Monday, September 25, 2017

Focus + Fun + Friends = Energy

Do you have enough energy to do everything you need to do every day? Most of us would reply "yes" from between clenched teeth, and mean "obviously I get it done so I must have enough energy." Or we would be honest and say "I don't have enough energy to get it all done and feel good."

It's hard to manage your time if you are not managing your energy. You need to monitor which activities give you energy and which ones drain it. You probably already know what drains you, but you might not have thought beyond napping when it comes to finding the energy you need to enjoy your life.

Here's a formula to consider: focus + fun + friends = energy.  It means that anytime you are focused on a task that involves laughter and a satisfying social connection, you're likely to be energized. This is true for extraverts, and it's also true for introverts. When we are focused on getting something done with people we like in a state that includes laughter, we create energy.

Some of your activities will be energy sinks. You'll have to do them alone even though it's hard to focus and not much fun.  You'll have to sit through the meeting that lacks fun and focus. You'll hang out for an evening that has fun and friends but not much focus. There are some good reasons for being engaged in ways that don't produce energy for you.

If you build opportunities for focus + fun + friends into your schedule on a regular basis, you'll find you have more energy for tackling the situations that drain you. You'll also find you're more motivated, more focused, and more satisfied.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Small things that capture attention

Do you get trapped into thinking that something has to be big to make a difference?

Take a look at the picture. I bet there are two things you noticed: the pathway and the golden leaves.

Neither of those occupies much space in the picture. The picture is more green than gold, but what you noticed was the cue that signalled a change. In the same way, the path changes what the picture means. When there's a path through the woods, the setting is not the wilderness, even if the rest of the picture looks wild enough.

Now think about that thing that isn't big enough to make a difference. How can you make it a focal point so that it takes up more attention than it does space?

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Don't Fixate on Labels: Keep Your Eyes on the Horizon

I was reminded this week of how important it is to keep looking out at the horizon instead of backwards. Words help us stabilize thoughts so we can remember them. That's useful much of the time. But sometimes, those words transform a temporary problem into a permanent identity.

Therapists are not the only ones who offer us labels and invite us to own them longer than we should. Bosses do it, and so do teachers. Maybe you owned "messy" a long, long time ago (when it applied to your grade 2 printing). Maybe you owned "fearless" at a time when it applied to going for the goal in a soccer game (not impulsively leaping into a relationship or out of a job). Maybe you owned "analytical" so thoroughly that you forgot that the most creative people are often analytical too.

Don't go back to fight with your labels. Just take a look at the picture here and notice that if you said it was dark or cloudy, you would be missing the point. It was going to get darker, and then brighter again (because the sun would set and then rise again). Labelling a moment in a process is not a way to define the whole process.

You are a work in process. If you're going to use labels on yourself, make sure they are timestamped. Better yet, look at the horizon in front of you and attach a label to what you want to find when you get there.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Stuck? Maybe You Should Talk to Someone

We have two illusions about solving problems.

The first illusion is that smart people think best when they are alone. We imagine people hunched over computers or pacing in front of whiteboards until they have an AHA moment  and solve the problem using their solitary genius.

The other illusion is that we only learn from experts.  We expect therapists to help us with emotional problems and subject matter experts to help us with everything else. After years of conditioning in schools, we think that the people who make us smarter are people who know more than we do.

The result of these illusions is often that we stay stuck for much longer than is necessary. We wait for access to an expert. We beat ourselves up for not being smart enough or competent enough or confident enough to think it through all alone. But it's all based on a faulty premise: we believe that smart people think best on their own.

Take a closer look at what really smart people are doing. They are hanging out with other smart people. They're not trying to think it all the way through by themselves. They are looking for perspectives that check their blindspots or open up new possibilities. Smart business look for diversity because it checks more blindspots. They're not trying to find the most expert thinkers; they're looking for conversations that offer new thinking to complement their own expertise.

When you're stuck, you probably don't need an expert. You need a fresh point of view or a piece of information that's lurking in your blind spot. Both of those could be found by engaging with anyone; with a friend, a child, a person you meet in a coffee shop. Anyone who is willing to engage with you offers difference. And as we say in neurolinguistic programming (NLP), difference is the difference that makes a difference.

Stop waiting for an expert. Connect, engage and then reflect. You'll find you're moving before you know it.