Are You In The Mission Position?

Are you mission driven?

Or do you muddle?

The majority of folks drag themselves out the door, day after day, to their jobs, feeling empty, disappointed and depleted. Nearly 80% unhappy in their work.

Of course, in this economy, so many are grateful just to have some work.

But most folks want for something more as well.

Ultimately, as Maslow suggests, we want to feel fulfilled.

We look for purpose. We search for meaning. We want to matter.

At the end of our lives, none of us will wish we had spent more time in the office, billed more time, or sold more product. What will matter will be the experiences we have had, the lives we have touched, and the love we have shared.

But here’s the scoop. We get to choose how we will be.

Consider the old parable: A man went by a construction site and encountered a bricklayer working.  The man asked him what he was doing.  The bricklayer replied, “I’m laying bricks.”  The man walked a few feet further and came upon a second bricklayer. He asked him the same question.  The bricklayer answered, “I’m making a wall.”  He then walked by another bricklayer and once again asked the same question.  This worker replied, “I’m building a cathedral.”

The vision of our lives, our mission, is ours alone to form.

Abraham Lincoln had a vision of a nation freed of slavery, oppression and division.

Martin Luther King had a dream of equality and justice for all.

Nelson Mandela had a goal of unity and peace for the people of South Africa.

Ronald Regan had a vision of a world without a wall.

Mother Teresa labored to serve the poor and save the downtrodden.

The Dalai Lama’s purpose is to bring peace, gratitude and compassion to the world.

But “greatness” is not the precursor for vision. All of us have the capacity to have great vision. Saints aren’t born that way. Leaders learn to lead. And the visionaries, they’re the ones who, bit by bit, learn to see beyond themselves; who see the world not just as it is, but as how it could become. They have a grander vision of their lives, a bigger purpose. They’re the ones who think not just of their children, but of their children’s children for generations to come.

Folks who are mission driven bolt up out of bed every day, on fire, excited about what they are about to do. They’re focused not on the hours of their day, but on their impact in the world.

Folks who are mission driven look beyond themselves. They have a servants heart. They add value. They give.

And even in the minutia of their days, they build cathedrals.

And you?

 

 

It Can’t Be Done

It’s not enough to be busy. The question is, what are we busy about?

— Henry David Thoreau

I speak on Intentional Leadership, Purposeful Living, Success Principals and Goal Achievement.

The questions I get most often are about time management.

When polled, nearly 100% of my audiences say they feel as if their lives are “too busy.”  Over 80% say that they drop into bed at the end of the day exhausted and depleted, without getting done anywhere near what they had hoped to accomplish in the day.

“How do you manage time?” they ask.

The answer: It can’t be done.

Time cannot be managed. Time just is.

The only thing that we can manage is ourselves.

But for the sake of discussion, I’ll share some thoughts this week on “time” management. Here are 7 “Secrets:”

  • Get Up An Hour Earlier. If you look at all of the time-management recommendations across the decades, you’ll find this suggestion mentioned often. For years I disregarded it; it seemed too painful. But what I have discovered is that, of all the time management principals, this is the most powerful one of all. I adopted it when I was a single dad and was tired of the frantic rush to get the kids up, the lunches made and then make the mad dash out the door feeling breathless and exhausted before I had even digested the breakfast that I was still juggling on my lap. At first, I had to ease into the early hour backing up the alarm 15 minutes at a time over 4 or 5 months. But it became my most important hour of the day. All mine. No distractions. No demands. No noise. It allowed me to ease into the day more peacefully, more patiently, more mindfully. And now, long after the kids have gone off, I use the time to journal and meditate and read and write. It is my most productive time. I guard it jealously and wouldn’t trade it for the world.
  • Turn Off The Tube. When I ask some of my coaching clients about their days, I discover that the TV goes on when they get home, and stays on until 11:00 pm when they drop into bed. You can pick up 4 or 5 hours every day of wonderfully productive time if you banish the television. That could be as much as 30 hours a week. That’s like a part-time job. Think of what you could accomplish with an extra 30 hours a week! You could take a course, launch a business, or write a book!  You can get your news, weather and sports on your smart phone. There is nothing that the Kardashians will really add to the quality of your creative life, your marriage or your business. Get rid of the tube. (Between these first two “secrets,” you could “recover” 35 or 40 hours of time every week! That’s like having a whole other life!)
  • Avoid The In-Box. I was astounded by a recent statistic that suggested that more than 80% of folks sleep with their cell phones. That’s whacked. Don’t do that. Beyond that seemingly self-evident principal, don’t check your email when you first get up in the morning. Your In-Box is nothing more than a convenient repository of other people’s agendas for your day. Even if you just peek, those demands and expectations of others will seep into your sub-conscious and throw you off your stride. Your thoughts and plans for the day deserve your first attention.
  • Have A Plan. You cannot hit a target you cannot see. If you don’t have a plan for your day, someone else certainly will. If you don’t have a plan for your day, your day will be stolen from you and you can never get it back. Even if your day is a vacation day,  you will lose it if you have not planned its boundaries carefully. Set aside some time in that first hour of your day, or better yet at the end of the day before, and map out your day. Decide on what is most important. Choose three things that matter most to you, the three things that, if you failed to accomplish those, you would feel as if your day had not been well spent. Do those three things first.
  • Commit and Schedule. Something floating in your head in an idea. Something written down is real. Once you have decided on your plan, once you have decided on those most important things, actually write them into the schedule for your day. There is something powerful about the written word. When you’ve scheduled it, it feels like an obligation. Even though I have had a work-out schedule for years that seldom varies, I always put it on my calendar. It rarely gets displaced because its locked in. I’ve committed.
  • Work In Block Time. Our lives are challenged by so many competing demands. And multi-tasking is a myth. It diminishes our productivity. Consider instead carving out chunks of time devoted to particular aspects of your day. Rather than checking email constantly on the fly, set aside a half hour in the morning and another at the end of the day to review and respond to emails. Set aside a half hour for your social media. Block out time twice a day to return your calls. And then schedule uninterrupted periods in your day, off the grid and away from your phone, when you can concentrate on your most important work. You will be amazed at how much more creative, efficient and productive you will become if you create these boundaries for yourself.
  • Say No. Most of us are great at making To Do Lists. And then, because we’re stretched so thin, we never get To Do most of what’s on our list. Try making a Stop Doing List. There are lots of things we do that are not productive or efficient or joyful or worthwhile. Stop doing them. Busy is not badge of honor. Busy is a bad habit. You don’t have to say yes to every PTO request, every bake sale, every invitation to a board membership, every volunteer request, every civic organization, every request for your precious time.  Figure out what you value most in life, what gives you the most joy. Concentrate there. Apply the Paretto Principal, the 80/20 Rule, ruthlessly. Get rid of the 20% of things that give you 80% of your headaches. Concentrate on the 20% of activities that give you 80% of your satisfaction. The person who has said yes the most by the time they’re dead doesn’t get a prize. Learn to say no.

I have begun to use the Rapid Planning Method developed by Tony Robbins. RPM is “a simple system of thinking that creates extraordinary results and an amazing level of personal fulfillment.” Robbins believes that “A life of fulfillment is one in which we put urgency in its place and remember that the ultimate target is to spend our lives doing the things we believe are most important to us.” I like the system because it focuses on outcomes, on the results that align most with the ultimate vision I have for my life.

But regardless of the method you use, the take-home message is this: Time can’t be managed. And the sands do run out.

 

Read The Directions

I failed the test. Again.

It was the same damn test that I’d failed in Fourth Grade.

Maybe you remember something like it yourself: It starts out with a clear mandate to read the directions; the directions are lengthy; and then there are the questions. Buried deep in the directions, somewhere toward the end, is the real crux of the exam: it reads something like this, “if you’ve read the directions this far, put down your pencil, the exam is done.”

Of course, being the type A driver, achiever that I am, I looked at the directions and said, blah, blah, blah, been there, done that, seen it all before, let’s get down to business. I had studied hard, made my flash cards, done my homework. I was ready. The questions were easy. I was nailing them. Until I realized that I wasn’t; that something was terribly off; that others were looking up and smiling.

Motherfucker.

That’s the problem when we think we know so much; when our cup is full.

We miss stuff. Important stuff.

We close ourselves off to the present moment. We fail to see what is new and exciting and different and significant. We miss what’s right in front of our eyes.

Kids are so much better than we are when it comes to this. (Could it be that the biblical invective to be as children are might mean something here?) They can watch the same show, see the same movie, hear the same bedtime story, all with the anticipation and joy and full engagement of the very first experience. Each time, new and different and interesting, all over again.

Not so much when we’re adults.

We categorize our experiences. We make up stories. Our minds get dull.

We come to the table with our assumptions and our judgments; with our “knowledge.” It all gets in the way. And then we miss what’s really going on.

A university professor went to visit a famous Zen master. While the master quietly served the tea, the professor talked on and on about Zen. The master poured the visitor’s cup to the brim, and then kept on pouring.

The professor watched the overflowing cup until he could no longer restrain himself.

“It’s overfull! No more will go in!” the professor blurted.

“You are like this cup,” the master replied, “How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup.”

And so it is in our lives.

My skills as a business coach and trial lawyer serve me well.  I can analyze situations and solve problems better than most. But, I can’t even begin to count the number of times that I’ve judged a person or a transaction or event based upon my own made-up stories… and been dead wrong.

How much richer life would be if we were to approach each and every moment, each and every interaction with our partners, children, friends, co-workers and clients, with curiosity and an open heart.

So read the directions carefully. They’re simple. Not easy, but simple. “Be here now. Fully present, fully engaged, with joyful wonder. Listen deeply, as if you were hearing it all for the very first time. Don’t miss a thing. And if you’ve gotten this far, put your pencil down. The exam is done.”

 

 

 

 

 

Remind Me

A Guest Blog by Beth Jannery

Remind Me: Life is Made Up of Moments of Grace
Life is not to be endured. It is an opportunity to be of service, to enjoy, to grow and change and challenge ourselves. In life we have a choice: fill it with grace or stay in the negative. Recently, I went through a big change, divorce. It felt comfortable to stew in the negative. This wasn’t how I pictured my life at 40! And, like so many other women who have to start over, I felt overwhelmed, over-scheduled and less than.

With two daughters in 6th and 1st grade, it seemed the daily tasks of making lunches, doing loads of laundry, getting the kids off to school and paying the bills were about all I could do. But where was the grace in that?

I’m an over-achiever in recovery. A perfectionist who needed to hand in her to-do-list for a slap in the face with reality. Sure, I was told I could do what I love and the money would come, but I wanted instant gratification. I wanted it now! Where was my payoff? Where was my gold-star at the end of the day?

Sometimes, being an adult, being a real grown up, is shutting the hell up, setting my needs aside and digging in and doing what needs to be done. Right now I need to keep it simple; all I need to do is suit up and show up. That’s it. Like so many other women going through meaningful life changes, all I need to do is do the next right thing and have faith that the outcome isn’t up to me.

When bitching to a friend (Ann, the creator of the blog Starting Over) she “reminded me” that time take time. Change is gradual. Pain is optional. Growth is a must. I was reminded that there are many, many chapters to life and my book (literally) is still being written. There will be time for it all – and room for breathing space too. All I have to do is what’s in front of me. Nothing more, nothing less. And the gold-star at the end of the day? Well, I can’t look for one, or expect one. Moments of grace come when they come. We have to remind each other that if we keep doing the next right thing we’ll get a life filled with grace.

After sharing with Ann (another Mom who had been through a painful divorce with two children) the truth about feeling overwhelmed she suggested I set my “to do” list aside and simply write. So I did. And here is what came. I hope it will serve as a reminder to us all that small moments of grace are ours for the taking, if we keep on giving.

Remind Me

Remind me that a life caring for others is sometimes exhausting.
Remind me I’m doing just fine if I’m honestly doing the very best I can.
Remind me that I must do what I love.
Remind me no apologies are necessary for being exuberant, passionate and just a little bit selfish, as long as I’m following an authentic path.
Remind me that if I go to bed exhausted having fed the kids, got them to and from school, made ends meet, just for today, that is good enough.
Remind me that it is OK – in fact it is better than OK – to take a break from relationships and nurture my soul, craft, being, inner life, and passions.
Remind me that one day I’ll have the time and the energy and the inspiration (maybe even at the same time) to sit myself down to focus on the other stuff.
Remind me that I’m capable of doing what needs to be done.
Remind me that I’ve got a home run in me.
Remind me that the right here, the right now, is all that matters.
Remind me of one of my favorite expressions: Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is the day.
Remind me to stay in today. And that I was a child once, just like you.
Remind me to strive for hope, love and joy, and I’ll be on the right track.
Remind me that wanderlust isn’t always a bad thing.
Remind me to ask you what you love to do rather than what you do. Remind me to ask who you are rather than what you do. Remind me to question what stirs your soul rather than your job title.
Remind me to inhale deeply and breathe when all I want to do is scream.
Remind me to do something for someone else, and then never tell anyone about it.
Remind me to pay for the toll for the car behind me only to speed up and get away without needing a thank you. Remind me to hold the door and have no expectations.
Remind me to wake up each day and be OK doing the simple things.
Remind me to look at you in your eyes when we say good morning. And when I meet a stranger on the street, remind me to answer truthfully when asked: How are you?
Remind me to ask friends: How are you today? How are you really doing? And remind me to then listen.
Remind me to think about what you are saying rather than what I’m going to say next.
Remind me to pray for those I resent and to allow forgiveness to enter.
Remind me that bathing my children and filling their bellies and getting them to practices on time is all about showing up.
Remind me that I don’t need a gold star for doing what’s expected.
Remind me that when I humble myself to ask for help it is always there.
Remind me that when I forget about myself I am free and available to be there for others.
Remind me that today I have choices.
Remind me that relationships, real relationships with give and take and total honesty, are the crux of life. And remind me I can only learn and grow and change by letting another human being get close to my soul.
Remind me that in life everything comes down to either fear or love.
Remind me to choose love every single time.
Remind me that when I ache and tremble it will pass and give way to serenity and sunshine.
Remind me that I get out of life what I put into it. Remind me if I’m willing to do the work then I’ll get results.
Remind me that letting go is the only way. Remind me when I hold on too tightly I’m guaranteed to fail.
Remind me that if I cry now and then it is not a weakness. Remind me if you cry on my shoulder you are teaching me about the beauty of being vulnerable.
Remind me being vulnerable is being human. Remind me to be.
Remind me that I need to laugh more, because every time the wave of laughter washes over me I feel so damn good.
Remind me that there are simple miracles all around me. I need to open my eyes to witness them.
Remind me that I’m not in charge of other people. Remind me that with total acceptance I can shed a heavy load. Remind me that acceptance in all situations is the solution.
Remind me I need to live in the solution rather than contribute to the problem.
Remind me that forgiveness does not happen by me simply wanting it. I need to take action and decide to forgive.
Remind me that letting others off the hook is a gift.
Remind me that if I win someone else has to lose. Remind me it doesn’t feel very good to lose. Remind me that I’d rather be happy than right.
Remind me to be grateful for all of my teachers. And remind me part of contributing to life is passing it on.
Remind me that I live life in a way that is being true to myself without having to explain or justify my choices to anyone.
Remind me to appreciate the wonder of it all.
Remind me that my story is simple and I can have courage in all things.
Remind me to live life in the middle, neither wanting to rise to the top or sink to the bottom.
Remind me that someone must drive the bus, mow the lawn and dig the garden.
Remind me to take responsibility for my thoughts because they become words and then actions.
Remind me that the truth is good enough.
Remind me that I have brokenness but I am not fragile or broken.
Remind me that I need to pray, everyday, and believe in something greater than myself.
Remind me to ask how you are doing, instead of expecting you to ask how I am.
Remind me if I leave my ego at the door I will be open to new experiences.
Remind me to update my old way of thinking.
Remind me to look for the hidden gems and to unearth my authentic self.
Remind me that helping others helps myself.
Remind me to do what scares me.
Remind me that grace will find me if I open myself to her coming.
Remind me that I should stop gripping so tightly trying to create life and I can instead allow life to create me.
Remind me to bloom where I’m planted. And that sometimes we have to lose to win.
Remind me to honor the fine lines and embrace the lessons and ask for sage suggestions. And then I must listen.
Remind me that I don’t know is a brave statement.
And, yes, is a complete sentence.
Remind me that what I am writing or reading at this moment is exactly what I should be doing.
Remind me that everything, absolutely everything, is OK in this moment and just as it should be.
Remind me to observe my daughters climbing trees, scraping knees and building fairy houses. Remind me I’ll miss the fingerprints.
Remind me to get outside and breathe in nature, at least once a day. And that a simple walk can change my outlook. Remind me that it is ok to nap more and accomplish less.
Remind me to be gentle on myself and on others.
Remind me to let myself off the hook and to allow others to fail.
Remind me that I need to do it all over again tomorrow and turn to the quiet wind and whisper a thank you from deep within my heart.

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Visit Beth’s Website at: http://www.simplegracebooks.blogspot.com/