post

Welcome pain as you make a change

Most of us know that we need to make changes in our lives. Change can enrich our lives or the lives of others. Change can also help you become a better and more effective person. The change may be relatively minor or it could be a major life change. Either way it is going to be painful.

Think about any major change to your life; graduation, marriage, job change, childbirth, moving, financial progress. Have any of these changes been easy and painless?

I have experienced several major changes in my life. All required me to experience pain as I went through the change.

I decided to change when;

  • I decided to leave a company I worked at for over 10 years.
  • My wife an I decided to buy the houses we have lived in.
  • We decided to get out of debt.

Changes happened to me when:

  • I had to confront a life threatening illness.
  • My wife and I found out we were having twins.
  • I was laid off from a job.

Each of these major changes were painful and difficult. Whether you make the decision to change or the change happens to you, making a change is about the same amount of pain either way.

There is significant pain in being self disciplined to make the change. What is painful is that you dont have anything pressing you to make the change except for your own motivation. It is difficult to keep yourself motivated when you are making the choice to change. Your natural tendency is to go back to follow the momentum of your normal life.

  • When I decided to leave the company I worked for, I struggled with staying in the position that was known to me and was comfortable. It was painful to leave and find another job.
  • With each house we purchased, we struggled with wanting to stay where we were comfortable and how we were going to afford it. It was painful realizing we were leaving our neighbors, family and the life we knew.
  • When we decided to get out of debt, it was painful leaving our old way of spending money. We had to keep our eye on the long term benefits we felt we would have by becoming and remaining debt free.

If you wait, pain will force you to make a change. Being forced to change is painful because you are not in control. There is a lot of anxiety and uncertainty and it feels like the change is happening to you rather than you happening to the change.

  • When I was confronted with a life threatening illness, many decisions were made for me. Sure I could have decided to not have the surgeries but are those really decisions? The physical pain of recovery was nothing compared to the pain of the uncertainty life.
  • When the doctor told us we were having twins, I struggled with how we were going to manage. I remember how much change was applied to our lives when we had our first child, now we had to deal with how to manage two at the same time.
  • When I was laid off, someone else decided it was time for me to change careers. It was painful because I worried about my ability to earn an income and wondered what I would do next.

Even though making a change is painful, I suggest making the change yourself when possible. Visualize the pain you will experience later if you dont make the change now. Make the visualization as real as possible. Write it down, record it on a video recorder, talk it through with a friend or family member. Then committ to making the change.

I have a few quotes that inspire me with this topic:

Not all change is positive growth but all positive growth requires change. Dan Miller

People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I dont believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are people who look for the circumstances they want, and if they cant find them, make them. – George Bernard Shaw

And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. – Anais Nin

What changes have happened to you that you didnt have any control? What change are you considering right now? What could happen if you dont make the change?

post

I’ll tell you what to do. It is your decision

We are told what to do at some point by just about everyone we know. Your boss tells you what to do, so do your parents, friends, spouse, family members, and even commercials. It can seem like you don’t have a choice in the matter. If someone who has authority over you tells you what to do, you had better do it or else. . .  . It is the “or else” that you should think about.

What would happen if you said no? What if you said yes but decided to do it a different way? Whatever you told to do, it is up to you do decide if you are going to do it. If you decide to do it, it is still up to you to decide how you are going to do it (their way or your way).

Making the decision may seem like an easy road. You may think that you can just do what you want. You must also consider the results of your decision. You have to live with the results of your actions. You will either benefit or suffer from these results. With decisions comes responsibility. Whatever you decide, you need to own the decision and the result.

When someone tells you to do something:

  • Decide what you are going to do. Determine the benefits and the consequences. If I decide to not do my project, I may be able to do what I want and have fun with my family but also risk missing my deadline or live with the burden and guilt of putting off my project. If I decide to do my project, I may miss having fun with my family now but will be able to have guilt free fun later after I meet my deadline and may be recognized for my good work.
  • If you decide to take action, take full ownership. Once you decide to take action, it is your total responsibility, even if you don’t get a good result. You may allow others to influence your decision but ultimately it is up to you to take the action.
  • If you decide not to take action, take full ownership. Once you decide to not take action, you need to be able to defend it to yourself and possibly others.
If it is not right, do not do it; if it is not true, do not say it. – Marcus Aurelius

What difficult decisions have you had to make? Read comments here or create your own comment below.

post

I’m not accountable to anyone: Now what?

Successful people appear to have it all together. They make their own decisions, no one tells them what to do, they don’t make mistakes, they have it all figured out. This just simply is not true. In some form or fashion they have found a way to be accountable to someone else. What you don’t see is the behind the scenes accountability in their lives. Making yourself accountable is being accountable to someone else.

I’ve fallen in to this trap by trying to be self-sufficient. I’ve even told myself that if I was going to be truly successful, I shouldn’t need anyone’s help. I believed that being accountable to someone else just slowed down my flexibility to do what needed to be done. What I later discovered was that doing things without accountability really made me spin my wheels and accomplish less.

I’ve had this idea of writing a book for years. For the last several years I have said that, “this is the year I will write my book”. But year after year I really didnt accomplish much of anything. This year will be no different if I don’t drastically change course. That change of course had to do with accountability.

I started sharing my goals and plans with the people closest to me like my wife and kids. Along with a good friend of mine, I also established an accountability group. We meet weekly to hold each other’s feet to the fire to accomplish our goals. We have grown to three in the group now and in the process of adding another person. Our meeting basically includes:

  • Announce successes since last week. This is where we get to share with the group what we accomplished. Some weeks are better than others. I can always find one or two tasks that I can complete. Sometimes I finish these commitments just before we meet so I can have success to report. This weekly requirement makes me accomplish more than I would otherwise.
  • Ask for help. Sometimes members of the group can help. It’s okay if they can’t help sometimes. Just verbally announcing what I need help with is sometimes enough for me to understand what to do. If I wasn’t able to articulate what I need help with I wouldn’t be able to figure out where to seek help.
  • Announce plans to accomplish next week. This is where the rubber meets the road. I commit each week to the group what I will accomplish next week. This breaks up what I need to do into manageable weekly chunks. I am honest with obstacles that I see and I am forced to find a way past these obstacles.

Who can you be accountable to? Maybe it is your spouse, parents, or close friend. Maybe it is a partner, neighbor, or pastor. Whoever it is, ask them to help you be accountable. Without accountability it is too easy to justify putting off actions or moving a target date. Accountability can keep you motivated, identify solutions, and remain productive.

Who are you accountable to? What tasks do you keep postponing because no one is holding you accountable? Leave a comment here.

post

Pay to play: Change your life by paying for it

You probably want to become better at something. If not, you should. We were designed to be better than the day before. My high school band director always said, “just be better than you were yesterday”. What motivates you to fully commit to being better? What prevents you from breaking through to the next level?

Sometimes a new commitment is necessary to break through. To make a significant jump will require you to pay a price (money, time, energy, public announcement). It needs to be something that causes a bit of pain or risk (aka sacrifice). Without sacrifice, you will not commit to make the change.

When I was deciding what platform to use for this blog, I could have gotten a free blog from Google. I choose instead to pay for this blog through WordPress. Of course I benefit with a paid platform with better features. What I also get for paying is that I am more committed to blogging now. It was a little painful to part with that money. This pain is worth it because it is one more component that keeps me motivated.

The pain you feel makes overcoming that pain more satisfying. To get a college degree, you have to commit to several years of hard work and a chunk of money to get the degree. To have a great marriage, you must commit to work through conflict, make compromises, and sacrifice your personal time. To become a great athlete, you must commit to countless practices in bad weather, time away from friends, and sore muscles.

To make a true change in your life you must pay for it.

  • Determine what you want to change in your life. Don’t think about how you will do it, just determine what you want to change. Write it down with as much detail as possible.
  • Make a plan. Write out what you will need to do to accomplish your goal. Organize your list by putting it in order by what needs to be done first through completion.
  • What will it take to change? What price will you have to pay to achieve your goal? List everything you know you will have to “pay” to achieve your goal.
  • Pay the price.If you need to buy something buy it. If you need to carve out time schedule it. If you need to announce it tell everyone.
  • Do it. Commit to doing it. You may not make meaningful progress every day. “Just be better than you were yesterday.”
  • Appreciate the pain. When you are in pain, not having fun, wishing you were doing something else, remember that this pain is what will get you to your goal. Celebrate the pain because that is the only thing that will help you achieve your goal. The more pain, the more satisfying your result will be when you accomplish your goals.

What change do you want to make in your life? What have you been putting off because you want to avoid the pain? Read other people’s comments or write your own here.

post

Taking control: You dont have to do everything

There just isn’t enough time to get everything done. Not only have we heard people say this but you have said it to yourself. The problem with that phrase is that you don’t have to do everything. What you need to do are the things that are most important. And, there IS enough time to do what is important. Winston Churchill said, It is no use saying, We are doing our best. You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.

Everyone has 24 hours every day, 168 hours every week, 8,736 hours every year. Think of the most successful people in the history of the world. They have (or had) the same amount of time that you and I do. They just decided to spend their time differently.

A common defense is that you don’t have control of your time. People will say that other people or responsibilities determine how their time must be spent. That is not entirely true. Most of the time consequences are determined by other people or responsibilities. What you need to decide is whether you can accept the consequences for how you spend your time. Sometimes those consequences are unbearable but if you are honest with yourself you still make the decision. How you spend your time is within your control.

Stephen Covey (author of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) said, “The way you spend your time is a result of the way you see your time and the way you really see your priorities.”

Whether you plan how you spend your time or not, you are already making decisions about what’s important. What people usually don’t do well is determining what the most important things are beforehand.

To start to have an understanding of how you spend your time:

  • Make a list of everything you do in a given day. Write this list in a column. Some examples might be, sleep, getting dressed, breakfast, commuting, meetings, lunch, exercise, preparing dinner, dinner, family time, reading, email, watching TV, doing homework, playing games, laundry, extracurricular activities, etc. Add whatever else you do to this list.
  • In the next column write down how much time each of these activities takes for you to do each day. (keep it simple and use half hour or quarter hour increments)
  • Add up the total.

What is the number that you added up?

  • Is your number less than 24 hours?
    • If so, what activity do you do that you did not put in your list. Add that to the list and add the total time again.
    • If there isn’t anything else to add, where did you miss judge the amount of time you spend? The 24 hours doesn’t change. You are spending your time doing something. Label it and add it to your list.
  • Is your number more than 24 hours?
    • If so, what did you list that you really don’t do. If someone else actually does that activity, then remove it from your list (ex. delegated tasks like housework).
    • If you still have a number greater than 24 hours, review your list and adjust the time to what is real. Ill make a bold statement here but I can say with confidence that it is impossible to spend more than 24 hours in a day. Make the numbers right.

This exercise should help you realize where you are spending your time. Are you spending your time doing things that are making a difference in your life or in someone else’s life? If not, maybe you shouldn’t be doing those activities. Only you can manage your own time and decide what is most important. A future post will show how you can determine which activities you should be spending your time doing.

post

Focus on the task at hand

There are so many opportunities to make choices in just about every moment of every day. We can choose to watch television, play games, read, surf the internet (including Facebook/Twitter), text, spend time outside, . . . the list goes on. When you have a task to do, git-er-done (as a famous comedian would say). It can be so easy to jump from one thing to another, especially when you have a task that you don’t want to do.

When you allow distractions to get in the way of completing a task, it prolongs the task. Think about that for a minute. If there is a task that you need to do but you jump to a “fun” distraction, it only prolongs the task.

I struggle with this every day. If I need to wash the dishes. While washing dishes I will have the television on (lying to myself that I can do both at the same time). I get distracted and end up stopping for a few minutes to watch what is happening on television. In reality it takes me at least twice as long to do the dishes vs. keeping the television off.

To discipline yourself to get the task done:

  • Focus on task at hand. Recognize that you want to do something else. I no longer watch television when I do dishes. I will turn on music rather than television because I know music doesn’t won’t slow me down. It actually motivates me (except when I dance).
  • Reward yourself. Once you complete the task(s), reward yourself with a “fun” activity that would normally distract you. Limit the fun activity to a short period of time so that you can move on to the next task. When using my computer, I will want to jump to surfing the internet. It is now my reward after getting important tasks done.

It was Helen Keller who said, Do not persist in folly. It is not a badge of character to continue down the wrong road.

What distracts you? How to do you combat distractions? Leave a comment here.

post

People are watching you.

You may not think what you do matters but everything you do matters. People are watching everything you say and do. People are making judgments about you including what you wear and how you act.

It may be politically incorrect to judge someone but it is human nature. Think of two people who you look up to and admire. Now, think of two people that you do not admire. Now ask yourself, what’s the difference? What about the people you admire makes you admire them? What about the people you don’t admire makes you not admire them? You are probably judging them for what they have said, or done, or how they present themselves and how they treat people. Everyone you know is making the same judgment about you. It may not seem fair but it is reality.

I have seen this countless times. A guy I used to work with would gossip about other people. When he was with the people he gossiped about, he would act like their friend. He thought that talking about other people would forge a bond with the people he gossiped to. He struggled creating any real friendships because everyone knew that he was probably talking about them behind their back too.

We have all had that “sixth sense” when we know friendship isn’t genuine. So how do we become someone that people look up to?

You should always focus on being an example to others. Even when you think other people aren’t around. How you conduct yourself when you don’t have to be on your best behavior transcends subconsciously to other parts of your life.

I determined three areas that I am trying to be an example to others this year:

  • Always be honest. Sometimes honesty comes at a price. I don’t have to be brutal with my honesty and hurt a valuable relationship. Part of my honesty has been a focus on not bending the truth just to avoid conflict. I try to be honest in a beneficial way. I spend much of my honesty focus on being honest with myself which is sometimes even more difficult.
  • Be a leader in everything. John Maxwell says that “leadership is a verb, not a noun”. Being a leader is being an example to others. I try to think like a leader and make decisions (even the hard ones) by asking myself, What would a leader do?
  • Be productive in everything. I am constantly asking if what I am doing right now is productive or is it giving in to a distraction. This is a constant struggle for me. I will write in a future blog about using your mission statement to keep you focused on productivity. This doesn’t mean that I always have to be productive. I value time to rest and just have fun sometimes.

Thomas Jefferson said an incredible quote that I have used for years, “act as if the entire world is watching then act accordingly”. Anything you do should be something you would be proud if anyone was watching.

What do other people do that causes you to lose respect for them? What do you do that people look up to? Write a comment here.

post

Check your attitude: Its your responsibility

Check your attitude: Its your responsibility

Stephen Covey describes this as “responsibility” or “response-ability”. You have the ability (or responsibility) to choose how you respond. If you have a bad attitude, it is because you have chosen it. Likewise, if you have a good attitude, it is because you have chosen it.

I choose to have a good attitude in most everything that I do. I am not any better than anyone else. I am sure that most of my friends and family will tell you that I generally have a good attitude. It has taken me years of practice and decisions to have a good attitude when I didn’t want to.

I have found that having a good attitude makes life easier. In the heat of the moment I admit that it seems to feel good to lash out at people and have a bad attitude. From time to time I still do that. In reality when I have a good attitude, more will work out for me and more will work out for for you too.

A bad attitude invites things to go wrong in your life. Bad events compound on each other. As soon as one thing goes wrong, another just as bad or worse happens. Both a good and bad attitude creates a cycle which is a part of how life works. Both will have a direct effect on your success.

When you have a bad attitude:

  • Identify that you have a bad attitude. Like they say, the first step to fixing a problem is recognizing that there is a problem. Be honest with yourself, acknowledge it, and label it.
  • Determine why you have a bad attitude. Some event has happened to you that you are using for an excuse to be have a bad attitude. Determine what that is.
  • Admit that you have chosen to have a bad attitude. It is all up to you. Even if someone did something bad to you and now you are mad, only you can chose your reaction. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” It is up to you to choose your attitude.
  • Decide to change your attitude. Decide that you are going to have a good attitude and then do it. It won’t be easy at first but eventually, with practice you will get better at determining your attitude.

“Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Abraham Lincoln. Make up your mind to have a good attitude. Start tomorrow morning. No . . . start right now. Check your attitude. If it isn’t good, decide to make it good right now. If it isn’t easy or you don’t feel like it, it is an indication that that muscle isn’t developed as much as it needs to be. You need to exercise that muscle more to make it more developed.

Who wants to be around someone who has a bad attitude? You keep people from wanting to be around you. And, keeping people away from you isnt helping anyone.

What do you do when you recognize you have a bad attitude? Read comments below or write your own here.

post

Come clean: Turning a wrong in to a right and coming out ahead

A really hard part about being human is that we will make mistakes. Making mistakes are unavoidable. When someone truly acknowledges that they have made a mistake, you should always immediately accept it and then forget it

As soon as you have made a mistake or you realize that you have done something that you shouldn’t have, come clean. Acknowledging your wrongdoing soon after it happens greatly reduces the impact of whatever you have done.

I have made so many mistakes and said so many things I wished I hadnt. Just recently I was invited to lunch with a vendor that I work with often. At the end of a meeting with this person, they invited one of my colleagues to join us the next day for lunch. My colleague didnt seem sure if they should accept the invitation, I said “Come on, join us. It’s a free lunch”. Almost immediately I recognized that it was wrong for me to say that. First of all, it simply was not my place to offer that the lunch would be free. Yes, lunch would be paid for but that should not have been the persuasive factor to join us for lunch. It also could have been interpreted by the person who invited me to lunch that my reason for accepting the invitation was a free lunch not the relationship building. I had trouble sleeping the next night just thinking about what I said earlier in the day.

So what do you do when you discover that you have made a mistake?

  • Apologize as soon as possible. Do not wait. The longer you wait, the more impact the mistake will have on your life and the other person. Apologies are like putting out a fire. When the fire first starts, it is easy to extinguish, but the longer you wait the fire spreads and you will need more water.
  • Let the person know that you made a mistake. Let them know what you did and let them know that you owe them an apology.
  • Do not make any excuses. Any hint at an excuse will dilute the apology. Even if there is a good reason, just plainly stating the mistake puts full responsibly on you. If there is a good reason for your mistake, the other person will recognize it. Not you.
  • Ask for their forgiveness. If this is a valuable relationship to you, your honesty will only make the relationship stronger. If somehow they don’t forgive you, then you know you have other issues with your relationship.
  • Forget it. There is no need to continue to beat yourself up over your mistake. If you genuinely apologize and the apology is genuinely accepted, then there is no need to keep it alive.

My great grandfather was born in 1900. Throughout his life he would write quotes in his bible. One of my favorites is “When a feller makes a mistake and doesnt admit it, hes made two mistakes, and if he doesnt fix it up, his is three”.

What mistake have you made that you wish you could apologize for now? What have you apologized for and been forgiven for? Read comments here or leave your own comment.

How to tell a lie and other untruths

The best way to tell a lie is to make up a story based on truth. Liars add some truth in an attempt to convince that it is the truth. A lie is not 100% truthful.

Have you ever felt like someone was dishonest with you? You know when someone isn’t being honest. When someone isn’t honest, you can pick-up that something isn’t right. Its kind of a sixth sense to know when someone isn’t telling the truth. Mark Twain may have said it best when he said, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” It is a lot of work being a liar because you have to remember the truth and the lie.

Twain1909

People can appreciate your honesty even if they don’t like your answer. My wife, is possibly the most honest person I know. She is also one of the best lie detectors I know. When you ask her something she will give you a direct, honest, and truthful answer every time. If you lie to her and she picks up on it, she will never forget it.

Recently, my wife was asked to go shopping with a friend. Without hesitation she thanked her friend and then explained that she was tired and just didn’t feel like shopping. I thought, how can anyone argue with that? Even if her friend didn’t like her answer, my wifes honesty has earned her a reputation as someone who is always truthful.

Honesty doesn’t only apply to other people, but also to you.

If you think you are protecting a relationship by not being honest, you are actually causing damage. When you arent truthful:

  • You extend the decision unnecessarily. Why not decide now and be done with the conversation. Postponing a decision because you don’t want to be honest, keeps the decision in limbo unnecessarily. This is wasted energy.
  • You put an additional burden on you. When you are dishonest, you have to come up with a plausible reply. It is a reply that you will now have to remember. This also is wasted energy.
  • The other person isn’t living with reality. If they believe your story, the other person now believes your reply. Eventually they will either learn the truth or you will need to tell them the truth. Hearing the truth later is much more difficult than telling the truth in the first place. More wasted energy.
  • The relationship slowly deteriorates. Being dishonest just one time, takes a toll on the relationship. Relationships are built on trust. When you are dishonest, a chunk of your relationship is taken away. If you are compulsively dishonest, the relationship slowly deteriorates to nothing.

When someone asks you something, tell them now. Don’t wait.

  • Go with your gut. Usually your first thought is the answer you should give. Stick with it. Don’t spend time worrying how the other person will feel when you are honest.
  • Say it nicely. Just because you think the other person may not like your answer is not a reason to lie to them. Appreciate the offer and just explain your answer.
  • Be responsible for your honesty. You can only be responsible for you. If the other person decides to be offended by your honesty or get mad, then that is for them to decide.

People appreciate honesty even if they don’t like it. You will build your credibility and respect with the other person, especially when honesty is difficult. The silver lining is that the other person knows you can be trusted. And, that is a most attractive quality.

What have you recently been honest about? What did your honesty do for your relationship with the other person? Read other people’s comments or write your own here.