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.

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

What Technology Teaches

I’m a big fan of technology. I love how it enables us to connect anywhere in the world with just a few clicks, no long plane or boat trips, no waiting for letters to be returned, no not being able to talk to people just because they weren’t within walking or driving distance. No, now we’re able to connect with anyone anywhere. It’s also made some really big strides for helping to educate the world. All you need is to have an internet connection and you can order a book or learn online.

It’s also great for distracting kids, making dinner and sick days. But kids don’t need any more of that not-involved parenting than they already get. Over the years we’ve gotten busier, some of us because we have to work multiple jobs to care for our kids or make ends meet, so we leave parenting to Dora, the schools and babysitters and hope for the best. As much as technology can do amazing things to teach kids the important things in life, there’s nothing that can replace a person’s involvement in that education.

Teachers can bring something to the table that is really important and something that I see missing in many businesses and families: human interaction. The fact is that no matter what you’re selling you’re selling to a person and no matter what you’re teaching you’re teaching to a person. It’s the way it is since we’re a world of people not faceless, emotionless machines. No, we’re real and need that human interaction to really be human. A book can’t celebrate your success in learning a concept, a computer program can’t teach you how to truly problem solve in the real world, a robot can’t give you the hug you need after skinning your knee. No, only people working with people can do these things.

Are you making time for people or just technology? Take time to get a real perspective on your passions, time and activities this week and think about if it’s taking you where you truly want to go.

“Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important.”
Bill Gates

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

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.