Build Your Leaders

Archive for September, 2009

How to Answer Life’s Questions

September 30th, 2009

At a crossroads? Seeking clarity? Wondering what’s next? Are you one of the millions of Americans are asking themselves what they are doing, where they are going, and what they want to do with the rest of their lives?

Faced with a myriad of options, many become paralyzed. Author, speaker, and counselor Richard Leider offers this simple formula for making life choices: T + P + E x V

T is for talent. What are your strengths and weaknesses, and are you maximizing those strengths while managing the weaknesses? Many of us aren’t aware of our talents and shortcomings, and as a result most of us aren’t living up to our full potential.

P is for purpose. Most of us are searching for meaning, and we want to know that our lives matter. “Where the needs of the world and your talents cross, there lies your vocation,” Aristotle once offered. How are you using your talents to make the world—even your little part of it—a better place?

E is for environment. Many people have real talents and are prepared to apply them in something they believe in, but their environment holds them back. What environment best suits your style, your temperament, and your values? Using the Enneagram, I help clients determine their ideal work environment so that they won’t make costly mistakes.

V is for vision. Talent, purpose, and environment are about work style and choice. Vision describes how work fits into the rest of your life.

For close to 25 years, Richard Leider interviewed more than 1,000 people who retired from leading companies after distinguished careers. Most said if they could live their lives again, they would:

1. Be more reflective

2. Take more risks

3. Understand what gave them fulfillment

Leider concludes that fulfillment is the truest measure of success, and fulfillment comes from integrity, knowing who you are and finding the courage to express yourself in the world.

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Balance Work with Home

September 24th, 2009

Work and personal life out of balance? You’re not alone. Those of you who know me, know that I love to follow trends. One futurist I follow is Roger Herman of the Herman Group. Herman and his partner Joyce Gioia specialize in employee retention and offer a free weekly eNewsletter that I subscribe to,

Herman believes – and I concur – that money is no longer the chief motivator in getting job candidates to sign on the dotted line. “Maintaining balance between work and personal lives is rapidly becoming one of the primary motivators for today’s workers. Balance has already surfaced as an important criterion for people choosing their next employer.” The focus is now on “softer issues” like professional development, being involved in decision making, childcare, and finding meaning in one’s work. Chief among these issues is work-life balance.

Many of my clients struggle with work-life balance. Upon questioning them, I find that many of their challenges are self-inflicted. It’s not so much the company’s expectations of them, as their expectations of themselves. Smart employers know they can increase employee retention rates by being sensitive to life balance.

I empathize with my clients’ struggle for balance. “I should be doing something productive,” my inner critic whispers. And with Blackberries, cell phones, and e-mail, it’s too easy to stay connected with work during down times.

I sure don’t have the solution, but I have found that if I schedule time to do the things I enjoy, I make time for them. For example, every Tuesday morning (when I’m not out of town) I used to attend a painting group at A-B Tech in Asheville. For three hours, I would have nothing to do but paint. Today, I have a studio, and I still have to schedule time on my calender to be there. For me it is time well spent, as those three hours help ground me through the week.

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The Power of Facing Fear

September 22nd, 2009

Do you usually say yes to life’s invitations? Monhegan Island, Maine, could be one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited, yet when Greg recently asked me to hike its rocky cliffs my first response was to say no. Whatever the question, no is often my immediate response.

Do you want to take a walk?
How about a bike ride by the river?

What would you think about checking out that new museum?

It seems to be a knee-jerk reaction on my part, but when I dig a little deeper, I discover fear. There’s a thin layer of fear that surrounds almost every new experience. When I name, feel, and face it, fear loses its intensity, and I find the courage to say yes.

I go on the walk, take a bike ride, or visit the museum, and I’m almost always rewarded. I see a beautiful vista, feel the pride of accomplishment, or learn something new.

Taking the path of least resistance leads to complacency. It may be safe, but the scenery seldom changes. When I get off my butt, face my fears, and just do it, I fuel the engines that energize my life.

When life issues an invitation I am learning to consider saying yes before no. Life is most likely offering me a lovely present, but I need to show up to receive it.

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Happy Places

September 16th, 2009

Do you have a happy place? A happy place is a memory that helps ground you. It connects you to your source, or essence. Visiting it can shift your attitude. It can bring you peace.

My happy place was a spot in Muir Woods in California. Picture a clear, gentle stream slowly meandering through a cathedral composed of giant red woods. I visited Muir Woods close to ten years ago, and I revisit it often in my imagination, especially when I am feeling anxious.

Yesterday, I discovered another happy spot. Greg and I stumbled upon a beautiful green pond at the bottom of a waterfall outside of Conway, New Hampshire. There’s a photo of it above. I can’t explain why, but this place seems magical. It’s the kind of place you’d expect to find fairies, nymphs, and satyrs hidden behind the boulders, trees, and bushes. Green, blue, gray, rust. Cool and quiet. Its beauty is so startling that it almost feels surreal.

Happy places aren’t always visual. For some, listening to a beautiful piece of music can transport them to their special spot. Others may experience theirs touching a piece of worn fabric or holding the hand of someone they love.

What’s wonderful about happy places is that you can visit them at any time. No advance tickets to purchase, passport photos to shoot, shots to take, or bags to pack. You can be there in less than a minute. And when you’re there? Serenity washes over you. You know you are safe; you’re not alone. You know all is right with the world.

What is your happy place? Write and tell me about it. I’d like to know.

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