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

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Doing Less to Do More

I’m a big believer in options.  I don’t encourage clients to focus on one thing and one thing only in their life or business or have only one product or service they offer.  Why?  Simply because it’s like having a job, you lose it and that’s it.  There’s no safety net, no options, no backup plan.  Balance may be a myth, but I don’t believe you can put your eggs all in one basket and expect that there will always be eggs there.  If you’re 100% focused on your business for an extended period of time  you can’t seriously expect to pick things up with family and friends as if nothing has changed when you finally leave the office.  It’s like expecting the seasons to not change just because you really enjoy summer.  So I always encourage that you find time for the other stuff in your life, as well as in your client’s and employee’s lives too.

But having too many options or responsibilities in your life also can cause big problems.  When you’ve got too much going on many areas begin to suffer.  When your employees can’t handle all the work you’re giving them their output, attitude and passion for your business will suffer.  We can only push at 110% for so long before there’s a train wreck.  So with that in mind, here are a few tips and action steps for you to take to find some of that mythical balance.

1-have an open door policy and be in regular contact.  No, I’m not suggesting you have super long meetings every week checking up on everyone, but I am recommending that your employees and clients know they can come to you when stuff is hitting the fan and they can’t do it all.  This isn’t an invitation for employees or clients to be lazy, but a reminder that the culture of the work as well as company recommendations will suffer when expectations or responsibilities are too high.  Working hard is good, overworked is bad.

2-take time off.  Have a solid policy in place for yourself and your employees and recommend your clients adopt one too.  I have set days in my schedule that I take off or only do work on my business and don’t see clients. Taking days off and establishing a semi-regular schedule each week helps you stay focused and sets up boundaries for employees and clients.  If you don’t care for yourself or about your business, why should they?

3-always know what matters most.  People are at the top of that list for me.  Money, possessions, fame, success, these all have to take a backseat to making sure that people are valued and taken care of.  Know what your priorities in life are and set up policies and procedures to make sure that the priorities are in order.

Having options but not letting yourself get overwhelmed in them is the first step to making your dreams a reality.  What step will you take today?

Everyone Has Needs

Last week I started discussion of 3 keys to relationship success, starting our conversation with the topic of communication.  Today we’re continuing with talking about meeting each other’s needs.

It’s important to preface this discussion by sharing my firm belief that you cannot depend on someone else to make you happy. Others can contribute to your happiness or unhappiness, but they don’t have the final say, you do. If you’re not happy it can only be in part because of what someone else did or does, not fully.

A truly happy relationship is only possible if both partners contribute. So it would make sense that if you do your very best to make someone else unhappy, yes some people do that kind of thing, your relationship will not be a happy one. It is almost impossible to be part of a relationship in which one partner is unresponsive, doesn’t participate or does the opposite of what you’ve asked, which is one reason why there are so many divorces and miserable couples in our world today. Yes, it does go back to communication, but there comes a point in time that communication has been clearly ineffective and a decision has to be made if you’re going to stay, go or do something drastically different.

One of the other reasons relationships struggle in this area is because the partners don’t learn what does make them personally happy and how to help each other be happy. This means knowing your tastes, your likes and dislikes, and your preferences as well as theirs, communicating those preferences to each other and most importantly being willing to take action on those interests. It’s about more than just compromise, because sometimes you’ll give and sometimes you’ll take in the relationship, and that’s OK, as long as it reverses itself as well and your partner gives and receives too.

Your relationship shouldn’t be a tug of war between the two of you, it should be something you enjoy.  But there can be no enjoyment if you’re not working together to do what’s best for all involved, which includes meeting each other’s needs.

Fixing Leadership Failures part 2

Last week I shared some of the most prevalent issues leaders are facing including:

Emotional issues

Vision/mission/conviction

Setting the example

Distance from business

Overachieving/Underachieving

You’ve probably seen these in leaders you’ve been exposed to and seen the failed businesses that can result if the issues aren’t corrected.  But the worst thing you can do is see a problem and not try to correct it.  So today we’re finishing the conversation about what you can do to avoid, resolve and clean up from these 5 pressing issues.

Avoiding: of course avoiding these debilitating issues in the first place means that you have good communication with your team and clients, you’re all on the same page when it comes to expectations and responsibilities, you are present in and knowledgeable about the business and all that goes on, and you show trust and genuine care for your employees.

Resolving: if you’re at the point that resolution is necessary, you first have to realize that you can’t undo the past.  You can only move forward with the lessons you’ve learned. First you’ll have to clearly communicate the new rules and expectations.  Second you’ll have to follow through for a significant period of time so that your customers and employees know you’re serious about the new direction.  Finally, you’ll have to make sure that the tools and support are in place so that these things don’t happen again.

Cleaning up: damage control is never pretty, but the best way to move forward and clean up is to take educated action.  This means that not only will you do an inquiry into why the issue happened, you’ll then take action to not only clean up or fix the issue, you’ll do what it takes to make sure it doesn’t happen again.  During the clean up you’ll want to make sure that you’ve heard the feedback and suggested courses of action from all involved.  Don’t be deaf to the people who were hurt by or involved with the situation, and don’t just make a scapegoat to pacify people.

What recommendations do you have for resolving leadership issues?

The Thrill of Success

This month we’re going to take some time to look at lessons learned by inventors you may or may not be familiar with.  Today we’re going to look at some thoughts from Nikola Tesla:

“I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success… such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything.”

Success excites us.  Let’s be honest, we like it when we’re successful, when we’ve done something right.  And that’s right, we should be excited by our victories, our accomplishments and the impact we’ve made on the world.  There’s nothing like seeing what we’ve put blood, sweat and tears into come into fruition.  It’s on par with seeing your kids do something that really makes you proud.

This excitement is actually a good thing: it keeps life progressing.  Unfortunately some people do get caught up in the whirlwind and forget that there is more to life than just success.  Success is important and it’s good to be focused.  But when we let one area of our life take over we can lose control of other areas.  One example is hoarders.  You’ve probably heard about them or seen a program on TV.  They’re the people who have floor to ceiling, wall to wall stuff in their houses.  Sometimes it starts as an obsession, sometimes as therapy, sometimes distraction, and sometimes it’s completely unintentional.  But in every case the people in their lives suffer.

With success we are usually doing good things for others or the world, and that’s important.  But when the success becomes our distraction, our therapy, our avoidance technique, we’re not much better than those who hoard stuff.  While balance may seem like an impossible goal it is important to understand the concept: a little bit of everything, not all of one thing.

This week make a list of what’s going on in your life and make sure you’re finding time for success, family and play.

Stress Solutions

We finish up this month’s discussions on health with a favorite topic for everyone: stress.  Most of us live with it on a daily basis, trying to avoid the things that cause bumps in the road.  No one likes to be stressed, and as it turns out stress actually contributes to a lot of our health problems, so we have very good reason to dislike it.  However, while we may recognize the negative effects that stress has on our lives, few of us actually do anything about it.  Let’s change that!

First, stress is mental.  In most cases how stressed we get is a choice.  We all react differently to things that happen, but some of us react in a way that completely blows the initial stress out of proportion and as a result greatly increases the stress we experience, and the damage to our health.  If we were more prepared mentally for the challenges we’ll face and how to deal with them mentally we’d be less stressed.  I’m not suggesting we practice being stressed more often, just learn better ways of dealing with typical life situations we find ourselves in and generally learning to think and believe more positively.

Second, dealing with stress is both mental and physical.  Stress sets in motion an amazing chemical reaction throughout our bodies in addition to the freak-out our minds go through. The best ways to deal with it on a physical level and combat the effects on a regular basis are physical activity like running, walking, yoga or boxing, and other things like massages, relaxing scents, acupuncture, Bach remedies, Reiki and other similar practices.  Working through the stress on a physical level will often help you get enough distance and perspective that you’ll be able to think through the situation much clearer.

Finally, stress should not be dealt with alone.  We’re in a world with many other amazing people, people who can help us learn to forgive ourselves, deal with the stress we’ve kept in our lives and embrace what the future holds with less fear.  We can work with coaches, pastors, our partners and friends to learn techniques and get support when we deal with stressful situations.

The thing to remember here is not that stress can necessarily be avoided, but that we’ve got lots of room to improve how we handle the stresses that come into our lives.  How do you handle stress?

Social Smarts

Today is our third week in April’s discussion of health.  First we talked about physical fitness, then mental health, and today we’re talking about a very popular topic: social health.  Go anywhere and you’ll see the Facebook icon, an invitation to chat with someone or an invitation to bring 50 of your closest buddies out for a drink that weekend to see your favorite band. The undeniable fact that has finally been addressed with Social Media is that we are in fact social people.  We thrive on our interactions with others, and when we’re alone we’re just not the same.  Our relationships with others are truly gifts, and we’re so fortunate to be living in a time when it’s easier than ever to communicate or be social with just about anyone.

Is the answer to all our needs to have 5000 friends, 10,000 followers, a ton of subscribers or an email list that rivals the number of invitations to certain parties?  No, definitely not.  We each have different social needs.  Some of us do well with just 100 people we have in our circles, both close friends and simply acquaintances, others love having lots of people to connect with and learn from.  Finding the right balance is something we each must do, and we must be able to accept that we need what we need, and not what others need.

There are a couple of truths that are necessary to put forward, first that we all need some socializing in our lives, and second that we can learn to be better socially.  You may not think those are good things, but they really are.  It’s amazing what can happen when people come together with a purpose or goal like rebuilding a town, curing cancer or teaching skills to in-need mothers.  We’ve come up with lots of amazing ideas, inventions, solutions and fun when we’ve come together.

This week I encourage you to get out there and spend time with friends.  Make that coffee or beer date, take a walk, meet for dinner or just call a friend to check in.

Under Pressure

If you’ve been following the news in the USA and around the world at all lately, there are many tumultuous situations going on.  The US government shutdown, boats sinking, wars, people kidnapped, the list goes on.  A little closer to home parents are heading in for parent-teacher conferences, seeing some of the early grades of the year and almost done with fall sports.  At any time we’re under a lot of pressure from work, school, family, friends and relationship, not to mention the pressures we have no real control or influence over like the government or weather.  Pressures like these not only affect you but they affect your kids as well.  When you’re stressed out that stress easily transfers itself to your kids since they’re more sensitive.  That’s not to say they should be sheltered from stress and pressure until they’re teens; they should be aware of stress and how to deal with it.  Today I thought we’d review just a few thoughts on dealing with pressures and stress.

1-realize that sometimes it will be too much to handle.  You don’t have to be picture perfect all the time.  If people accepted that sooner we’d all be more able to be ourselves.  Which would mean less pressure to be perfect, more understanding when things do get screwy and healthier relationships all around.  When we accept that sometimes life will be too much we can let go of some of our fears around how we show up in the world and how others see us.  We will screw up.  It’s a fact.  How we handle things as a result of the screw up says a lot about our character and who we are as people.

2-know you don’t have to handle it alone.  I would never run for a political office, but if the people in government started talking and working together instead of trying to one-up the other person, I don’t think we’d be in this situation in the first place. No one person could rule the world, so why do we insist that we can handle everything all by ourselves?  The second we turn to someone else for assistance we’re not giving up our power, but rather gaining more power than we could have by ourselves.  We can’t always be right, nor can we do everything the best way possible all by ourselves.

3-communication is key to handling pressures effectively.  While animals may be able to grunt and fight their problems out, most of the time that’s not going to help us find solutions to the pressures.  Yes, we do need to get the physical emotions and feelings out and physical activity is a great way to do that.  But the problem won’t be solved by a 10 mile run or fist fight.  Nor will a screaming match do anyone any good.  When you sit down and truly discuss the situation and possible next steps instead of yelling or just giving up you’re choosing to create a better future.

These 3 keys will not only help you better deal with stress, they’ll give you the tools to help your kids deal with and learn from your stress as well.  Kids will always be affected by our stress, but they don’t have to be traumatized by it.  What do you do that helps you handle pressures and stress?

Dreams of Success

If you live in the USA you’ve probably heard the talk over the last two weeks on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his famous “I Have a Dream” speech since August 28th (today) is the 50 year anniversary of the speech and March on Washington.  It’s been 50 years of dreaming, hard work and coming together in ways that hadn’t been imagined before.  It’s impossible to know what would have happened if King hadn’t been killed a few short years later, but he did manage to lay the foundation for people to dream big and work together to create a better future.

As business owners we need to be captured by the same fire that King had burning beneath him.  We need to live and work passionately, committed to our employees and clients and the business we’re creating.  I know it can get tiring very easily, especially if you haven’t built a support network around yourself and your business, don’t take time to rest and try to do too much.

Also, we need to focus on one goal not many.  King didn’t try to free the whole world from all the different kinds of slavery within it, he didn’t try to solve all of world hunger, he focused on a dream of freedom for specifically the African-American people of the USA.  If you’ve set out to be the best accountant, dog walker and pool cleaner, you’d better have a unifying goal in all of them, and financial freedom isn’t appropriate, or you’ll struggle to accomplish them well.

Finally, King shared his passion with others and got them on board.  He gave them something to believe in, supported their dreams and encouraged them to peacefully step boldly forward together.  You can’t be successful if you don’t get others on board with your dreams and passions.  One guitarist may sound OK, but it doesn’t have the impact of a full band.

This week I encourage you to remember the dreams you had when you started your business.  Bring those dreams back to light and let them guide you to success.

Let’s Relax

We all live busy lives, which means it’s more important now than ever to schedule in (if necessary) time to relax and unwind.  So I thought today I’d give you some simple ways to relax alone, with your partner and your family.

-playdough (good to work out the frustration)

-painting (soothes the nerves)

-chalk on the driveway (you’re out in nature and getting creative)

-partners massage (who doesn’t like a good massage?!)

-bath or shower with candles (alone time was never so good)

-book quiet time for everyone (a book is a great way to relax and maybe learn something too)

-movie night (no scary stuff, remember we’re relaxing)

-get takeout for a picnic at a nearby park (nature, food and good company)

-candles/scents (our senses pick up on our surroundings and impact us)

-plants (help make fresh air and cheer up the space)

-sunlight (get outside and work on that tan!)

What are your favorite ways to relax?