Decision Versus Fantasy

There were three birds sitting on a wire. One decided to fly away. How many birds are sitting on the wire? Three. One decided to fly away, but no action has taken place yet.

People talk a good game about changing something in their lives.They emphatically state over and over again that they have decided to:

  • Get fit.
  • Lose weight.
  • Eat better.
  • Improve their finances.
  • Spend more time with the family.
  • Regularly save money.
  • Grow their business.
  • Live a life of priorities rather than obligations.
  • Take better care of themselves.
  • Improve their marriage.
  • Be a better parent.
  • Develop self-discipline.

Initially listening to them, you might be convinced they are committed to their decision. And yet, all they do is talk about what they have decided to do. Months, even years later, they still have not actually done anything. However, they have added a sentence or two to their decision.

  • When I get the time…
  • After the kids are out of school for the summer…
  • Once things quiet down at work…
  • After I finish the project I am working on…
  • After the wedding (10 months from now)…
  • After the baby is born…
  • When I recover from my injury…
  • After we return from our upcoming vacation…
  • When I can find someone to work out with…
  • After we pay off the car…

Their original “decision” wasn’t a decision after all. It was a fantasy they gave voice to in a moment of inspiration. They were just wishing out loud.

Nothing wrong with wishing as long as that is what you realize you are doing. If you mistake a wish for a decision, frustration and a feeling of failure are bound to show up. A wish is a fantasy without commitment and a game plan.

It would be more accurate to say they wish to get fit, lose weight, etc., etc. – but, I am not committed to making it happen – just wishing.

A decision is a dream backed by commitment, a game plan and action. A decision is “do or die trying” and “come hell or high water.” As my friend, George Guzzardo, says a “red line defense” – an all-out consistent effort to follow up on the decision and do everything possible every day to make it come to fruition.

Now, that is a decision!

Have you made any decisions lately?

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Fruit on the Tree

Be careful from whom you get your advice. The advisor may not have achieved or helped others achieve the results you are looking for in your life. Seek advice and guidance from those with “fruit on the tree”: People who have first-hand experience reaching the goals for which you are looking. Measure advisors based on their results, not their words.

Humans are “pack animals”. We want to be part of the pack and trust the pack even when it is jumping off a cliff or wallowing in the mud! Think about it! We get our financial advice from our family and friends who are all broke and living from paycheck to paycheck. We pay for marriage advice from a professional counselor who has been divorced three times. We get success advice from our coworkers who hate their jobs. We seek inner peace and enlightenment from religious leaders who may lack both. We believe in the words of others without giving a thought to their credibility. Oh, the advisors mean well. And, they believe what they offer is accurate, but beware the source! Is the advice opinion or experience?

Even a professional title is not enough to earn credibility. Licensed financial planners go through a 2 year program to earn their certification. Those two years are spent learning economic theory, investment laws, etc. Once they have earned their certification, they are now qualified to call themselves a financial planner. Or are they? Unless a financial planner has earned good financial results for themselves and others, can they really offer credible advice to you? Yes, they can offer you the theories they have learned, but is theory going to get you the results you want? Maybe yes. Maybe no. Are you willing to take the risk with your hard earned money? Evaluate the results of any professional before taking their advice.

How about the faculty teaching in veterinary schools? I worked for a veterinary school for 30 years. The faculty DVM who taught the veterinary students how to run a business had never been out of academia and had never run any kind of business. Just how credible was he? I am not saying that the class was a waste of time. It did offer the students concepts and principles that may prove of value later. However, a good many of the lectures were not founded in proven business practices, but were only theories.

I am sure all of us have run into the professional real estate broker or agent who offers advice on which house to buy and how much you can afford to buy. Hmmm, credible? Maybe yes. Maybe no. Could there be a conflict of interest? Has the broker/agent established a track record of helping people make excellent financial decisions about their future? There are many that have the results for which you are looking. Just make sure the one with whom you are working has your best interests at the forefront and has the track record to support the advice provided.

Most people mean well, but they haven’t a clue. Consider the source of advice, including the motive and credibility. Remember, the best part of about advice is that you can keep what you want and throw the rest away! Just make sure the advisor has achieved or helped others achieve the results you wish to duplicate.

Reading

“Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing or that but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.” William Butler Yeats

As always, I learn so much from my mentor, George Guzzardo! Here are some of my thoughts on the importance of reading I have learned over the years. Slowly, but surely I am putting it all together in my own head!

I think we can all agree there is a lot of unhappy people in this Nation. Discontented in their work. People unable to create healthy, happy relationships. People physically sick and tired. Financially strapped. Emotionally numb. Stuck in the drudgery of home to work; Home to work; home to work.

We also know from the numerous studies available that literacy is at an all time low in our Nation. As a percentage, we have more uninformed, misinformed illiterate citizens than we did at the founding of our Nation. Back then the majority could read and were very literate. The ability to read was treasured. They deliberately stayed informed and sought to improve their critical thinking skills and advance their understanding of their world. The number of illiterate in this country today is shocking, but what is even worse is the number of literate people who don’t read at all or only read for entertainment.

“The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.”
Mark Twain

People who aren’t growing and learning are much easier to control, influence and mislead. Eventually, we have a Nation of sheep led to slaughter by the wolves.

If we don’t know what we don’t know and we are forgetting what we do know then we are missing critical information in our lives. We can’t see what we aren’t educated to see: opportunities and dangers. Reading sources of credible information is the key to “knowing”. When we read, we are exposed to ideas, data, thinking processes, and information we didn’t know existed. Through reading, we are also reminded of that which we have forgotten. The end result: personal growth through knowledge. We increase what we do know improving the potential for a better life for our families and ourselves. We also become armed against the dangers represented by those who would do our Nation harm and us. It is always those who know who hold sway over those who don’t; for good or for evil.

“After all, nothing really changes until the mind changes.” George Guzzardo

To know is to have. If you don’t know, then you don’t have. Increase what you know and you can have. This applies to just about anything in our lives: relationships, financial standing, fulfillment, health, etc. The key is to expand what we know and the ability to think critically is to increase our reading of valuable books. If every adult and child in this Nation read a minimum of one valuable book a month, life, as we know it would improve because we are growing.

I Want What I Want and the Facts Don’t Matter

We have all experienced it. You are in the grocery store and you hear a wail followed by screaming. It is a 3 year old child throwing a full blown temper tantrum. Lying on the floor, beating his little fists in the air screaming over and over “I want candy! I want candy!” Our first reaction is embarrassment for the parent quickly followed by “Why doesn’t she just swat the kid or take him out of the store. Doesn’t she know how to manage her kid?” Harrumph!

The mother calmly speaks to her son restating her original response with facts. “You will spoil your appetite for dinner” or “We don’t have the money for candy.” None of which is of interest to the child. The child wants what he wants and the facts don’t matter. So goes the battle. Someone will win: child or parent.

Now enter the work place. Same scenario with different players: One veterinarian fumes and spews at the top of his lungs to his manager “I want a pay raise. I want more authority. I want you to do what I want without question and right away.” Doesn’t matter what the topic is, but you now have another 3 year old throwing a temper tantrum except that the 3 year old is really 42! He wants what he wants and the facts don’t matter. So goes the battle. Someone will win: veterinarian or manager. You could have a win-win, but only if the veterinarian cooperates.

Both the child and the 42 year old veterinarian have about the same emotional intelligence. What is a manager to do? You can’t swat the veterinarian and put him in time out. Or, can you?

Personally and professionally, I am not willing to listen to anyone who speaks or behaves without respect and courtesy. It is quite possible to indicate you are angry, frustrated or upset without losing emotional decorum. Really, it is! I am quite willing to listen to anyone about their concerns if they remain professional.

In the event that someone can’t remain appropriate, I am definitely going to consider “swatting” them with a quick “Obviously you are having difficulty expressing yourself appropriately, so please leave my office and return when you can behave with decorum.” If they are reluctant to leave my office, then I do. Simple. Walk away.

Of course, I could always put them in a “time-out” and insist they leave the work site on administrative leave for the remainder of the day for a cooling-off period. This also leaves me time to assess their behavior and decide how to manage corrective action.

So, you see, as a supervisor, I can “swat” or put someone in time-out if appropriate, but I don’t ever have to submit to verbal abuse.

Staff members really only have two options when faced with an adult having a temper tantrum. You may not respond in kind. Whether the abuser is a manager, co-worker, or client does not matter. No one has a right to verbally abuse another person. If you can’t get a word in, simply walk away.

If you can get a word in, calmly and clearly state “Obviously you are having difficulty expressing yourself appropriately so I am going to walk away right now. If you would like to continue this conversation when you are calmer, please contact my supervisor to arrange an appointment for the three of us.” and then firmly walk away without further comment regardless of the provocation. If the person follows you and continues the abuse, head straight for your supervisor or the Human Resources office with them in tow.

People with low emotional intelligence resort to default behaviors. Throwing a temper tantrum may be the only tool they have in their repertoire for dealing with frustration and anger. This does not mean you need to submit to the behavior. The fault is theirs, not yours. All you need to do is be sure you remain professional and appropriate. Take the high road.

By the way, everyone could benefit to improving their emotional intelligence. Everyone. Give that some thought as you continue to strive for excellence in your life.

Change is Inevitable

“Change is inevitable. Progress is optional.” I don’t remember who said this originally, but I have said it so very many times, I claim it as my own.

Change is normal. The seasons change. The weather changes. Children grow older. Our bodies decay. Friends leave us. We leave friends. Technology advances. Viruses mutate. Today’s fashions fade away being replaced by the latest, greatest. New supervisors are hired. People die. Presidents come and go.

Change is normal and happens every day, all day. Resisting change is like trying to resist the dawn of a new day. Futile.

Each change requires a transition. The bigger the change, the bigger the transition. Some of us get stuck in the transition stage because we fight the change rather than work with it or embrace the reality. When someone is stuck in the transition stage, a cycle of exhausting, debilitating emotional reactions occur.

People stuck in transition focus on what is not working or what they don’t want rather than on what is working or what they can do to improve their situation. Fear, frustration, resentment, anger and a victim attitude becomes a deep dark hole from which they can’t escape. They put themselves in the hole and keep on digging.

When changes come too quickly for those with low emotional intelligence/resources or poor coping skills, people become overwhelmed, jaded and emotionally exhausted. They have not processed the last change and here comes another one! Transition becomes harder and harder.

How to Manage Change

When faced with change, if you find yourself stuck in resentment, helplessness, anger, frustration, depression or fear, know that you did this to yourself. This means that only you can get yourself out and moving forward to a healthier, more constructive response.

Accept that change is inevitable. NOTHING stays the same. You would be wise to become an expert at anticipating and responding to change. Bolster your positive attitude, framework, and confidence.

Get good at working through the transition phase without becoming emotionally hijacked. Learn to let go of old expectations and practices quicker. Develop the mental skills necessary to quickly move through any disorientation, fear, anger resentment and panic. Seek support from those who are good at moving through the transition phase.

Help manage change through calm reflection, objectivity, visioning for the future, and understanding the reason for the change. Help the team or your family move forward rather than waiting or ignoring the situation.

Stop focusing on what is not working and focus on what is and could work. Be actively involved – explore, learn, grow and develop new ideas. Develop a vision and game plan with tangible results. Develop the skill to think clearly, listen fully, and let go when it is necessary.

Recognize when you have influence and when you don’t. Even when you don’t, you can help influence the outcome. At work, you might not be able to influence the selection of a new administrator, but you certainly can influence the new administrator after she is hired by developing a working relationship with her rather than just resenting the change in management. At home, you might not be able to influence your son’s choice in a wife, but you can develop a stronger, healthier relationship with both of them thereby influencing the future relationship.

How you BEHAVE will determine your level of influence. How you think will determine how you behave. Change your thinking about change and you will change your results.

Change is inevitable. How you respond and take advantage of it is up to you.

Unspoken Expectations

I was listening to an audio CD recently of a married couple talking about marriage relationships in general terms. The wife briefly mentioned that it bothered her when her husband left the bathroom a mess after his shower. She stated that she has an “unspoken expectation” he would clean it up each time before he left the room.

Unspoken expectation – now, there is trouble waiting to happen!

How often do you have unspoken expectations of your family, coworkers, employers and clients?

How often do they have unspoken expectations of you?

We expect others to read our minds and know what we are thinking without us having to express it out loud. They should behave as we would. However, they aren’t us. They don’t behave as we would because they are their own person and have their own expectations. So much for telepathy.

It bothers you to find the coffee pot at work empty. Your coworkers should already know you so well that they never take the last cup without starting a new pot. Really? When did you tell them of this expectation?

Your boss gives you a work assignment and asks “would you mind?” and you say “no problem”. And, yet, you expect her to know from the look on your face that you are frustrated about the work assignment. Really? When did your boss become a mind reader? (And, aren’t you glad the boss can’t read your mind at other times?)

Unspoken expectations only lead to problems. It isn’t fair to expect others to know what you need if you haven’t told them. If you haven’t informed, you have no business becoming upset when things don’t go your way.

Think about it carefully. If you have unspoken expectations and the others have unspoken expectations, there is going to be quite a bit of preventable frustration, irritation, and anger in your life.

Speak up and give others the grace to speak their minds, too.

Everyone Plays a Leadership Role

There are those who believe that leadership is for a chosen few. Not true! We are all born upside down, wet and screaming. We aren’t chosen to be leaders at birth. Leadership can’t be appointed, it is developed or not. Leadership is simply influence. And each of us leads in some capacity every day.

We lead by

…the example we set.
…the actions we take.
…the words we choose.
…the attitude we exhibit.
…the way we treat others.
…the motivation we live by.

We lead when

…we inspire our children to read.
…we motivate the children’s soccer team we coach to do their best.
…we treat co-workers with respect and courtesy.
…we encourage someone to work harder on their marriage.
…we keep a promise.
…we follow through at work.
…we defuse confrontation.

However, we also lead when

…we gossip.
…we sneak out of work early.
…we snub a co-worker.
…we disrespect our boss.
…we demean our children.
…we fail to keep promises.
…we belittle someone’s aspirations.
…we are unfaithful to our spouse.

Leadership is influence. Gandhi was a leader. But, then again, so was Hitler.

Who are you influencing and in what way?