A quick plug: Starting next Tuesday, I'll be teaching Developing Mindful Habits, a 4-week online course that helps you have less stress and worry and be more productive and creative at work.
Take a look and see if it's right for you, and please share it with others!
Take it easy. There will always be another hard project, hard job, difficult coworker, tough situation or some other thing you'll have to deal with. These difficult things will make you difficult if you let them.
Instead, approach them easily, with grace. Lightly work through them, not necessarily protecting yourself, but rather being part of it to the degree you don't hurt yourself.
That means not giving yourself a hard time too.
Dealing with hard things easily lets you know when "enough" approaches. Going past "enough" is not bad in and of itself, but it's something many of us do unconsciously. Choosing to do it puts you back in the driver seat.
You become easy-going because you accomplish things easily.
Don't cut corners though. This isn't about half-assed work or not trying hard. That's just another form of protecting yourself and will make things even harder as time goes on. You're only doing less now to do more later.
Start simply by looking at how you walk, talk, and sit. How much effort do you put in these activities you do all the time?
A good question to ask yourself is:
Are you walking, talking or sitting with your mind?
What would it be like if it were just your body? Be light with yourself first and soon you'll be lighter with others and your work too. Smile and others will smile too.
And things may just be a little easier for everyone...
What do you do to take it easy while working hard? Are you aware when you've gone past whatever "enough" means for you?
Share your thoughts with me over email.
I can jump on a 2 foot high box from the ground with both feet planted because I can visualize myself doing it. Being able to see the process and the result is why I don't catch my foot on the box and fall forward.
I can also see myself clearing the edge of a 2.5 foot high box without falling, though it starts feeling a little out of my reach. If it's a 3 foot high box, I can't see myself completing the jump and that's when uncertainty sets in.
The first doubt is mental.
Seeing others clear 3, 4, or even 5 foot high boxes helps because then I know it's possible. Perhaps after months, maybe years of training my legs, I may be able to get there, but I will first and foremost need to see myself doing it without falling for it to be possible.
Success in other areas
Same goes with running a mile, or being a CEO, or starting a company, or cooking a Thanksgiving meal, or hiking the Grand Canyon. If you can see it, you can do it.
If you doubt yourself, there's two options available to you:
Option 1 - Training so you can see
This is a more linear approach to doing what you want. Say you want to get a promotion to a managerial level. You're not sure about your leadership capability though, so you read books, take a management class, practice delegating, learn how to motivate and question, and in general get better at managing people and projects. Over a period of time, you can see yourself being a manager because you've trained for it.
Option 2 - Seeing so you can train
Now take option 2, where you see yourself doing the thing you want to accomplish and figure out how to train accordingly. Using the same example of getting promoted to a manager, you start visualizing yourself leading people and projects. You not only mentally picture the reality, you also write down what it would be like to act as a manager versus an employee. You walk into the office and look at your projects with a managerial hat on, thinking, "What would a manager do?" You observe other managers you admire and mimic their habits and behaviors. Over a period of time, you feel confident that you can be a manager because you've been seeing yourself do it.
What's the real difference?
In both cases, there's practice and training involved, but from a slightly different perspective. You're still learning to be a manager, just from a different vantage point.
Option 1 helps you train separate from your day-to-day until you feel ready to apply your training in your life.
Option 2 helps you see how to train within your day-to-day and feel out the difference immediately in your life.
One option is no better than the other, but typically we assume option 1 is the only option. Some of us come across option 2 and find it to be non-linear, and perhaps even a little strange. That's true of any new practice. It feels odd at first until you try it a few times.
Option 2 will happen anyway
In fact, there comes a point in option 1 when you've trained enough that you can start seeing yourself moving to the next level. The visualization becomes a reality in your mind at some point, and you feel like you can take a leap of faith, especially if it's adding inches to your box jump.
You can't tell why you feel that you can do something you thought you couldn't do before, but you just know.
Option 2 simply starts at that inflection point. It assumes you're there already and asks you to train in a way that fits that new imagined reality.
This works for things you do not want to do as well, such as habits you want to break, or behaviors you want to change. You have to be able to see yourself notdoing them in order for them to be real.
As Seth Godin puts it, imagining is usually the first step.
Which option do you usually choose? Does there come a point when you can see yourself doing something you hadn't done before? How does that change your ability to do it? I'd love to hear your perspective, so email me your thoughts.
Lately, I've found myself taking the longer route home.
It's longer by a minute or so, and goes through a residential neighborhood with large trees that hover above the road, hanging their leaves in a makeshift canopy. I take a turn around a stone wall with foliage growing between the gaps in the stones. The houses in the area have an aesthetic that reminds me of my childhood home, evoking calm and comfort.
This sounds idyllic, and yet until recently, I had been taking the faster route home because of my love of efficiency. This route takes me through a more commercial area on a tight road where I have to be cautiously careful to drive within the lanes. I make a turn near a gas station, having to smell the fumes of gasoline as I drive by.
There's a stark difference in scenery when I choose destination over the journey, but a part of me just wants to get home sooner to relax in a place I find calm and comfortable. Sound familiar?
I recently read a line in a novel that pointed out another approach:
"It is not the destination that matters, but how one arrives there."
In a more direct way, it echoes the famous quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson:
"Life is a journey, not a destination"
When I am in destination mode, "there" is more important than "getting there." But even after I walk in the door, oftentimes I'm still prioritizing speed. I'm ready to get out of my work clothes, start making dinner, plan my evening, do some chores, and anything else that gets me "there."
It takes a while till my home environment slowly seeps into my bones and ushers in the relaxation I so thoroughly need.
Knowing that the need for efficiency is still in my system, I sometimes meditate when I get home or listen to music I find soothing, or just lie in bed for 10 minutes. All are techniques that work, and all are coping mechanisms that avoid the root of the problem - my belief that the destination is more important than the journey.
When I'm in journey mode though:
I'm just enjoying the process of getting there.
I still want to get home, but not at the expense of enjoying the journey. I might be five, or even ten minutes late, but what difference does that make in the scheme of things if I walk in more relaxed, happy, easy-going? Isn't that why I was doing all those relaxation techniques when I got home anyway?
Choosing journey over destination becomes an attitude.
In the summer, I favor the journey most of the time. In the winter, when both roads are equally dreary, and a warm home is calling to me, I find myself taking the faster route. But, when I think about it, the quality is embedded in the shorter amount of time it takes me to arrive. The journey still matters.
Turns out the more commercial route has an overhang of beautiful lights along the way, so it serves as a replacement for the tree canopy above the cars!
Which route do you choose more often? Destination or journey?
Please email me your thoughts. These emails come only to me and help prompt ideas for future posts. In fact, let me know if there is something you'd like me to write about, in terms of mindfulness, spirituality, or personal growth, and I'll do my best to reflect that on the front page.
Getting Things Done
It's great to be an achiever, to get things done, until it becomes OVER-achieving and the process becomes stressful and loses its flare.
The irony is that achievement begets a desire for greater achievement. It requires you to set the bar higher, to do more and do it better. You lose track of what you were achieving in the race to get things done. The reward becomes a slave driver instead of a challenge. The process becomes a chore instead of a high.
Anyone who comes from a demanding family, went to a tough school or worked in a fast-paced job knows this inherently. What leads to success also lead to stress. No pain, no gain right? Sound familiar?
How do you stop the "over" and keep the "achieving"?
More Input ≠ More Output
The old adage of work smarter, not harder applies here. How? Achievement acts like any addictive behavior in that it reinforces itself. Once you have achieved a goal, the reward for the next goal must provide a greater sense of achievement. This upward trend is not sustainable though. When have you achieved enough to stop? When can you take a break?
Redirecting Your Energy
Recognizing when the marginal change for a given project becomes negative allows you to shift your energy to a project where the marginal change is much more positive. A leisure activity to break the routine, another fun project like getting in shape for a 5K or learning to play an instrument or reading David McCollough's 752-pg biography of John Adams are but a few ideas.
A break creates eustress opportunities that keep you fresh for the original task that became stale due to over-doing. No need to reset, but rather redirect focus to another area that lights you up. Interests you and moves you. Excitement is contagious and will spread not only to others but also to yourself and your other projects or the original project you put off.
Try it out and share your thoughts!