function of every single employee and then measuring them according to an allegedly quantifiable “goal”, though if you ask me there are so many things at work which just cannot be quantified.

Such as creating strong relationships with customers.

Such as mentoring the next generation.

Such as being a genuinely nice person.

I have railed against the Tyranny of the Bean Counters for some time. But in some ways I get it, I really do.

I realize that there are some people for whom nothing is real unless they can see it, touch it, taste it – and make a little check mark signifying that it’s been documented.

And I know there are some people who are deeply suspicious and are certain that everyone would take advantage of lax supervision and become total slackers if given half a chance. [because, perhaps, they fear that this is what they would do in that circumstance. Just sayin'.]

And then there are those who have worked for large consulting firms, which take bean counting to a whole new, quite expensive level.

These folks represent the far part of the pendulum’s arc and have created a unrelenting emphasis on quantification and numbers. But it’s my fervent hope that at some point the pendulum swings back and rests at the middle point, where there are good goals – but also where the unmeasurable is valued and appreciated.

Because, in the end, success is not driven by numbers but by meaning.

Doubt me?

A recent study led by Yale professor Amy Wrzesniewski and Swarthmore professor Barry Schwartz looked at motivation using a group of 11,320 West Point cadets. They wanted to learn if the most successful people are driven by an internal motive, or by what they call an “instrumental” or external motive, or a combination of the two.

One might think that successful people have a perfect balance of internal and instrumental motives. They care about their work, and they care about getting the corner office – doesn’t that sound like the right mix?

But, guess what? The study showed something…different.

People who are motivated solely by what others will think, or how much money they will make - instrumental motives - tend to be unsuccessful over time than those who are internally driven.

Interesting, huh?

So, what if you have a blend of both internal and instrumental motives?

“Remarkably, cadets with strong internal and strong instrumental motives for attending West Point performed worse on every measure than did those with strong internal motives but weak instrumental ones. They were less likely to graduate, less outstanding as military officers and less committed to staying in the military,” say the study authors.

Now, back to the bean counters.

This study clearly shows that they’ve got it all wrong. Giving people better job titles, more money, the corner office as a prod for increased performance? Not going to work.

OK, maybe you get some short-term results – and you can certainly check a box off a list – but over the long-term your organization won’t really be successful because you’ve transformed internal motives into instrumental ones, which are ultimately much, much weaker.

The researchers say, “Rendering an activity more attractive by emphasizing both internal and instrumental motives to engage in it is completely understandable, but it may have the unintended effect of weakening the internal motives so essential to success.”

Meaning. Purpose. Learning. Growth. This is what we all need to be successful.

So, if you want success, transform your focus. Shift your own personal internal motives – the Big Why of why you’re doing whatever it is you’re doing – toward what it means, how it helps, what you learn, how you grow.

And if by chance you have the power to transform an entire organization, get cracking on amping up theses collective senses in your people – starting from the top right on down.

Because, “Our study suggests that efforts should be made to structure activities so that instrumental consequences do not become motives. Helping people focus on the meaning and impact of their work, rather than on, say, the financial returns it will bring, may be the best way to improve not only the quality of their work but also — counterintuitive though it may seem — their financial success.”

And so the pendulum begins to swing back.

 

 

 

You Get To Decide

 

 

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I’ve long held that the most difficult times of our lives are when are forced in some way to redefine who we are.

We go from being a teenaged high school student in June to a nearly adult college kid in September. Then, in a blink of an eye, we go from college kid to full-time working person ["let's hope so," says every parent of a college student].

Change never seems to stop.

Some of us go from single to partnered. Some of us go from partnered to single, and back to partnered again.

Childless to parent. Parent to empty-nester. Then parenting our own parents.

Most of us go from well to ill to well again too many times in our lives to count.

There are also occasions when we go from being an important someone in a job we love to being a jobless nobody whose confidence is shot.

It just keeps coming.

All of these moments are times of profound change and redefinition. These are the challenging moments when we are very likely to ask the question, “Who the hell am I now, after all of this?”

And it’s within the question that possibility lies.

Twenty months ago my friend, writer and coach Dr. Laurie Foley, received the life-changing diagnosis of advanced stage ovarian cancer. She immediately put her work life on hold and threw herself into learning everything she could about cancer. She identified great doctors and partnered with them in her treatment. She told me, “I am going to be the very best patient any of them have ever had.” And she was. She joined support groups, became a regular speaker at a medical school, read research and reports. She even made friends with her health insurance company.

She was all-in in the world of ovarian cancer, and it was rightly her entire focus.

Week before last, when the results of two last tests came in, Laurie found out that – after twenty months of energy and attention – she’s officially in remission.

That was a great day.

It also happened to be a day when I was visiting, so after the squealing, high-fiving, and hugs, Laurie and I talked about What Remission Will Mean. [Oh, and we took the selfie, above.]

“I’m thinking,” Laurie started, “that it really means re-mission. For so long my mission has been ovarian cancer – now I get to find a new one. I get to re-mission.”

There’s that possibility I mentioned earlier.

To consciously choose a new mission. Maybe related to the old one, maybe a totally new one created By Laurie, For Laurie – and to bring her many gifts to the world.

Re-missioning.

What a promise. What potential in that deft little phrase.

What possibility.

If you’re smack dab in the middle of your own redefinition, this is what you remember. Yes, things have changed. Laurie will never be a person who hasn’t experienced cancer. Me, neither. You may not ever have the same job title, or the same spouse, or the same little ones running through your house using a dishtowel as a superhero cape.

Those moments may, indeed, be gone forever.

But you can always re-mission.

You can find something new, engaging, interesting and fun.

Your possibilities, in fact, are quite endless.



7 Questions I Asked Myself

Large collection of metal bowls full of herbs and spices

 

Even coaches need coaching.

Maybe you find that amusing, or even startling. But the truth is: Growth never stops.

I will never, ever be finished understanding, knowing – and surprising – myself. It’s a life’s work.

And, to be honest, sometimes all the options available in our lives are a little overwhelming. How do we decide where to focus, and what to say no to?

To figure that out, a Friday ago I sat down and asked myself some questions which served to focus and streamline my energy. Maybe you can benefit from asking yourself the same questions, too.

1.  What do I no longer want to do? What no longer feels right?

Now, in my case, I made two columns – the left one was affirmative, and listed what I want to keep. The right column was a list of 14 things that no longer feel right, such as “stupid rules”, “my wardrobe” and “eating crap”. Your list might be a wee bit different. Or not.

2. What needs to be cleaned up? Literally, and figuratively?

Again, two columns: Literally and Figuratively. In “Literally”, I put down “hall closet” (tell me – how’s your hall closet, hmmn?), and “garden” – so feel free to identify those niggling areas of your world which physically could stand a good cleaning or de-cluttering. In the “Figurative” realm, I’ll bet you have a couple of areas to address. I know I certainly do.

3. What do I want that I don’t have?

Oh, boy. This is a rich area. Don’t edit yourself here – let your psyche run wild. Your inner knowing will tell you things that may suprise you – such as, “I want support” and suddenly you’ll find yourself looking for a new calendar, a cleaning crew, an assistant, and a pool boy named Paolo (even though you have no pool). It is amazing what comes up.

4. What are my beliefs around (work/love/money/life – whatever you feel is most troublesome in your day)?

This is a huge area that holds people back. We have hard and fast beliefs in the most stuck areas of our lives, and it’s really only those beliefs that hold us back. “Work must be hard”, for example. Or, “all the good ones are taken”. And, “people like us never get ahead”. Writing those beliefs down on paper is a great way to begin to examine them to see if they are at all true. And most of them…aren’t. They’re just in the way of our happiness and success, so collect them, examine them and drop ‘em like they’re hot – so you can get moving toward what you want.

5. How can I be more grateful every day?

Research shows that focusing on what is working and expressing gratitude about it creates a sense of well-being which powerfully impacts health, work and relationships. So I came up with five things I can do daily to be in the gratitude zone: set positive intentions; be mindful and notice good things; say it out loud to someone else or myself; smile; and, thank people. Easy peasy, huh? What will you come up with?

6.  How can I nurture myself better?

Sleep. Feed myself well. Stretch physically and mentally. Learn daily. See doctors as needed. Stand up straight.

That last one there sounds small, but when I stand up straight I feel better. Stronger. Like I’m ready for anything.

So I’m going to try to stand up straight more often, because I like feeling like Wonder Woman. [This is the sole reason I wear bracelets, sugar.]

I had a #7, too.

7. What books need writing?

Now, this may or may not be a question you ask yourself. But asking it in this way instead of “what book can I write that will make me a ton of money?” allows real ideas to come forward. Ideas that will serve people, have an impact and allow you to write a book that’s memorable. And might just make you some money. Of course, I came up with six ideas – you know me. And now it’s time for sifting and shifting, and something great will emerge (notice the positivity? Yay, me! I am already doing #6!).

Now comes the fun part. Having asked myself these questions, and answering them honestly and openly, I came up with a set of to-dos that feel focused, efficient and purposeful.

I have a vision.

A plan.

A purpose.

All from seven little questions.

How are you going to answer them?

 

 

Integrity

Noticed a little bit of conversation these days about politics? Not only in the U.S., where we seem to have a permanent presidential campaign in place, but also in Europe, in Asia, in South America…

Commentators in this country continue to refer to the nation suffering from a “crisis of confidence”. Maybe that’s true.

Maybe we are tired of the law partner who pockets a record bonus but tells the associates and support staff that there’s no money – again this year – for their raise.

Perhaps we’re too used to hearing about the minister with the $100,000 Mercedes parked in front of his mansion.

It could be that we’re fed up with hearing that people are going to “change Washington” and yet nothing ends up getting done.

We see real incongruence between what we expect and what we get, and that’s precisely how our confidence is undermined.

That’s a word I’m loving these days: Congruence.

It’s when things line up. It’s when what you see is what you get.

Congruence is truth.

Congruence is whole.

Congruence makes sense.

And a person who is congruent – they mean what they say, and predictably do what they say they will – is truly a person of integrity. Pundits may see the world suffering from a crisis of confidence, but I’d call it an Integrity Deficit.

Somehow or other, many leaders – some of them self-appointed – seem to have forgotten that people eagerly follow those with integrity. Whether you’re a politician, an office manager or a life coach, being a person who means what she says, and does what she says she’s going to do, is the person who’s really successful.

Now, we all know people whose integrity is, shall we say, “compromised”, and yet they seem to thrive and maybe even get ahead.

That’s an incongruence right there, huh?

But what goes around comes around, and I have never, ever met an incongruent person whose personal narrative ends well. Have you?

That karma thing is plenty powerful.

And it always works.

So, now is as good a time as any to assess your own personal integrity.

  • Do you ever say yes when you mean no, and wince about it shortly after the words have left your mouth?
  • Do you consistently miss deadlines and break commitments?
  • Do you fib about having sent in the payment, when really you haven’t even written the check yet?
  • Do you concoct a story about where you just were, rather than admitting what you were really doing?

OK, you’re human.  But do you feel good about this stuff? Or does it add to your stress?  Create overwhelm?

Then get congruent, baby.

Start in a small way.  Start by making only those commitments you know you can meet. And then acknowledge to yourself that you did what you said you’d do. Maybe even give yourself a little reward for that.

And, make an effort to really watch your words.  In The Four Agreements, author Don Miguel Ruiz suggests that one way to insure happiness is to:

“Be impeccable with your word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.”

I hear you – truth and love in the workplace? Just for a minute, drop your skepticism and think about it a different way.

I know from experience that shifting toward integrity will profoundly change your work experience. It will profoundly change your marriage, your parenting, your friendships and everything else in your world.

Integrity changes anything it touches for the better.

That is the truth.

You know, I have a dream.  I dream that one day our global crisis of confidence will be replaced with the peace, certainty and progress that integrity engenders.

But that will only happen – our leaders will only become people of integrity – if we, first, become so ourselves.