Our days are filled with busyness and stress…but then something happens and we feel it is a great day. Some examples: your one-year old baby says “dada” for the first time, your big project at work just got approved, you made a big sale or acquired a new customer, you had an amazing conversation with a family member. It’s that special “something” that happens in an instant and overrides the feeling of the entire day.
We deserve great days, great weeks and great years. While luck plays a part, I feel these days can be planned by knowing and doing more of what makes you special. The mental work is to know the essence of these things. This essence is purpose (who you are) and passion (what gets you excited). What makes you laugh? What gives you joy? What gives you a thrill? Why? Observe and reflect on that moment. Think about that essence. Be grateful. You will find more of it just by being aware.
Think beyond a “day at the beach” or getting a promotion to the experiences of everyday life. Great days occur because we are paying attention, mindful of a special circumstance and its connection to heart, mind, body or soul. Find the “pattern” of the great days. Notice the link to who you are. Celebrate the observation and insight as another part of knowing yourself deeply.
Today is a good day to have a great day!
Relationships ebb and flow over time. They seem to grow closer and apart in waves, shifting from day-to-day and week-to-week. I observe that there are several continuing factors that influence the quality of (married) relationships. What are these “currencies”?
- Influence. This is about who makes the decisions. Are goals set together? Are decisions made on joint principles or made unilaterally?
- Disclosure. Willingness to share feelings. Do you withhold secrets or concerns?
- Effort. This is about pulling your “fair share” of the household load. Perception and reality are different.
- Money. This is about security and long-term needs and wants. Do you have an emergency fund? Is money pooled toward joint long-term goals. Do you discuss spending habits?
- Time. This is about doing what you want/need to do alone or together. Are we spending quality time with each other? Are you overscheduled and unavailable? Sleep is a special case, especially for those with young children.
By being conscious of these currencies you can make better personal choices. More importantly, these are the essential topics on which to have conversations and set boundaries, personally and as a couple. You may think that there is balance and “fairness” but you never know until you talk about it deeply and ask for feedback. The balance can be difficult because our priorities and personal values are different and shift.
I feel most of us believe that relationships should be 50/50. That can be a toxic belief. What if you substituted 100/0? Life is complicated and relationships can be too; make the investment to explore differences.
We’ve all had an experience where we’re calm one moment then agitated or quarreling, even fighting the next. We quarrel about money, how to raise our kids, priorities, politics and more. Most topics deserve polite and respectful engagement, but something triggers us. There are degrees of reaction. We move from a thought to an emotion to action (hopefully only words) in a split second, usually without thinking.
It starts with values and beliefs. Your triggers, especially the dysfunctional ones, are worth exploring. You can sometimes trace these back to an early time in your life. Consider the following steps; an example is in italics:
- Identify the trigger. It may be a person, event, thing or word. My boss critiques (rejects) my proposal or idea.
- Understand the behavior. How do you react? I immediately feel defensive.
- Uncover the underlying value. What personal need is not being met? What beliefs do I have? Respect; I have to be heard.
- Explore memories. What is you earliest memory? What does it teach us? My father was overly critical of my homework and never praised me for it doing well.
Values are a powerful force in our lives and compel us to action. Respect, family, honesty are examples. Some triggers are OK, e.g. crying with a sad movie. It’s those dysfunctional triggers that need reflection.
Take a breath, count to 10 or find some way to engage your brain to respond rather than react. Then T.H.I.N.K. before you speak.
Our conversations with others, particularly in mentoring, may be characterized by “backbone and heart”. We share various sides of our own humanity…strengths, vulnerability and caring.
Backbone is being strong. It is strength of character and modeling that character even in (especially in) difficult situations. It is saying things that need to be said to push others to be their best (because you care about them). It is the setting of boundaries. It is courage under pressure. It is “being there” even if you don’t want to be. It is doing the “right” things.
Heart is doing things with care and love (is there really any other way?). It is kind words. It is a sharing of feeling and emotion rather than just doing something. It can be happy or sad but it is definitely supportive.
Backbone and heart belong together and are a balancing of attitudes. Tough love is an example. Vulnerability is that magic ingredient that pulls them together and is an important part of the relationship. Brené Brown defines vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.” Vulnerability enlarges/deepens a relationship by creating a special connectedness. It takes courage.
Take a look at your conversations and relationships. Is “backbone and heart” part of them?
We make hundreds of decisions per day. Most are routine and simple such as what clothes do I wear or what to eat for dinner. A few are more critical such as what car do I buy or what school should my child attend. These critical decisions require deliberation and a process, particularly if other people are participating in the decision making.
Here is a decision-making process:
- Clarify the decision to be made by describing/writing the problem or issue.
- List the alternatives; option development is as important as option analysis.
- List the decision criteria or principles.
- Evaluate each decision against the criteria. Set up a simple matrix on paper.
- Implement and monitor the decision. Did the outcome achieve expectations?
I want to focus on the 3rd bullet point, i.e. listing the criteria or principles. Using a car purchase as an example, the criteria might be: initial purchase cost, maintenance costs, gas mileage and safety features. You would simply list your alternatives and then assess each alternative against these criteria. Of course, some criteria might carry more weight and be required vs. optional.
This type of decision-making is particularly helpful in large, diverse groups. Instead of advocating (arguing) for a particular decision, identify and then keep the focus on the key principles that apply. Let the criteria guide the evaluation to build a consensus. Choices have consequences so keep the long-term outcomes in mind when evaluating.
You can read more about decision making at this link.
“Knowing yourself deeply” is a key theme of this blog, mostly in the context of discovering purpose. What do you do with this knowledge in everyday life? The picture above shows a kitten that thinks it’s a lion. This poor self-assessment of reality may work some of the time but likely will cause problems in communications and relationships.
Self-awareness is about knowing your strengths AND weaknesses. It’s about how you present yourself in a simple conversation, e.g. choice and tone of words, amount of words and body language. It’s about being in touch with your emotions (and triggers) and understanding how this affects your decisions and interactions.
Self-awareness points the way to a valuing of differences and is therefore particularly important in mentoring. It is a prerequisite to suspending personal biases and judgement and allows empathy to prevail. For example, I am disciplined, a morning person, goal-oriented, sometimes assertive and in a loving relationship. I know that discipline is not a common trait. I try not to assume that others have it and wonder what strengths they might have instead.
Personal growth requires asking for feedback which validates your assumptions. It lets you check if your strengths offset your weaknesses. This model by Marquita Herald shares some elements of self-awareness:
- Self-concept: how you perceive yourself.
- Self-regulation: taking responsibility for your choices.
- Self-development: developing character and abilities.
- Self-identity: recognition of one’s potential.
- Personal values: reflect needs and wants.
There are levels and types of self-awareness which if interested, you can read about at this link. Try this self-awareness quiz too.
This idea of “retire with purpose” has two important parts: defining retirement and discovering your purpose?
Retirement as defined in the dictionary is “the period of one’s life after leaving one’s job and ceasing to work”. That doesn’t quite do it for me. Retirement is a period of life where new time choices are possible, you may choose to work but are not burdened with the requirement to work. For me, it also implies that we have left our life-long job or career.
What are your time choices? We each have 168 hours per week and they will be filled. Why not do that purposefully, deliberately and with intention. The model above suggests that our time will be split across work, hobbies, volunteering or leisure. We can choose tasks or relationships to fill our time or both.
Purpose is (re)discovering who you are and Mission is what you choose to do. You answer questions such as “who am I”, “what do I want my legacy to be” or “how am I going to make the world a better place”. Purpose will feel meaningful and joyful. You feel called to something because that’s who you are. It’s something you can’t stop yourself from doing.
Research shows that people with purpose live longer. It is an important element of well-being. Retirement is a significant shift in time choices. You heart, mind, body and soul must be nurtured but only you know the right balance.