Monday, May 26, 2014

Your life's work is not balance. It's influence.

There are many sources of information on how to balance life and work, as if being paid for something automatically meant being less alive while you do it.  Work involves effort that gets results, and life involves staying alive, which often involves making money, which means doing work.

What you are doing at work - right now, in the job for which you earn money - is your life's work. It's the work you do with your breath and your thought and your time and your effort. It's a big part of who you are and how you are and even how you relate to friends or family.  Your life's work is your work. And despite the best efforts at contracting out and delegating, you can't make more of your life to make up for the life you give to your work.

As human beings, we all come with a built in program for our life's work. We are all highly sensitive to our connectedness to other people (whether or not we see that as a benefit). Our life's work is to have influence on the people around us, either directly (by making change happen in them) or indirectly (by changing circumstances, environments or stuff so that change happens in other people). We are all in the business of influence, and our life is not so much traded for that influence as lived through the building and exchange of influence. We are the influence we experience - as givers and as receivers.

It's time to stop balancing life against non-life. Instead, wonder how to have the influence you want to have, so that your life's work has the impact that you want to have. Think of it as doing your part of the contract you have with life - that mysterious concept that created you and sustains you and will one day end your work. The influence you have on your clients, customers, co-workers, communities, employees, supervisors and bosses is the work you are doing with your life.

You are also doing your life's work when you go home and change people's lives there. Your life's work is what changes in others because they have some connection with you. How's yours coming?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

There are only two problems that everyone has to manage

I've been thinking about how to communicate value to people. Should I just be saying that if you come to one of my programs, you will get to think in really cool ways? It's true. I create experiences that open people up to new thoughts in a way that feels really good. But that doesn't tell people how I solve problems.

I do show people that they can solve problems. And in thinking about the problems they solve or could solve or might want to solve, I've realized that every human day wakes up every morning with just two problems:
  1. How will I spend my time?
  2. How will I live with other people?
These are the two non-negotiable conditions of human life for everyone regardless of location, experience, background, etc. etc. etc.  What will call life is continuous with what we call time: we cannot make more of it. Once we have used it, it is gone. How we spend our time is how we are spending our lives, and time moves regardless of whether we are intentional or ready or interested.
Our brains spend some of this time restlessly searching for input from other human beings. We are wired to connect and while we can choose to be alone some of the time, that takes some willpower and some special arrangements. For most of us, life requires interaction.

The quality of your life is the quality of the choices you make about how to spend your time and how to interact with others.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Sadness and patience and the art of staying productive

I've noticed that we do not often talk about sadness. We talk about depression (it's a disease) sometimes about grief (there's counselling for that). We do not talk about what it's like to be sad or how sadness enriches our lives and perspectives. We do not talk about how sadness slows us down and interrupts our thought patterns and makes a change in us.

I'm sad today. There are lots of reasons, good reasons. Some are old reasons, anchored to this time of year. Others are current heartaches. Some are not really my own, but they are close enough. And some are things that have not happened yet (but they will happen one day).

One of my most firmly held beliefs in life (and presuppositions in my work in NLP) is that we are here to live our lives, not escape from them. Sadness has a place in my life because I have (almost always) stopped trying to outthink my life or work around it. So today, I am agreeing to feel the tightness and tenderness around my heart, to be distracted, and to slow my pace to what I can do well while I am sad.

Small steps. Chores. The creation of order. These are things I can manage when I am sad.

Tomorrow I may feel better or different. I may be ready to climb a mountain or wrestle a demon. Or not. Part of the discipline is noticing what is possible in the present and making the most of it: doing the right tasks for the moment while keeping in mind all that needs to be done. I cannot be sad forever. But neither do I need to hide from my sadness by making myself busier than necessary.

I honour the values and people and loss when I slow down and let myself feel what I am feeling. Most of all, I honour the self that is aware and awake and knows what I need even when it is not popular or easy. Patience may be less about how we respond to others and more about how we respond to the feelings we wish we did not have.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Did you know you already have your own personal TARDIS?

If you are not a geek, it's possible you either haven't heard of Doctor Who or have only a vague sense of a campy sort of show that features time travel. If you've tried to sample just one episode, you might have found it quite confusing and decided to watch something else that required less research to make sense of the action.

Two years ago, my son gave me Series 1 as a Christmas gift, and we watched the episodes mostly while on summer holiday. I liked it quite well, but I wasn't quite hooked. Last year, I started watching episodes on television or on the computer shortly after they aired. I liked it better, but I wasn't quite hooked. This winter, I had a cough that lasted forever and I decided I needed to take a break each day. That's when I got hooked. I have to rematch the episodes I had already seen, but I have worked my way through most of series 1 through 7.

That's why I finally understood the nature of the blue box that carries the Doctor through time and space. It's called a TARDIS (time and relative dimensions in space) ship and it is, famously, bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.  It sometimes takes the Doctor where he wants to go and more often takes him where his action will make a tangible difference that serves his purpose in the universe (maybe in multiple universes).

The TARDIS is a grand and funny and quite precise representation of the unconscious mind.

Watching Doctor Who is an experience of exploring how you are bigger on the inside and how you will choose to feel about that. Will you resent the places that your unconscious sends you or will you navigate and negotiate and serve your purpose wherever you land? Will you be glad to move through your memories of the past and your perceptions of the present and your memories of the future (the only way to think about something that hasn't happened is to build your representation out of memories)?

Your own personal TARDIS will take you places you do not expect and set you puzzles you do not (at first) know how to solve. It will slow down time or speed it up without giving you any warning that time is about to change. You'll look up from time to time and find that you are in a new location (perhaps after a long and thoughtful drive). You may even feel that you have stolen your own TARDIS and are flying it without a proper set of instructions. Some unconscious minds are like that.