The Potential Problem with Taking a Holiday Break

One of the things I work on businesses with is helping them stand out. It’s easy in this day and age to set up an online store and sell some stuff, and it’s even pretty easy to set up a physical business and sell stuff (especially with all the open store fronts). Almost anyone with decent computer experience can sell online. Which is why it’s more important than ever to make sure that you’re unique, you’re likeable and you give people a reason to shop with you.

I love to read and I subscribe to over 100 daily, weekly or bi-weekly newsletters on business topics, not to mention the newsletters I get, as many people do, from my favorite stores and other interests. I know that over the past month the number of emails we’ve gotten has been increased, from the election to Black Friday to now the Christmas and other December celebrations. I know how busy people are and how many things we squeeze into this month.

But over the past week I’ve been getting some newsletters that have stated something along the lines of: ‘this is the last time you’ll hear from us until the new year’ or ‘this will be an extra short newsletter.’ Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s important that we respect our customers and what they’re focused on, and we as business owners need to take time to be with our families and friends too. But if you’re doing things right you’ve got people who are anticipating, maybe even eagerly anticipating hearing from you, even though it’s the holidays.  Hearing messages like these make me feel disappointed and sad that I’m not getting what I’m used to getting from the people and businesses I care about.

I would encourage you to really take time to consider what the right balance is between taking a break for the holidays and continuing to give your fans, readers, tribe and customers the quality and quantity that they’re expecting from you. You’ve worked really hard to get to this point in the year, don’t give up on loving and caring for your customers at this point.

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Free to Just Be

Today I want to encourage you to stop and just be. Stop signing your kids up for every program under the sun, stop trying to get so much done each day that you’re completely exhausted by the time you get home and have zero energy for your kids or partner, stop wandering aimlessly in your life, stop rushing period. You, your kids and your partner all need downtime more than they need another commitment, regardless of whether you or they are an introvert or extrovert.

I get that there are important things in your life that need to be done to live or things you’ve already committed to that need to be followed through on, but there comes a time when you really just have to put your foot down and say that you’ve had enough. Hopefully you’ll feel encouraged to do that before you work yourself into an early grave or isolate you from all the people you love, or burn yourself out so badly that you have to take significant time off to even function again.

I believe it’s important to fill your life with things you love and to make time for the responsibilities you need to see to as a significant other, parent, sibling, son/daughter, worker and community member. It’s good to be involved and do things and enjoy the life you have and people you love. But it’s also important to take time to relax, to reflect, to be thankful and to just be. We aren’t designed to go 24/7, we’re meant to sleep and meditate and eat to enjoy and listen.

There’s no reason to feel guilty for taking a day off (including a mental health day), or admitting that you’re struggling, or taking a break to refocus. If you’re able to take that break with your kids or partner, great. Sometimes those moments when you’re just being quiet together can be the best part of your day, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Will you make time for down time this week?

An Inclusive Business?

One of the topics that’s been discussed in just about every aspect of life from politics to business to school is the topic of inclusion.  There are plenty of people that you can talk to who will say that they want to go viral and reach “everyone.” There’s nothing wrong with a universal message like love, hope, peace, or community, in fact they’re topics that I talk about often.  If you’ve got a product or service that people around the world can universally benefit from, go for it.  I wish you the very best.

However the fact is most of us don’t have a universal product or service, or we’ve got a specific group of people we’re most passionate about.  That’s not a bad thing, it helps people identify with us and want what we’re offering. It also gives us the opportunity to stay focused on the people we’re most equipped to help.  So how do we find the balance between including people and setting ourselves apart from others?  Is there even a balance?

Let me put it this way: I think that with enough patience and commitment we can do a ton, maybe even more than you can imagine at this moment.  I can’t do heart surgery, but maybe you can’t advise about the heart of a business.  I don’t believe that we have to be able to do or be everything, that’s why there are other people in the world with talents that you and I don’t have.  That said, I do encourage you to be more open about the people you can serve in your business, don’t just go with your preconceived notions and expectations of others, be open to hearing their story and needs.  You don’t have to let go of your values or beliefs to be part of the community, give a helping hand, or listen.

Start somewhere simple as we enter this new month and commit to being a better listener in your business.  Listen to what your ideal customers are saying as well as others who somehow find their way to you.  Don’t be afraid to to limit yourself, but also be open to trying new things.  I think that’s the best balance anyone can ask for.

Health and the Big Picture

This month we’ll be talking about an important topic: health.  As I was thinking about what to write today I was reminded about a bunch of things that apply that I wanted to start our month off talking about.  There are tons of things to talk about when it comes to health, there are businesses that talk about nothing but health, and even specific aspects about health, and it can be easy to get overwhelmed, especially when people start throwing around jargon and technical (medical) terms.  It can be frustrating when we don’t understand what is happening in our bodies or in our kids’ bodies and why.  Medicine has made some great strides over the past few years, but we still have a ways to go with many aspects, especially when it comes to some of our most vulnerable and unable to help us understand like kids with developmental disabilities and adults with Alzheimers.

Health is made up of many things including things that are mental, physical, social and emotional.  Our health is determined in part by our actions, part by genetics and some from our environment, all of which we have some control over.  If we want to live long enough to enjoy our lives and that of future generations we have to give some attention to our health and doing what we can to staying healthy and improving our health.

Today I was reminded that our health is made up of little parts that make up the big picture, and we have to remember that both exist.  If you’re so focused on your nutrition for example you may forget that there’s more to life than what you eat, which brings us to the topic that some people believe is a myth: balance.  I believe in balance, but not in the “let’s be perfect” way.  Balance isn’t about making sure that everything is equal, but that you’re not doing something to the detriment of the other parts of your life.  Focusing just on your kids’ grades without encouraging any physical or social activity isn’t healthy.  Working 48 hours a day 14 days a week isn’t healthy.  When you can’t remember what your partner likes because the only time you’re with them is when you’re both sleeping, it’s not healthy.  So as we head into this new month I encourage you to take time to look at your life and see what you’re doing that is and isn’t healthy that you should work on improving.

Balance and Success

Most people want to be successful because they think that success will get them more of something they want. Typically topping the list of wants are money, recognition, relationships and happiness in general. Success can help you get these things and having a goal when working towards success can help you stay focused and actually achieve success instead of dreaming about it. But sometimes working towards success means that you’ll decrease your chances of having the very things you want. For example if you’re working 24/7 because you want more money there’s a good chance that you’ll ruin your relationships at the same time because you’re not giving them any attention. This is where the challenge of balance comes in, something that most people aren’t able to achieve.

Balance isn’t about keeping all the balls you’re juggling in the air, but about having things to do, love and hope for. There’s no shame in loving your work or choosing family over work, no matter what the world says. You have to make your own choices about what balance looks like in your life. I will remind you though that it’s not balance if there are areas of your life that are seriously suffering and causing problems for you as a result of the choices you’ve made.

In this season that brings many people happiness and some people pain, I encourage you to take time for what makes you happy. If that’s donating time to a charity do it. If it’s taking time off from work to be with people you love, do it. If it’s planning for the future and creating a to do list for how you’re going to accomplish your plan in the new year, do it.

“Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.”  Joseph Addison

The Meaning of Quiet

We’ve arrived at a new month and as I sat down to look at the month ahead I pulled out my calendar that I wrote up at the beginning of 2015 to see what our theme this month would be. For some reason I thought that I had gone with thanksgiving or gratitude, but it turns out that while we will touch on being thankful, it’s not going to be our main theme. Instead, our topic will be quiet. Initially I was a little frustrated because I really wanted to talk about gratitude (there’s a good chance we’ll spend time on it next year), but the more I thought about it the more I realized that it was exactly the right topic for this month. So now that I’m back to being on board with our topic, let’s talk about why this is such a crucial topic for this month.

November is our second to last month in the year and is a month that signals slowing down, speeding up, endings, beginnings and cold weather. It’s a month filled with changes as well as reminders of changes that are coming. It’s a reminder of how little time we have left in this year to accomplish our goals. And November provides a reminder to all who would listen how important it is to be thankful, a topic that bypasses religious, cultural, language and many other typical barriers we face in celebrating things.

I make a point of stressing on this blog and with my clients that success only happens with actions, but if you are going to take smart actions there has to be time for consideration of what those smart actions are, otherwise they’re not necessarily smart. So this month we’re going to force ourselves to practice taking regular time outs, really seeing the world around us and realizing what’s most important to us (and making time for it). As always I invite you to share what you learn as we journey through this month on being quiet in the comment section.

“The month of November makes me feel that life is passing more quickly. In an effort to slow it down, I try to fill the hours more meaningfully.”  Henry Rollins

Health in Balance

This month our topic is health. We’ll be talking about lots of important health topics on this blog and on the Spiritual and Life blog as well as on social media and in the weekly newsletters. As I was thinking about how to introduce this topic it got me thinking about why we’re talking about it and what I hope to accomplish this month. The word that came up when I thought about the “why” was imbalance. We’re leading lives that are driven by things and people often to the exclusion of (important) others. Sometimes this is OK, but only for very short periods of time like heading up to playing in the Superbowl or the year-end accounting wrap-up; things that happen no more than once a year and deserve 120% of your attention for a short period of time. But for the most part our lives aren’t made of mountain-top moments that that necessitate that kind of attention.

Let’s address what many would see as the elephant in the room: balance is a myth. Yes, many people laugh when you bring up the concept of balance because it just isn’t something that most people can do. But the definition of balance isn’t necessarily the traditional weight scales of balance but learning how to moderate and accommodate as is best for you and those in your life. Balance isn’t about being perfectly perfect in all areas, but about learning what’s best for you and following through on it. It’s about knowing that you eat healthy at home and being OK to get that ice cream on your date night. It’s about knowing that you exercised 5 days that week already and hear your body asking for an extra hour of sleep instead so you skip a day. It’s about knowing your kids are under a lot of pressure with school choosing not to schedule lots of extra-curricular activities. Balance is a give and take process that isn’t something you do once and are done, but something you’re working on throughout your life, just like health.

So this month I’ll be giving you some to-do’s to help your life be healthier so you can live longer, but I’ll also be giving you some things to think about and analyze your life and your needs and where you’re at with your health. Because there’s no point to adding more to your life if you don’t know where you are and what’s wrong. What are your thoughts on health and what would you like to hear about this month?

The Myth of Balance

Balance is one of those topics that frustrates people, makes people jealous, relieves them and stresses them out.  Many people say balance is a myth and something we should stop working towards because more often than not it’s completely unrealistic.  However unrealistic it may be, I’ve learned time and again that balance is one of the big keys to not only success but happiness as well.  What’s unrealistic is actually the concept of perfect balance.  That’s the myth, just like perfect success, perfect people, and perfect lives.  Perfection shouldn’t be the goal.

In the very definition of balance we’re talking about something with give and take.  Balance is about learning how to make your life work, and adjusting to the highs and lows, not about never having ups and downs. It’s when we’re able to learn how to compensate or adapt to the times of large need or commitment of our lives and support ourselves through the lows that we’re able to find balance in our lives.

Balance is about learning who you are, what your needs are, how you work with and react in life and what your priorities are.  If your life is out of balance it’s because you’ve prioritized one thing to the exclusion of all others.  Balance is about learning how to give enough time to the current main priority in your life and making sure to give yourself time to live and love as well.

I encourage you to take a look at your life this week and discover if you’re giving your priorities to much control in your life.  If you are it’s time to take back the control and make sure that when you’ve achieved your goal you’ll still have a life to return to.

“The hardest thing to find in life is balance – especially the more success you have, the more you look to the other side of the gate. What do I need to stay grounded, in touch, in love, connected, emotionally balanced? Look within yourself.” Celine Dion

Employee Appreciation?

The first Friday of March each year is when business owners around the USA take the time to appreciate their employees. Employee recognition is something that should go on all year long, but too many businesses and leaders don’t realize or aren’t willing to see how blessed they are by the people they have working with them. They operate from the belief that their employees should be grateful they even have a job, abundantly thankful that they get to work with such an important company and that giving 200% is a given. They use days like these to make it look like they actually care and throw a few bones their employees’ way to pacify them for a time.

Now, I do believe that employees should be grateful to have a job and should give at least 100% while they’re working. But all too many companies do a really good job of making their employees miserable, and not wanting to give even a token attempt. Around the world there are horrible conditions in companies that not only threaten the sanity of workers but their physical health too. We’ve seen this in the building collapses and fires and breaches of chemicals or biological materials.

Many businesses have a long way to go in finding (or even attempting) the balance between empowering and caring for their employees and making money. Yes, work is work and does mean effort and time, and yes, there are some jobs that would fall under the “unpleasant” header just from what’s involved. But in respecting their employees as intelligent people, in taking precautions for their health, in being conscientious of their commitment and time, and in taking time to get to know them and their dreams, needs and career goals, businesses can go a long way to having employees who are willing to be part of the team and not just there to clock in and clock out, employees who are invested in the success of the business and happiness of its customers, and employees who don’t dream about the downfall of the company and its’ leaders but are excited about its future.

Without employees many businesses would not exist. If they are such a valuable resource isn’t it time that we sat down and worked out a better relationship than there currently is?

A Summer of Rest

Today on my Life and Spirituality blog I shared a bit about why balance was important.  Like balance rest times are really important too.  I know that many parents panic about having their kids home all summer and not doing anything, but the truth is that kids, and us adults too, need down time. Is it bad to be couped up in the house all day all summer? Yes, the kids do need to get out occasionally and do stuff, but being scheduled from wake up to bed time isn’t what summer is all about.  So let’s start with the going out and then we’ll get to the staying in.

Summer is a great time, with the relaxed schedules and less responsibilities for kids, to check out some really cool scientific, historical, literary or cultural locations, activities and things near you and near wherever you go for vacation.  For me personally I loved the historical and cultural detours we took on family vacations as a kid.  The theme parks were cool too, but I always looked forward to seeing the strange, the different and the past fit right in with modern life.  Yes, your kids will want to do the “cool” stuff and may complain when you suggest the other stuff, but seeing that history and culture first hand can make a big impact on their future.

But when it comes to rest we’ve gotten so good at going that we forget to stop.  It used to be easier when we didn’t have electricity to get up and go to bed with the sun, but that doesn’t really work anymore for most of us.  And with the internet we’re able to get things done anywhere at any time practically.  So since we don’t have an automatic off switch anymore, we have to be extra conscientious about stopping and taking time to rest.  Yes, our bodies and minds have adapted over the years to how busy we are and how much going we do, but that doesn’t take into account the need that our bodies and souls have for rest.

So this summer I encourage you and your family to take time to rest.  Don’t plan out every minute of every day, don’t plan things for every weekend, but take time to rest, relax and be together as a family.

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” John Lubbock