Good Leadership

We are all leaders. I am not talking about being a lead hand, supervisor, manager, executive or c-suite level person at work.  I mean that we all set the agenda for others around us in absolutely everything that we do. In doing what we do, we are “directing “ others to do what we want them to do.

Please give yourself a short break today to think a little bit about what you are about to read. Schedule it. Ten minutes – no distractions.

What is it that sets our approach to any situation? In work settings we tend to focus our approach to match the outcome that we want. Even if we are having a bad day or are annoyed at the cafeteria for getting our order wrong a short while ago, we adjust our mood and approach in order to have an interaction that has a better chance to get us to the result we want. Usually that mood and approach will be calm, pleasant and co-operative. If we “loose it” the outcome won’t be good.

Any time we are interacting with others our mood and approach will hugely affect the outcome. If I rant at a driver who does something that I think is stupid, the outcome is a feeling of rage that is just internal to me! The idiot does not correct his/her stupid move. But when I get to my destination and park, I may take out a bit of my “rage” on some innocent person I come in contact with. That is not good leadership. It is the same in any situation that sets me on a path of anger. Similarly, if something has disappointed me or made me feel despondent I will probably “act out” in some way. 

Conscious Control

Good leaders learn fairly early on to control their own emotions and interact with others with the end in mind. Sort of sounds manipulative but it isn’t really. It puts the interaction first. What about our personal interactions? Do we do the same? Can we? Will we feel better?

Notice the key is keeping the end in mind. It’s like we have been told many times – count to ten! Think before you leap. What is the outcome you want? Will what I am just about to do lead to that outcome? Of course, we need to immediately adjust our mood and approach. Lashing out gets only negatives. Contempt gets only negatives. Anger only begets anger.

Naturally we all feel the whole range of emotions in our everyday lives. Think for just a minute about what happens when you see someone doing something amazingly helpful. When you see something crazy funny. When something just works out in your favour through no actions on your part. Your mood and feelings immediately switch, even just for a moment. We can achieve this change of mood and approach at will. Just choose. Just for the interaction with that person, choose. And then, when you walk away from that interaction, you will feel good because it was positive.

As I said earlier, set aside a few minutes to give this some thought on a very personal level. What sort of “leader” do you want to be? Keep in mind that we are all leaders all the time. Our actions impact absolutely everyone we come in contact with. And, finally, keep in mind that how we act and interact has a huge impact on how we feel. Act good, calm, reasonable, interactive, pleasant, and happy. That will then be how you feel.

Live well, love always and laugh out loud every day.

Another Year. Make it Happy!

This is a magical time of the year and it has been for thousands of years. The crops are all in, the fields have been readied for winter, food stores have been set aside. Supplies have been brought in to survive the winter months. The days have been getting shorter. Now, the days are getting longer and we look forward eagerly to the future once more!

This has been going on forever. Peoples have been celebrating this time as a time to review our past, to be grateful for what we have and to plan with eager anticipation our future. Take some time for this. Put your feet up and think for a while.

The stuff about crops and supplies for the winter and so-on is no longer literal in our society but it is in many others (and was in ours not all that long ago!). Our current calendar puts this time of the year at the end of the year so it is a great time to reflect and set goals for the coming year.

Be gentle when you reflect on this past year. Some bad things happened and you may feel guilty at even thinking about being happy or making plans. Acknowledge that, reflect back to the better times and seize on those as the better memories to hold in mind. Think also about all the good things that happened. Keep them also at the front of your mind. How did you do on your goals/resolutions from last year? Mentally celebrate the achievements and decide what to do about the ones you did not quite achieve. Let got the ones that don’t matter and plan what to do about the others (if any).

Here is a quick side note. Do you have a store of little things that bring a smile to your face or make you laugh? I have a little “fun things” file that I put stuff in as it touches me. When I am feeling a bit down and want a lift, I turn to this file and just “reach in” randomly and see what comes out. It is always good to at least shift my mood. Like the fellow who was marvelling at how a thermos can keep things cold or it can keep things hot. “How does it know?” 🙂

After you have reviewed the year, putting the good things in the front of your mind, let’s now be grateful for all that we have. I keep saying that we were so smart to choose this time and this place to be alive. We, in North America, are better off than the vast majority of the rest of the world. I personally have a great family around me that care about, and for me. Great friends to share ways to change the world for the better. Comfortable surroundings and time to do things. I have people around me that let me help them ( a true blessing). What about you? What are you grateful for?

Perscription: Live on purpose in 2011.

Now, look ahead to the coming year. Call them resolutions or goals or whatever, but, decide what you want to get done in 2011. Just go ahead and set down in writing for yourself what it is that you intend to do. It can be a give up goal or a get it done goal. Be specific. Then be sure to write out in as much detail as you can the reason this is important to do in 2011. If you cannot do this, you are not convinced so you might as well let it go now. Which is the most important to you right now? What can you do right now to start? Do it!

Repeat often during the year and have a wonderful 2011!!!!

Learning Life’s Lessons

“Life’s really important lessons are learned only one way – alone and with personal suffering. They are never easy, but, once learned, they are yours forever.”

That is a quote from a book I was reading this past week: Sherlock Holmes, The Hidden Years edited by Michael Kurland. It might seem a strange source for inspiration but after all, inspiration strikes when you are ready. My inspiration here is quite straight forward. This is how we see most of our life’s lessons learned. Through the school of hard knocks. That leads me to wonder what the role is of these sorts of blogs and the whole “self-help” industry.

I was talking to a good friend and lamenting that I could not write a book I had in mind because I could not answer the question: Who will read it? In other words, who would I be writing it for? What audience? She made a few suggestions after asking what the subject was that interested me and I came to a realization that there were two things to keep in mind. First, I had something to say to an audience. Second, I could not control whether the audience I had in mind would ever read it or not. My friend’s admonition was to write it anyway! If the intended audience did not read it now, it may later, or another unintended audience may read it and take inspiration.

Now I come to the opening quote. I think that there are indeed other ways to learn lesson of life. However, the best learned lessons when they are internalized and we apply the lesson to ourselves (and our experiences or beliefs). We learn early not to touch a hot stove element, usually not by direct experience but by someone telling us the danger and we see something burn and apply that to ourselves in our imagination. Don’t touch! However, some lessons are a bit esoteric and the effects are more distant. In those cases, if we can find no way to internalize the ideas, we are condemned to not learn and it is only when we suffer the downside that we “learn” the lesson we heard earlier.

I write these entries even if there is no learning taking place all the time. I know from my own experience, that someone may well be inspired in some way to a positive outcome. That turns my crank. I write them to have as a resource for others in times of need. The lesson appears when the student is ready. However, that lesson can only appear if it is “out there” somewhere to be able to appear.

To be sure, we all learn academically from lessons we read and study. That is how we get on in life. We learn stuff and “believe it  in theory”. When we can actually experience it, we then develop a fundamental knowing!! It is in this knowing that the lesson is yours forever. Read widely, learn lots and find ways to try to apply them to your own life whenever you can. Increase your “knowing”.

A basic knowing is that everything is a transition. No matter how bad, it is a transition. Placed in the perspective of time and the role it plays in our lives, you can be happy anyway. More to come.

What Do You Really, Really, Really, Really, REALLY Want?

Dr. Wayne Dyer asked this question in one of his talks and I think it bears considering here. Let’s try to illustrate the ideas a bit with a couple of examples after we think about what this might mean.

The idea is that what we REALLY want can only be revealed by digging down about 4 or 5 levels of our consciousness. What we want when first asked is usually something quite simple and direct. I want that idiot to wait their turn! I want bags of money. I want others to love and acknowledge my greatness! However, in each of those cases, is that really what we want if we dig down a bit?

In these days of “road rage” we seem to become a different person when we get behind the wheel of a car. We become “warriors”. If someone tries to cut in front of you, the tendency is often to close up the gap and keep the person out. Why is that? What is it we really want? We want the person to not cut in! Really? We want to teach the person a lesson by showing that cutting in is not permitted. Really? We want to not be late and we might be if everyone just cuts in so we will not let that person in. Really? If people would just wait their turn or for a safe opening, we would all be happier. Really? I think it is finally getting to the point. We want peace and respect which is a way to define happiness. So, just go straight to happiness. Control what you can, your reactions, and realize that you will get there anyway and you will get there with no feelings of anxiety or overloaded adrenalin that has not had an outlet.

Money! We all want lots of it and we believe that it will make us happier. To a certain extent, it does. But after a certain amount, it does not add to happiness. That is because we need to look a few levels down again. We want money for security. We want it to be able to buy all the neat things out there that we would love to own. Or to travel lots. When we search a bit deeper we realize that we want money to be able to help others. What we really want, when we get right down to it is to feel happy because of the things that we can do with the money. That feeling of worth and love and recognition.

Which brings me to the next one. What we are really looking for in recognition and approval is happiness. That glow of contentment.

So, when you are thinking of what you want, dig down a bit. Find out what is REALLY important and use that in making decisions and adjustments to your actions and approaches to life. Think, consider the impact of your actions, act when all is in congruence!

What to Believe?

The internet is a great place to learn and research ideas. But, what should you believe out there? There is so much information and much of it is just plain crazy! Some is just wrong and some is dangerous. So what should you do in your “due diligence”?

To my way of thinking it comes down to your thinking skills. How do you take information in and how do you determine the veracity of the ideas that are presented to you? I don’t mean on the internet, but in everyday life. Do you accept it as true if it fits with your preconceptions and prejudicial beliefs? Or, do you test the ideas against your own experience or knowledge or observations?

The latter is the way to test all information that is presented to you. I have had teachers say to me: “don’t believe me just because I tell you, see for yourself! Then believe it.” These lessons formed the basis of questioning authority in all areas of life. Not in a confrontational and negative way but in a way designed to gain understanding of the information or point of view. Then, I apply that to my experience, my knowledge and the logic that I can see. Only if I see for myself will I believe! If it sounds ok but I can’t see it for myself, I take it as a good idea or theory until it is proven to me.

Logic has to play a great role. We need to think analytically. These days there are lots of theories about why we are getting fatter and our kids are getting fatter. If we look logically at our species, we can understand that when we evolved thousands of years ago, the ones that survived were the ones who were quick,  and very fit. They were able to store energy in the form of fat to get them to the next “kill” or meal. So we are predisposed to be active and to store fat because we don’t know when we will eat again. The theories really don’t amount to much except babble. We simply need to train ourselves and our kids that we have food and we do not need to eat as though there is no more. Then, we need to be more active. Don’t just sit or lay and watch TV or your computer screen, get up and do something!

I know there is more to it than that but you get the idea. Analyze, decide what makes sense given your experience, knowledge and observations. Keep you mind open to understand other points of view and then you will really know what you believe! As always, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t true. A good thing to keep in mind with online offers and opportunities. Look and understand, then act if it makes sense to you.

Let me know what you think!

Are You Filling Up Your Life?

I have heard the expression: “It is not the years in your life that are most important to your happiness, it is the life in your years that make you happy.” We should probably change our self-definition from human beings to human doings. That way the emphasis might shift from just being and to more doing.

I read in the papers about the lives of high achievers and am always amazed at the breadth of things they do and get done during their time here on earth. I find it hard to imagine how one has time to do all that they get done. I think about great inventor and wonder at the ability to stick to it or the variety of things they come up with. I see writers who write such a huge number of books and wonder how they do it along with the living of a regular life and promoting the books. These days I see folks on the internet doing such a variety of things and making money at the same time. How do they find the time to keep it all staight?

Then I sit back a moment and think about it. The people I admire for the fullness of their lives are also very happy. They are active! I don’t think there is any secret way to find more time. It is just choices. They choose to live a full life of learning and teaching.

When you see something new, do you think “Well that is interesting.”? It is much better to apply it right away to your own life as a learning moment. Always be on the watch for new stuff that applies to you or that you can apply to yourself. Next, what would you like to know or be able to do that you cannot do or know right now? Look for a way to fit the learning into your daily life. Just do it!!! (Thanks to the shoe company for the saying.)

Where to find the time? It is different for everyone but it can be done. It is just choices. I heard once that the daily commute to work provides enough time to learn pretty much anything over time via audio books and the like. So, are you listening to talk radio or rock music? There is about an hour to an hour and a half each day for learning. Is there a TV show or two that you could really do without? That can be fitness time, or piano time, or writing time. (I am assuming that you already have good family and spouse and friends time built into your life)

One final note. What you think about is what grows. In other words, what you put your focus on is what will show up in your life. Garbage in – garbage out! Fill your mind and life with good stuff. It really is better to look for the lessons in bad situations than lament “poor me”. Figure out what you can learn form the situation and then move on. Let’s talk about grief and that sort of thing another time.

Live well, love always and laugh out loud every day.

Live Well

As far as I know, no-one gets out of life alive. We all die. We all hope to live for a very long time before we die. Do we give it much more thought than that?

It is very helpful to think about our own mortality once in a while. I have mentioned in other posts that it is useful to think about how you want to be remembered. It is essential to think about what you are passionate about and make sure you build that into your life. We should set aside time each day to focus on what it is that we are grateful for that day. Remembering that what we think about grows, we should think about what we want, not what we don’t want or fear. When bad things happen to good people, look for the good and lessons that we are being given. Look up and forward.

There are lots of cliche’s in that paragraph but cliche’s are useful because there are truths in them. We live our lives mostly in stages. I think there are three main stages that keep us moving through life and sometimes result in us being so busy that we loose focus on living well. The first third of our life is developmental. We are busy learning to be independent and acquire knowledge and skills to be able to excel in life. We acquire the tools to “make a difference” and we can’t wait to get out and apply them.

The second third of our life is achieving. We are busy applying our knowledge and skills to achieve great things. We are having a family and teaching our kids how to be just like us (or better!). We are developing great relationships that help us in our ventures, whether business or raising our families. Some continue to learn but mostly to enhance our building a good life. Sometimes we are so busy building the good life, we forget to live it (too busy to travel, too busy to enjoy outings with family and friends, too busy to spend a quiet evening with the love of your life – all of those things can be done a bit later!).

The third stage of our life is the time we start to review what we have done and to think about leaving some sort of legacy behind so we will be well remembered. These are the sunset years. This is when we usually reap what we have sown during the previous parts of our lives. Often we have regrets that we feel are too late to do anything about. We should have spent more time with our kids. We should have paid more attention to our spouse. We should have stopped more to “smell the roses”. I should have gone hang gliding when I was younger.

I want to tell you that it is never too late or too early to learn to live well. What I mean by that is to live your life in the full knowledge that you get only one chance to live your life. Make choices that lead to contentment and happiness all along the voyage. Do not fall into the trap of living a “very safe” (boring) life so that you can live a very long time. Always remember that it is not the years in your life that are the measure of happiness, but it is the life in your years. LIVE! NOW! CARPE DIEM!

I am not advocating recklessness. Rather, I am saying, don’t put things off. Find ways to do them now. Live today while still planning for tomorrow. That also means you need to know what it is that you really want to do. Check out your dream list. Make plans. Act!

The Nature of Happiness

I have been pondering the nature of happiness for years. What can be defined as happiness? How does one know if one is happy or not? Can one be happier? Is there a limit? Is happiness fickle? Can you lose happiness once you tell yourself that you are happy? Lots of this sort of thought.

Do any of these sorts of questions really matter? Isn’t happiness an individual and internal thing? How I might define happiness is very different from how a person living on the streets might define it. Different from how a person living in the jungles of the Amazon might define it. Different from how a teenager might define it. Different from how a person who has been diagnosed with a terminal disease and has months to live might define it. Happiness is a very subjective thing indeed.

BUT! There are certainly some basic similarities in all cases. People generally want to feel like their existence makes a difference. That there is some purpose to life in general and in their life in particular. What many of us do during our lives is motivated at least in part by this generality. What is missing is an idea of what you want the picture to turn out like. I will address this again a bit later.

Remember Maslow? His depiction of the hierarchy of needs? People strive to fulfil needs in a hierarchy that he described in his works. The most basic needs are food, water and shelter. Then social needs and so on. I think that when one feels one has met the absolute basic needs, only then can happiness be considered. In other words, even homeless folks living on the streets can, and do, enjoy periods of happiness. It may be a brief period of time but they experience it and aim for it when the absolute basic needs are met. A good argument for addressing basic needs for everyone. We all want to live in a state of general happiness.

So, what can we do to live in a state of general happiness? It has been a secret that has been revealed once again. The Law of Attraction! Not a secret at all. It has been studied and written about lots in the past hundred years or so. Before that it was written about and shared amongst the leaders of the world (political, business and religious). Now it is widely disseminated. Do we get it yet? Napoleon Hill wrote about people becoming what they tink about. Earl Nightingale popularise that in his ground-breaking recording “The Strangest Secret”. Even the Bible says that “as you sow, so shall you reap”. What you think about expands and grows. Focus on what you want – not what you do not want.

I said I would come back to the idea of how you want things to turn out. Happiness becomes a state of living if you are living a life congruent with your view of living a worthwhile life. How can you feel secure in that unless you know the end from the beginning? If you know how things will turn out, you make choices along the way that lead to happiness during the voyage and certainly near the end when you look back. Let there be no regrets. Think about what you would like people to say about you at your funeral. What would you like friends, family, business associates, employees and so on, say? What do you think they would say if you were to die today? See a gap? Make the changes you need to make so they can say what you would like to be remembered for and be happy anyway. Live a worthwhile life incrementally achieving worthwhile goals.

How can you be happy anyway after something like this?

I just read a story in the paper about the suicide of a young man (17 years old). He was a great son and brother and friend who seemed to be lively and full of living. He joked around lots and was a great person to be around. Yet, there were signs that there may have been problems in the background. This young man decided he had had enough and chose to hang himself the day after the wake for a friend who had also committed suicide. The note he left behind was moving and upbeat. He said that he had just had enough!

The suicide and whether it could have been averted are not the issues I want to dwell on right now. This story seriously challenges my premiss that you can be happy anyway! How could you be happy anyway if you were the parent or brother or friend who had to face the reality of this loss? The short answer, of course, is that you could not! Not in the short-term. Time has to be allowed to grieve. Time has to be allowed in order to feel the remorse that you did not personally stop it. Time has to be allowed to think about all the things that will not happen now and to fondly start to remember the wonderful things that were a part of this lost life.

Only then can you start to turn towards happiness again. The plea of the young man was for those he left behind to have only fond memories of him. Good advice. It is what we choose to focus on that will determine how we feel. If we stay lost in the grief, we have only grief in our lives. Start as soon as you can to think of the good memories. Bring them to the front of the mind.

But what if there are no good memories that you can call up? Wow. That is a lesson right there. Focus on what can be learned. In a time-line of eternity, perhaps this life was lived just to teach one lesson. What was it? Do you see the thread here?

Look forward again. Remember the good things but look forward. There simply are not enough tears in the world to bring back the lost. Recall the good. Learn the lessons that may present themselves. Then, look forward to do things that will continue to focus on happiness. It may be to take care of others at risk. It may be to take care of yourself and get help for your depression or what ever may be bothering you right now. It may be to start a new activity. It may be to go for a walk in the park!

Grieve, of course! Remember the good, of course! Look forward and enjoy planning to live well, love always and to laugh out loud every day, of course!

Just for the joy of it!

I heard a couple of interesting things this past week or so. First, the vast majority of people in North America are basically happy. In another story, people with disabilities have been studied and those that have made very good adjustments are also basically happy. So why does it feel like people feel that something is missing and they want to achieve happiness still?

My theory on that is that we are so wrapped up in every-day things that we actually forget to be happy. When we sit and think about it for a while, we realise that we are basically happy. Something seems to be missing but we are happy overall. Let’s break out once in a while and do something very child like and bring back some joy into our lives. Joy that we feel and can recall when we get busy with everyday life again.

Create a huge Joy List. Remember when you were a kid and what it felt like to run out into the rain on a warm summer day? What it felt like to see a puddle and just go over to it and jump up and down, splashing all over the place? Remember the joy of taking a walk on a clear, cold day in winter along the edge of a frozen river? These are a couple of my joyful memories. Write a huge list for yourself of things that bring you joy. Sitting on a patio with friends enjoying a libation. The music you love to listen to (not just have on as background music but that you really like to listen to).

Did you write it down? Please do write it out because you need to post this in a few places where you will see it often. Be sure to include activities that bring you joy that you can make time for when you feel like you need a small boost. Kids are spontaneous. Be spontaneous in doing some of these things on your joy list. Just do something! Laugh about it while you are doing it. Luxuriate.

Most of us are happy overall. We just forget that fact in the hectic lives we live. This is different than events happening that bring us sadness and despair. Those are dealt with in different ways. But, day to day we just get wrapped up in living and forget to be consciously happy. That is when it is great to bring out the Joy List and pick something that appeals and do it right away. Make your list. Post it. Do stuff! Enjoy!