How to Achieve the Balance You Crave

Categories Inspiration, Leadership & Management, Your CareerPosted on

Several years ago, my wife and I took a business / personal trip to California.On our way to the hotel, we passed a sign proclaiming, “SUP Rental & Instruction, 7-Days a Week.”

Not knowing what SUP stood for, we asked our taxi driver. He informed us that SUP was shorthand for Stand-Up Paddling and explained that it was popular up and down the coast.

The activity involves standing upright on a large surfboard shaped device as you paddle over the water. Done well, it appears near effortless.

A short drive later, we exited the cab. Armed with the name of several SUP options in the area and every intention of SUP-ing before we left the Golden State.

Then, the schedule got away from us. The work-side of the trip overwhelmed the personal-side and things got out of balance.

We returned home SUP-less.

Time passed.

A bit over a year ago, we learned of a SUP location in our hometown. No, it’s not on the ocean, but it sits on a large lake about 20 minutes from our house.

We vowed to make it happen. Then, life got in the way and the summer pace was busier than planned. Summer 2016 passed without our SUP adventure.

In a small way, the whole trying to make the SUP adventure happen was a nagging reminder of a lack of balance in my life. For years, a little one hour excursion seemed to fall prey to other demands. Granted, if we really wanted to make it happen, we would have forced it into the schedule, but forcing it would have been yet another sign of imbalance.

Over the last several years, I’ve worked to reduce the forcing function in my life. My years in the army, working at a global consulting firm, and owning my own business created a person who was great at forcing things into his calendar. I physically, mentally, and emotionally sprinted from work to many family events. Arriving a few minutes late, my mind often wandered to other pressing issues, instead of fully enjoying the kid’s ballgame or dance recital playing out in front of me.

Two weeks ago, SUP-ing on the lake happened!

We had a great time and, less than a week later, we did it again.

As I reflect on the experience, I think there is something we can all learn about balancing not just ourselves on a board, but perhaps our lives in general.

Consider your life…

You have likely had times when you felt out of control; times when the schedule was packed and the pace frantic. The promise you so often heard of ‘work-life balance’ seemed distant, if not nonexistent.

When was the last time you felt out-of-balance? Last month? Last week? Today?

When I encounter those moments in the future, I’m going to remind myself of standing on the paddle board and cruising across the lake. To help me do it, I’m employing a different version of SUP.

  • S – Set Sights
  • U – Understand Uncomfortableness
  • P – Purposely Practice

S – Set Sights

When we were driving to the lake for our first outing, I recalled pictures I’d seen of people doing yoga on paddle boards. They were so in balance. I saw myself doing that as well.

Then, reality crept in and I reset my sights to something more realistic and obtainable.

I thought to myself, “Instead of striving to do a handstand on the paddle board, why don’t I just try to remain standing or, at least, limit falling off to once every 30 minutes?”

What’s the point?

You have to realistically set your sights on what balance looks like for you. If you are the CEO of a large global firm, don’t expect to be home for dinner every night or attend every personal outing. You will be disappointed, and others in your life will be frustrated too.

Experience has taught me that much of my out-of-balance feeling stems from having unrealistic expectations or chasing an illusive, perhaps unobtainable, vision of a balanced life.

The point is to set your sights on what balance looks like to you, communicate it well to others, and then strive to achieve it.

Consider these questions:

  • What does balance mean to you?
  • If you were ‘in balance’ how would you feel and what would you accomplish physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually?
  • Given your current situation, what level of balance is achievable? Are you there? Or, is there room to grow and improve?

U – Understand Uncomfortableness

After about 30 minutes of standing upright on the board, I noticed a slight cramp in my right foot. The uncomfortableness was no doubt the result of trying to maintain my balance and not fall into the lake. Eventually, the pain subsided, as I relaxed and got better at it.

Doing something new can be a bit uncomfortable. We know this is true when we are acquiring a new skill or taking on a challenging project at work, but the same is true when we are striving for balance in our lives.

Some of us are uncomfortable saying ‘no’ to things, but balance requires doing just that. Trying to please everyone is one of the quickest paths to imbalance.

Consider these questions:

  • How uncomfortable are you with disappointing others? How about disappointing yourself?
  • What is the last ‘big’ thing you said ‘no’ to in order to maintain a sense of balance? Did your blow up or did life continue?

P – Purposely Practice

The second time on the lake, we were better than the first. The mystery of what to expect was gone, and a bit of time on the water measurably improved our skills.

The first time, I considered success having not fallen off the board and making it to the next cove along the lakeshore. Our second outing allowed for quicker speed and a longer trek across a portion of the lake.

I got better and more practice will likely yield even greater results.

Consider these questions:

  • Are you willing to practice at finding balance? Or, will you merely surrender at the first sign of resistance and fall back into old ways?
  • What tools and skills do you need to develop in order to better balance your life? Time management? Decision making? Communication? Technology constraint?

I wish you all the best as you strive to get better and find the balance we all yearn to achieve.

Invitation to get started

One of the most balanced people I know is my friend, Todd Davis. Todd is the Chief People Officer at FranklinCovey, a company known for helping individuals and organizations achieve amazing results.

Todd is offering a series of eight complimentary webinars based on his forthcoming book, Get Better: 15 Proven Practices to Build Effective Relationships at Work.

The first one is September 14.

I highly recommend that you click this link and check out the webinars. You will benefit greatly from hearing from Todd and his insights. No doubt what he shares with you about relationships at work will be key to finding balance in your life.

Stop Fighting that Thing

Categories InspirationPosted on

Perhaps it is time for you (for me) to stop fighting against that thing.

Perhaps it is time to step back; revisit your approach, and to explore a new way. Allow the wisdom that you’ve gathered through proactive learning and experience to inform you of a new way forward.

This doesn’t mean you give up on your goals, it merely means that you might find a way to accomplish them that doesn’t require fighting.

Perhaps your goals can be achieved through collaboration and partnership.

Consider exploring new paths this week at work and home.

Want to Be a True Performer? Do This…

Categories Inspiration, Your CareerPosted on

You’re excited about your new job. You want to make an impact. You hit the ground running.

Over time, you build new relationships, deliver good results, and make a name for yourself.

  • A few weeks pass.
  • Weeks become months.
  • Months become years.
  • You grow comfortable.

If you see yourself or a colleague falling into the comfort zone, perhaps it’s time to do what all true achievers do:

Proactively Chose to Move Out of Their Comfort Zone & Break the Cycle

Why would you possibly do this? After all, it can be risky, takes work, and you might mess up.

Well, here are 3 reasons to give it a try…

1. Deliver New Results. 

Achieving better results, requires a change in human behavior. In other words, it you want to achieve something new, you better step out of your comfort zone and start doing some new things. This isn’t a wildly new concept, but it is often forgotten.

Remember what Albert Einstein said..

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. – Albert Einstein

2. Keep Work Interesting

Most organizations are looking for marathon runners. These people are great long-term contributors who remain loyal to the organization for years. The problem with marathons is they can become boring. They are monotonous.

Most true achievers struggle with monotony.

To be effective, true achievers embrace the practice of both marathoners and sprinters. Yes, they are committed for the long-term, but they remain interested by running multiple sprints along the way. They take on new projects, tackle new challenges, and strive to move a key metric every quarter.

3. Maintain Brain Plasticity

Our brains have the ability to change physically, chemically, and functionally – but, you have to use it or lose it. Children can quickly learn new things; however, as we age we often lose much of this ability. It’s much easier to learn a new language at 3 years old than when you are 50. It’s not impossible at 50, but it’s arguably much harder.

Sometimes, you need to break the cycle.

If you haven’t heard of him, let me introduce you to Destin Sandlin. He’s a rocket engineer and creator of the Smarter Every Day video series.

My colleague, Josh Chase, introduced me to Destin’s work.

One of his videos teaches all about brain plasticity in which he truly breaks the cycle.

In his situation, he breaks a bicycle!

Watch this video. The Backwards Brain Bicycle (approximately 7 minutes) truly changed the way I think about my brain.

I wish you all the best as you proactively chose to step out of your comfort zone and break the cycle!

6 Ways to Be Invaluable @ Work

Categories Your CareerPosted on

Over the past twenty years, I have been surrounded by many top performers:

  • Courageous fellow paratroopers in the U.S. Army
  • Amazing colleagues at both a global consulting firm and my own professional services agency
  • Outstanding leaders throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Asia
  • Brilliant students at one of the nation’s top universities

As I consider what makes many of them outstanding, I have come to the realization that they exhibit six behaviors that make them invaluable at work.

I invite you to take a minute to review each behavior and consider the questions I offer.

1. Deliver Results; Don’t Just Pleasantly Accomplish Activities

Top performers may be funny, personable, kind, considerate, or a variety of other wonderful attributes. However, above all, they deliver results.

I’m not saying that the above mentioned attributes aren’t helpful. They are. They make working with someone much more enjoyable. But, when times are tough and expectations are high, leaders don’t need a friend, they need a top performer who delivers the goods.

Consider yourself…

  • Is your reputation one as a person who delivers results?
  • Do you confuse activities with results?
  • When was the last time that you and your team failed to deliver as expected? What did you team learn from the situation?

2. Solve Problems; Don’t Just Point Them Out

Top performers aren’t afraid to jump in with both feet to help fix a problem. They don’t merely stand on the sidelines or complain about the complexities of work.

They don’t seek glory or work to fix blame; they seek to solve problems and put steps in place to avoid future pitfalls. They are proactive problem solvers.

Consider yourself…

  • What problems exist within your team or organization that are going unaddressed? (Odds are you aren’t the only one who sees them.)
  • What might you do today to begin to proactively addressing problems in your midst?

3. Learn New Stuff; Don’t Just Be Comfortable

Top performers actively develop new skills. They put themselves into new situations, wade into uncharted waters, and willingly place themselves in uncomfortable positions.

Why would they do this?

Well, they recognize that investing time in learning new things makes them more valuable to the organization, more helpful to their teammates, and more marketable in future situations.

Consider yourself…

  • Would people consider you and your team members active learners?
  • What book are you currently reading? What skills are you honing?
  • When was the last time you taught a customer or employee something new?

4. Experience the Customer’s World; Don’t Just Observe It

Top performers understand and practice the concept of being in their customer’s world. They care about the customer winning as much as the customer cares. They demonstrate an unmatched level of customer understanding that eludes their peers and competitors.

Consider yourself…

  • Who are the most important customers that you and your team serve?
  • What matters most to them?
  • What can you and your team do today to better help your customers win?

5. Provide Value That Is Not Easily Replaced; Don’t Just Do the Job

Top performers are not irreplaceable, but they are not easily replaced. You can’t simply hire another person with the same skills, experience, and education as a top performer, get him up-to-speed on his role, and not feel the loss.

Why?

Because a top performer makes a distinctive contribution. They add value over and above their job description.

Consider yourself…

  • How easy would it be to replace you and your team?
  • What can your team do to be more valuable to your customers? What can you do?

6. Think Abundantly, Don’t Fall Into the Scarcity Trap

Much of your work will likely involve participating as a member of a team. If you want to contribute your best effort, help your team members win, and avoid isolating yourself from your colleagues, work on your mindset and your behaviors will follow. Recognize that the pie can be big enough for all to win AND your winning doesn’t require someone else on your team to lose.

Consider yourself…

  • Do you operate from a win-win mindset, where both you and your colleagues can win?
  • When you are listening to a colleague, do you listen with the intent to understand or to simply find a space in the conversation to interject your ‘wisdom’?

Final thought…

Am I suggesting that these are the only behaviors necessary?

No.

I am simply suggesting that they are key.

I wish you all the best as you work to become a top performer in your chosen endeavors!