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Whatever you decide

Ralph Waldo Emerson described what happens when we decide on a course of action or goal.

“Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage.”

You’ve likely experienced the “fruit” of critics in your life. From family members at an early age to co-workers and “friends” later in life, we often have a ready supply of those who tell us how unlikely it is that our goal or plan will come to fruition. Summoning courage at those junctures means putting ourselves “out there” and it means operating without the encouragement of people who ought to believe in us.

What an appropriate time that is to:

  • Get with someone who’s been there, who’s been experienced a similar journey. Examples might be a business owner who’s taken signficant risk or one who’s worked through huge financial hurdles. A key individual might provide the need of the moment: mentor, counsel, encouragement, prayer or challenge. Be ready for the response that’s right!
  • Write out a clear and compelling vision. Answer for yourself the “why am I doing this?” question. Spend time yourself in meditation and prayer. Ascertain that you’re not doing the wrong thing your critics asserted.
  • Keep the vision connected to reality. Great visions rarely come together in the time and manner we’d prefer. Put realistic and measureable goals together, get them into your plan and work your plan.
  • Get some coaching. Coaches specialize in listening and we believe in our clients. I believe what God has put into people — by way of vision, purpose and passions — is what needs to “come out”. In nearly every session, I hear a clients discuss things they are hestitant to share even with spouses, best friends or co-workers.

 

 

The Uncommon Attitude

John Henry Jowett said it: “Gratitude is a vaccine, an antitoxin, and an antiseptic.” When I read his words for the first time, I immediately thought of some of the negative attitudes and thought patterns to which I gravitate when gratitude isn’t a regular part of how I think and communicate.

I also thought of a man my wife encountered at a warehouse club. He was distributing food samples. He was very popular! When my wife reached his table, took a sample and said, “Thank you!” he told her, she was the 1 of 7 or 8 who expressed those simple words. He was experiencing first hand what many spouses, employees, and friends experience: no response at all.

Expressions of gratitude are simple acts which cost nothing yet enrich the hearer. They enhance the relationship. They remind both recipient and “giver” that life works so much better when generosity oils relationships — and when receivers express their thanks!

Who will do good for you today — who would benefit powerfully from some word of gratitude? In 10 minutes today, how could you express gratitude to 3 or 4 people in your life who bring value to your life?

 

A Leader’s Face

The story might have no historical basis; its point is potent.

Apparently, George Washington, then a general and a company of his men came riding to a river which could not be crossed except by horseback. A walking traveler stood one one bank. As Washington and his men rode up, the traveler surveyed the party (apparently without uniforms), looked at Washington and asked if the general would take him across the river on his horse. The general quickly said he would. The man rode behind him across the river then alighted. One of Washington’s men asked the hitchhiker, “Tell me, why’d you ask the general for a ride?” The traveler replied, “I did not know he was the general, I only looked for someone with a ‘yes’ face.”

Do you regularly wear a “yes” face? Why does it matter?

A “yes” face invites approach. Approachability is critical for any leader; it’s certainly indispensible for servant leadership. The face one wears should never communicate self-absorption or unconcern about individuals we lead.

A “yes” face tells family members, employees and teammates that you’re open (to ideas, suggestions, even correction). Openness is critical in any setting where communication is a must.

A “yes” face demonstrates the value placed on people, even ones who don’t “contribute” to our success, mission or cause (at least in our view). Inherent in any leader’s influence is valuing the individuals one leads.

Obviously, our faces are mostly a reflection of what’s going on inside of us. So, do I demonstrate that I’m approachable? Am I open to what I need to hear? How much value do I place on the individuals around me and within my leadership sphere?

What “mirrors” (people you trust whom you could ask, positive/negative responses you get, etc) would help you determine how much “yes” is in your face?

Time Away

Carisa Bianchi said, “When people don’t take time out, they stop being productive.” Do you find the tyranny of the urgent driving you forward, even when you know you need some time out? When that’s the case, creativity, effectiveness and productivity get lost in the shuffle.

What would “time away” look like? And to what ends? 

How could you use some physical “time away”? A friend of mine has the habit 0f, every day, leaving his office and walking to a covered bench outdoors. In the walk and the “bench time” he simply sits, breathes fresh air and gets in 10 or 15 minutes of relaxation. We need physical rest and relaxation as well as exertion and exercise to counteract the tendancy to sit all day. Working out positively impacts the brain as well as the heart; we get de-stressed and a shot of oxygen which we don’t get by sitting. How could you add some physical time out to every hour, to each segment of the day (morning, afternoon, evening) and to your week (month, year)?

How could you use some mental “time away”? Most of us so engage with the “mental” in business and work that we’d rather escape it when we’re “away”. The need here is breadth and variation. So how could you stretch your mind by something different than what occupies it day by day? How about a documentary you’d normally not choose? How about tackling a project outside your expertise? What value would there be in reading and discussing a serious book with your spouse?

How could you use some spiritual “time away”? The spiritual area of life often occupies the bottom of our priority lists because we don’t recognize: we are spiritual creatures. Because that’s true, it stands to reason that ignoring this vital area creates deficits in how we function, relate and live. In what areas of the spiritual life could you get stretched? Are there disciplines you’ve always wanted to pursue (prayer, meditation, reading Scripture daily)? Is there someone with whom you could interact or who might mentor you?

How could you use some relational “time away”? When I think of significant friendships I used to enjoy (ones separated by long distance and time) I realize again the power and value of real friendships. For me (and most men?) they are rare — but all the more necessary. Relationships bring balance into our lives; they are the source of much “added value” to each person. Relationships help us avoid pitfalls and do well in life. So what would time away look like? A long lunch in the middle of a busy week to bounce ideas off a friend? Date time each week with your spouse to communicate, dream and make plans? An annual vacation with close friends you don’t regularly get to see?

How would you benefit if you’d choose one or more of the above and carve out even a bit of time for them? Here’s hoping you get some serious time away this week in one or all of the above categories!

Are you listening to me?

Jim Collins records some profound advice he took to heart, offered by the legendary John Gardner. He told Collins, “It occurs to me, Jim, that you spend too much time trying to be interesting. Why don’t you invest more time being interested?” 

In life, business and relationships, a common temptation of goal-centered individuals is to forget the power of listening, a crucial element in expressing interest. Listening as much as any other skill communicates, “I care.”

Good listening requries that I:

Be quiet. Mark Twain wrote, “If we were supposed to talk more than we listen, we would have two tongues and one ear.” Yes, as employer, parent or even spouse, maybe you know more or have more information. But, when the other person is talking, just listen. Don’t think about your response, don’t interrupt, talk over them or finish a sentence. When the person is finished ask questions which clarify, say, “tell me more about…” Don’t respond if you don’t hear accurately what’s been said.

Ask questions. Questions which center on, even repeat terms or phrases the speaker has used demonstrate good listening without my own agenda becoming the focus. Ask good questions, and then again, be still!

Put the speaker at ease. Give them full freedom to speak. Focus like a laser on their concerns and issues. Respond with nods, gestures or terms which encourage them to continue. Maintain appropriate eye contact. Actively jettison distractions (close the door, turn off your cell phone). Avoid any indication that says to them: “I’m in a hurry” or “I’ve got more important things to do.” If needed, talk about how much time is available in advance, not during the other person’s communication.

Empathize. Actively look at things from their perspective. Don’t “own” the opposite view or immediately hear them from the idea that your leadership or ideas are being threatened. If you hear something you disagree with, wait to discuss it until you’ve heard the whole of what they’re trying to say. Assume that you don’t know best!

Listen for more than words. Volume, tone, key words and emotion convey the real message as much as the initial few sentences. Ideas get buried with verbosity if a person feels ill at ease or has a hard time talking to you. Realize they may feel the need to cover their message with “acceptable” terms. Observe gestures, facial expressions, and eye-movement that says more than what is expressed.

Who in your sphere needs you to express interest?

My Final Weight Loss (part 4)

In earlier posts, I discussed my motivations to get started, pairing vision with goals and incorporating a program which supports real life. Here’s the final fundamental for me:

 Pursue health with support, encouragement and accountability.

 I knew I couldn’t do it alone. There are plenty of people who are highly disciplined – who can take a book or program and work it, all by themselves. I had to admit, that wasn’t me! Even today, after years of success under my belt, I need reminders, ideas and renewed motivation. I very rarely miss a weekly meeting (led by my wife, an added bonus!)

 When my wife and I restarted Weight Watchers, we were signing up for an atmosphere of learning, challenge, encouragement – and not a small dose of accountability. There’s something about stepping on a scale with someone on the other side of the desk that gives enough of a dose to make me want to do well! Their statistics actually say that there is a great difference in weight loss when people actually come every week to face the scale. A favorite phrase from our first leader was, “the scale is not about failure, it’s just feedback.” It’s that small dose of accountability that sort of sums up my choices for the last 7 days. It’s a gentle reminder that weight and health aren’t about hoping and dreaming that I’ll “get there” – it’s about measuring how well I’m doing with new habits.

 Weekly meetings offered us insights from fellow travelers. Some had been “at goal” for months or years and continue to come to be encouraged and encourage others. They’re great teachers and idea generators. The meetings offer insights into the program, into food, into navigating the minefield of a food-obsessed culture. They also provides the encouragement of “good job!” at the scale and in the “celebration time” in the meeting (applause for losing another 5 pounds, getting to 10% goal and the like).

 The other huge part of the final fundamental – my wife and I worked the program together. Two people agreed on and pursuing the same goal is powerful. We started together, continued going week in, week out, when there were “ups” and when there were “downs”. We stayed on the pursuit of health at home; cooking better, agreeing on which restaurants we’d no longer frequent or which foods (French fries for instance) we’d never order in a restaurant.

 Support, encouragement and accountability made the difference when I was motivated; they were more critical when I wasn’t. We challenged either other saying: “we can do this” or even “remember what we decided.” (see the post from 7/7/12: Can you motivate others?)

 So, if you’re ready to embark on a healthy weight loss journey, I’d tell you: get the support, encouragement and accountability you’ll need. Get it before you begin. It could be a spouse, friend, sibling, parent/child team. It can come from a coach as well. We get excited everyday to offer just those elements to our clients. Call us and we can discuss your vision and goals.  

 Thanks for reading my account. I’d love to get your comments!

My Final Weight Loss (part 2)

As I said in the first post, I was motivated; my “light bulb was on”.

But then what? How could I (and how can you) keep motivation going in a tough area like weight loss? Four fundamentals began working for me. The first one today.

Think through, and write down, a mix of goals (short-, mid-, long-range) alongside your long term vision.

Many people approach weight loss with just one goal in mind. “To lose the weight.”  There’s another version that’s even less effective. It’s some version of “I want to lose 20 pounds before the wedding/reunion/vacation, etc.”  The first goal is too fuzzy; it just won’t take you very far toward a healthy weight. The second revolves around an event — an event which, as it fades in your rearview mirror, will likely take your goal with it! A key problem with the second kind of goal is, we’re just wanting to “look good” (for others, or for the pictures). Once that “limited vision” goal is achieved, the desire well may be to go celebrate!! In my case, celebrating would have meant plunging into the old food habits!

Habits aren’t sustained if clear vision and appropriate goals don’t support the habits!

My vision was that my wife and I attain the best state of health we could reach for the rest of our lives. A fundamental commitment we made to each other with regard to Weight Watchers was “we will not quit.” We agreed this time we’d stick, even after we had early good results (or even if we didn’t some weeks!) We were on this journey toward health for all of life. We wanted to feel better, sleep better,  move better and enjoy physical activities. So we studied and read about the benefits of appropriate weight and good food. We read about the liabilities of some of the things we’d been eating! Our vision became more and more compelling. We watched shows like “Biggest Loser” to stir motivation. Those activities buttressed the vision and kept us wanting it!

As the vision developed, I had appropriate goals. Weight Watchers encourages steady — not steep — weight loss. Most “diets” revolve around some version of deprivation. A couple of problems with deprivation: one is the rubber band effect. We “bounce back” toward consuming what we missed during the deprivation phase. And two, healthy habits are never developed. You can’t live “real life” with “real food” with that approach (more about that in the next post). What I experienced was not deprivation! I quickly discovered that whole foods not only tasted good, they satisfied much longer and did not leave me hungry like “diets” do.

My weight loss goal was a half pound to 2 pounds per week! The philosophy I heard was, “you put the weight on over many years. The body is unlikely to allow you to suddenly reverse those decades in a few weeks or even a few months.” Eating is a highly complex human behavior. So my goals were often simple short-term ones, like “the next 5 pounds in _____ weeks” or “20 down by the end of the year” and so on. It was slow but steady. Many weeks I made it; sometimes not. There were plateaus; but again, there was no magic date looming in the future. (Once, after a cruise and an “up” day at the scale, I reminded my wife, “That’s just a snap shot, not the whole movie!”)

And there were sweet mileposts all along the way. The pants I had to donate; going from XL shirts (or bigger) to L’s; a lady at church asking my wife, “Is Dean sick? He’s really losing weight!”

At one point I even had a goal for someone else (something we coaches don’t recommend!). Mine was, I wanted to hear my doctor say something good without me fishing for his comment. This was the physician who earlier prescribed for me a blood pressure med for my borderline hypertension. Then came the day when he took me off of the drug! And he said, “This is really good; it’s so rare for people your age ­­– with most, I’m adding drugs, and here I’m taking you off of your only one!”

So, your vision will move you and excite you about a long term objective. But you need to remind yourself of it often — I certainly did, in restaurants and at people’s homes  for lunches or dinners; when we traveled; when I was faced with a plate of cookies or brownies at a meeting. You simply have to have the vision in front of you often: so…picture yourself fit, trim, moving, exercising well, feeling great, fitting into new clothes…whatever it takes to keep you going. Think of the powerful health benefits you gain for yourself. Weight Watchers leaders often say, “nothing tastes as good as being healthy feels.” I love that!

So, if you’re at the starting line, think long-term with a powerful vision, and rehearse it often to yourself.

Then, add short-, medium-, and long-range goals; as you reach them they will propel you forward!

The next installment: Use a program that supports real life

 

Keeping on keeping on

The great runner Jim Ryun said, “Motivation is what gets you going, habit is what keeps you going.”And of course, habit is, as they say, “where the rub is.”

The desire to make a change involves one or more motivations — those might flow out of the social, spiritual, physical or emotional areas of our lives.

 But to change a habit will often engage us at levels of decisionmaking we have resisted stubbornly, sometimes for a lifetime.We tend to drift into bad habits over long periods of time without realizing it; we conform, we “fit in”, we get comfortable in the mode of doing the easy thing. Our friends, family and business associates have grown accustomed to us at that “level”. And, “life happens” — and suddenly long term habits, well entrenched, become what mark us and in reality hold us in their tight grip.

As coaches, we often see clients who are willing to begin, perhaps simply, in one or two areas. Some motivation has moved them to think about change and with us, begin to envision and plan for change. The encouragement and support of well crafted goals and regular interaction with a coach then begin to help a client view old habits in new light and then: new habits begin to overtake old ones.

If you’re at a place where you’re motivated in one or more of life’s dimensions, don’t let things stop there! At a minimum, put something specific on paper. And if you’re ready, call us so we can assist you to form new habits which will keep you going.

Can You Motivate Others?

I read recently: “You can’t push another person up a ladder.”

The scenario regarding motivation often goes like this: one person gets charged up about health, spiritual life, physical fitness, a new commitment to career or business venture – and the husband, wife or co-worker just doesn’t share that motivation. Motivation is not easily transferred, even to people close to us.

And, it helps us to remember, that even in us, motivation is a fickle, illusive and temporary companion. So, even for us, we don’t  always persevere and stay “at” what we “really wanted” a few days or weeks or months earlier.

So, when it comes to getting others charged about something that we’re charged about, whether a spouse, child, employee or business partner, we’d do well to remember that motivation mostly comes from within (perhaps based on observing something or someone) and then it works itself to the outside.

Anda, a boss, spouse or parent can usually, at best, just motivate on a short-term or a negative basis. (Wife says to husband, “We’ve got to do something about how we’re eating….” – Or boss says, “Your raise is dependent on getting your sales figures up within the next 3 months.”) In short-term cases (and this is the problem with the short-term goal like losing 20# before a wedding) motivation lasts only for the duration of the term, or less! And with negative motivations, when the pressure reduces, the behavior reverts.

So can I help others get or stay motivated? There are some principles we can employ, like:

1. Share testimonials – without implicating the other person. When you’re ready, when the “light bulb” has gone on in your heart and mind – go for it, for your own long-term good, and then share the results. You can say things like, “Man, I feel so much better since….” Or I really enjoyed that last book I read on….” Or “You would not believe how much energy I’ve had lately…”

2. Make certain you persevere in your own motivation, despite the fact that motivation for you might wane at times. Commit and stay committed, get some accountability, assemble some cheerleaders around you who are committed to the same kind of goals. There’s nothing quite so de-motivating to a spouse, friend or child as to see you move quickly from excited, to frenzied activity, to quitting when your motivation fades.

3. Then, when and if the conversation comes (and let it be initiated by the other person) – when the conversation you’ve been wanting to have about their need to do something in the area in which you’re motivated comes: begin by assuring them of how much you love or care about them; and that that is the reason you’d love to see some transformation in them as well. Knowing someone cares deeply is one of the strongest of motivational factors.