Turbulent Times

Once again, the financial markets are adding to the uncertainty as we muddle our way through the third year of COVID. At the same time, we read that retail sales outperformed expectations in January while supply chain challenges continue.

What to do? 

As the adage goes, we can’t control what happens around us; we can only control how we respond. 

While we would like to believe we can separate ourselves from what is happening to us, we know that, at least for most of us, that isn’t so. Losses in our life affect our well-being. And, financial losses, business or personal, can impact our sense of well-being and, therefore, our health.

On the flip side, what about when things are consistently good for an extended period of time? Do we become complacent? Life is good, so why not enjoy, enjoy, enjoy. And, when does enjoyment become an adverse health factor?

One of my clients shared the following story with me. 

Each time his business hits a tough cycle, competitors exit, and his company dips. At the same time, his well-being was impacted, feeling depressed and losing weight, yet he continued to focus on health and fitness. Then the company survives and thrives again with new achievements. 

When things are on an upswing, he begins to relax; life feels good, he feels good. He finds himself eating, traveling, enjoying more, and gaining weight. Again, he is mindful of his behavior and begins to focus on health and hygiene.

My sense is his business recovery consistently outperforms his peers because he continues to take care of his mental and physical hygiene when things look their bleakest and when things look their brightest.

I am grateful to him for reminding me that maintaining our mental and physical health is a balancing act that ebbs and flows and to be mindful of the impact of both ups and downs.

Go Ahead, Drop Some Balls

A friend of mine recently received a significant promotion. While he is excited about his promotion, he is searching for his replacement and, for now, is doing both jobs. When I asked him how it was going, he responded, “just trying to get it all done, without dropping any balls.”

This conversation reminded me of one I had with one of my clients. She was lamenting the challenges one of her executives has with burnout. In this case, the CEO said, “I wish he would learn to drop some balls; his effort to get everything done is what is causing his burnout!”

The’ to-do list’ can seem endless for those who want to dot every I and cross every T (I admit I am one of them). What I heard this wise CEO saying was, “go ahead, drop some balls,” just choose the ones you are going to drop.

What if, instead of starting each day with a list of what we are going to do, we begin by removing the things we aren’t going to do. Here are some examples to get you started:

  • What if you reviewed email once or twice per day and let everyone know this is your plan?
  • What if you coded your email so that critical emails moved to a priority list, and you responded to these first and removed yourself from cc lists?
  • What if for everything that comes your way, you paused and asked yourself, does this email, call, text, inquiry even require a response? And if it does, is this something only I can do? Or can I delegate it?
  • What if you paused before saying “yes”?

How Do You Find Serenity?

Sometimes the demands of one part of our life, work or family, consume us. Sometimes because of a crisis, sometimes because of a spike in workload or children’s sports or…, sometimes just because we become depleted.

These days, mobile devices link us 24/7 to the office, our bosses, employees, and coworkers. We are, as I heard it said recently, living in time poverty. Now more than ever, it may be necessary to pause, regroup, and allow ourselves to do something counterintuitive; listen to music, go sailing, jogging, practice yoga, make pottery, or go for a walk.

Why counterintuitive? Because our responsible self says, stay with it, do the work, finish the project, take care of the sick loved one, etc. We tell ourselves it’s selfish to do something for ourselves “at a time like this.”

If we think of our lives as a three-legged stool….when one leg is gone, it won’t balance and falls over. We can’t just go back and forth between the pressures of work and family. This where the third leg, a completely different activity, one that is ours alone, comes in.

At the height of World War II, when the pressures were immense, President Roosevelt would escape to his stamp collection for an hour or so, doing something completely different. General George Marshall would ride horseback many mornings to relieve the pressures of building and leading an army of 8 million.

Consider this —

  • What is your third stool leg to balance your life?
  • How often are you trying to balance on only two legs?
  • How might you feel if all three legs were grounded on most days?

The Dog Days of Summer

What if we simply accept August as the time to recharge our batteries, then get started on next year’s personal or business strategic plan in September?

The “dog days” occurred in late July to the Greeks and Romans, when Sirius appeared to rise just before the sun. They referred to those days as the hottest time of the year, a period that could bring fever or even catastrophe.

Today we think of dog days as the time of the year marked by lethargy and often inactivity. Here’s another spin: What if we were simply to accept August as the time to recharge? And then once we charge our batteries, we get a jump-start on what we want, personally and professionally, for next year?

All of us possess an inner reservoir of positive energy. It is this positive energy that enables us to move forward. And the human body, like all other energy-powered machines, needs to be charged regularly.

Most of us think of recharging as taking time off. For some, time off means long walks. For others, it means sitting by the beach. Still others look for adventure. All of these methods allow the body to recharge.

And what about recharging the mind? Is it possible to refresh both the mind and the body at the same time? And, like everything else, is there a benefit to being intentional?

For me, recharging the mind comes from learning. Sometimes it’s reading about leaders that inspire me; sometimes, it’s watching a Ted Talk on a topic totally outside what I know and see daily. Taking this journey outside the norm gives me a new perspective and the ability to ask better questions of my clients as they plan for the coming year.

Find your source of inspiration. Become intentional about recharging during these dog days of August.

Declare Your Independence

One of my favorite books and one I recommend to all my clients is Necessary Endings, by Henry Cloud. 

In this book, Cloud uses a metaphor of rose bushes and compares them to our businesses, careers, and lives. He explains that a rose bush cannot support all the buds it creates. The beautiful ones only become so because of pruning. Cloud describes three types of pruning: pruning the good but not great branches, pruning the sick branches, and finally pruning the deadwood. Perhaps the last two types are obvious, albeit sometimes hard to do in life. The first made me pause; really, I need to cut off some good branches for my rose bushes to flourish?

As I think about Independence Day, I am noticing the parallel between necessary endings and independence. For some of our forefathers, my guess is the relationship with Great Britain was good but not great. It certainly had benefits to go with the taxes and other challenges. And yet, despite the benefits, the founders of our country had the courage to recognize that an ending was necessary, declare their independence, and fight for it.

So, for each of us, the question becomes…

Who or what do we need to declare our independence from (and perhaps fight to summon the courage to do it) so that we and our organizations can flourish like a well-pruned rose bush?

Ending Is Beginning

A couple of weeks ago, I asked the question: How Do You Know When It Is Time To Go? I received so many responses that I was inspired to write this Part II.

When a new client begins my You Pivot™ Program, I recommend a couple of books, one of which is Necessary Endings by Dr. Henry Cloud. The premise of Dr. Cloud’s book is that we must learn to let go if we are to move forward. 

Often, the idea of letting go, we internalize as giving up. And, giving up is antithetical to our training. Starting from childhood, we are taught “don’t be a quitter.”

So what gives? The answer says Dr. Cloud is in getting to the pruning moment. Throughout his book, Dr. Cloud shares stories of the relief and success people discover once they choose to let go. 

My clients in my You Pivot™ program learn that the pruning moment can only come when they get unstuck. And that getting unstuck is a process that begins with contemplating essential questions. Below is a sampling of these questions:

What Is Your Today Story? 

  • When and where did you begin?
  •  Where are you in your life journey? 
  • How many years/career versions are left? 

What Matters To You? 

  • How does today compare to what matters? 
  • What has worked so far in your career? What has not worked? 

What Is Your Tomorrow Story? 

  • What is the content of the next chapter of your life?
  •  What endings are necessary to achieve your tomorrow story? What will you do to create the story you wrote? 

Once my clients discover the answers to these questions and others like them, without exception, I hear, “I wish I had made this change a year ago,” or sometimes, I hear, “I wish I had made it years ago.”