Tick Tock, Tick Tock

clock

Ever hear the ticking of the clock that defines the parameters of your day. This clock tells you to hurry up or you’ll be late. Later in the day, looking at this clock brings up a sense of all that is yet to be done or will be left undone as the day ends.

What about a new relationship with your clock? What if the clock you feel is telling you that this moment is the most important moment of your life. Your clock becomes a constant reminder of the changing nature of life and the only thing that you can truly do is to experience all you can RIGHT NOW.

No longer is the sound of TICK, TOCK stalking you like the alligator in Peter Pan. Instead is the steady rhythm of life as you live fully every moment of every day.

Sacrifice is Optional

Unknown

Stepping back into writing is sobering. It’s a bit like agreeing to grow up, once again. The adolescent part of Thomas wants to stay in its slumber of bad habits and endless excuses. I know the cost of this numbing behavior and yet, it’s so appealing to be unaccountable for what happens in my life.

Oh, that it would be so simple to fall back into the life of letting others carry the weight of the consequences of my decisions. For many reasons, that option is no longer available. There are moments, when this irritates me no end.

One of the impacts of knowing that I’m the one who’s really accountable for everything is that I know that I must look in the mirror if I’m looking for an answer to why something isn’t working out the way I want.

I was talking with my wife yesterday about how hard we are working. We seem to be following an age-old story that says, “you have to sacrifice today so that you can be rewarded tomorrow.” Sounds like a good path to follow.

The problem is there is a flaw in this. I look around and find examples of people who are living as if this isn’t true. They have time for everything that’s important to them. How is this possible?

They know the difference between stories/ beliefs and truth. They know that perceptions create reality and if their perceptions are filled with limiting beliefs, they will experience feelings of insufficiency.

Does that mean that sacrifice is not required? Yep, at least in the way we think about it. Our common understanding of sacrifice is that I give up something important to me by choosing something else that I also feel is important. I began to see the problem with the notion of sacrifice.

I am making a choice. This choice opens doors and closes doors. By being guided by the belief that sacrifice is required, I’m immediately hooked into an emotional response rather than accepting an outcome. Yes, I’m make this new choice and the consequence is that something I am currently choosing may no longer be possible.

I like writing. In fact, I love writing. I made the choice to start a new business. I didn’t stop and consider the consequence of this choice. I certainly didn’t want to cut myself off from my family so I chose to put my attention and time on this new project and the time I spent in the past for writing “disappears”.

My old belief about sacrifice was activated. “Yep”, I said, “not being able to write is simply the way things are.” It’s something i must sacrifice so the project can get going.” Examining this belief, I see how unconscious it is. I rocked along accepting this outcome for months. Finally I “woke up” and realized I was just feeling the limitation of my beliefs.

I realized there were other areas of life that were no longer that important to me. So, I made an inventory of how important each of these “choices” was. That’s right, every moment I spend awake or sleeping comes from choosing how to spend my time. Many of these “choices” are not deliberate. Either I’m not aware of what I’m choosing or I don’t ask myself the question, “how important is what I’m doing right now?” I just mosey along in the rut of habit.

Through this process, I made some simple decisions and already, as you can see, I’m having different experiences. For one thing, I’m writing again.

I also realized that when I honestly look back at my life, I remember times when I wasn’t trapped in believing sacrifice was necessary. Life was a blast! I jumped out of bed in the morning. I zoomed through my day and I fell asleep tired, but not exhausted.

I invite you to join me in remembering the truth of choice and consequences.

Until later,

Thomas

The Truth is Just Before our Eyes!

I was talking with the head of a government agency a few weeks ago. He was telling me that his teams have no sense of accountability. He said, “they are expert at finger pointing and always have a good story about why commitments are not met.” He asked if I could help.

Over the next week, I read the organization’s internal documents that covered everything from their purpose and this year’s goals, to how they planned to promote their organization to the public. The problem they were facing jumped right off the pages I was reading. The public story they were creating about who they were is in conflict with how they privately view themselves.

This is common in so many areas of our life. I want you to see me in what I feel is the most positive light. Generally, this means that I appear to be nearly perfect. I am extremely competent. I handle my commitments impeccably, and the people in my organization work perfectly together.

I understand why it’s appealing to portray this picture. The problem is that we know this type of impeccable behavior is rare, and, anyway, it isn’t who we are. Our hopeful self-deception creates expectations we can’t fulfill, and surprise when we don’t meet our goals.

I also noticed when talking with this leader their sense of helplessness. It was clear this was linked to a disparity of perceptions. The results is he feels overwhelmed and sees no way out of his current situation. He confided that the way to solve the organizations problems with more resources, particularly staffing.

The problem isn’t a lack of resources, it’s unresolved conflicts within the leader. Their attachment to looking good has created an “Emperor’s New Clothes syndrome”. No one tells them the truth out of fear of retribution, and the problems compound. The road ahead isn’t pretty for this leader or his organization.

What can they (or you or I for that matter) do when are in the middle of this kind of mess? Most let a crisis sweep over them. This requires truth telling, and usually the leader is out of work. This is not necessary.

Every day, we can have as our top priority learning what’s really happening in our world. This means putting aside the need to be right, and proactively listening without prejudice. This takes practice, whether you are listening to customers or colleagues, those who work for you or your family. Everyone can offer something that gives us a glimpse of ourselves and the world around us we can’t see. So go ahead, allow the mirrors to show the truth within.

Applause…. Please!

I was taking care of some paperwork today that required walking through a maze of tax and financial information. In the past, I loved doing that type of work. It was like crawling into my mind and getting lost. Everything around me fell away and it was challenging for anyone to get my attention.

Today the experience was different. I did the work and completed what was required. I even got it done earlier than it was needed. Yet, I was feeling hollow, rather than elated, which was the outcome of my previous experiences. So what’s different?

I wasn’t sure, so I decided to use this writing to find the answer to that question. Ahhh. for one thing, I’m finding that I’m having fewer emotional highs and lows. I can feel my personality wondering what’s wrong. I mean, aren’t we supposed to be filled with excitement when we accomplish something?

Now I can see where this is going. I have an addiction to emotional “juice”. I want to feel the high because I believe the highs show me and others how well I’m doing (interesting, since I know that after the high comes the low, which I’m not so keen about). Excellent! Another clue appears.

I often did this type of work to be well thought of. In this case, I would want my wife to know how well I’m taking care of her and the family. I want to be regarded as a hero conquering this morass of complexity. This is where the payoff is falling flat. I don’t seem to need her appreciating me. I just got done what was required. No fanfare is called for.

This isn’t what I expected. I thought I would experience this inner calm and peace and , you know, the music would play and the heavens would open. As crazy as that sounds, it’s not too far from my fantasy. Of course, that dramatic expectation can only be another product of my personality. A personality that loves drama, especially if I’m at the center of it.

It’s nice to sit in the calm of completion. I can share this with you (and my wife who edits this blog) and if it helps you along your way, great. Things are getting simpler. Authenticity is becoming a more constant companion.

Love and Standing on the Skinny Branches

In our community a friend of mine publishes a twice-weekly newsletter of sorts that lets over 1,000 people know what’s happening and what’s for sale. This email delivered service is a must read for many. I have the habit of reading this newsletter as soon as it arrives. Sometimes there are great bargains that sell quickly that I don’t want to miss by not acting. I also love to see what everyone is doing.

Last night, I noticed that the newsletter arrived in my email inbox and immediately clicked on it. The first part lists upcoming activities. One of these activities was a promotion for an upcoming episode of a local radio program called, “The Heart of Wellness.” I know the program’s hosts and wondered who was on this week. As I read, it began to dawn on me that I was the guest this week. I laughed out loud as I realized that I had the experience of seeing what I was doing without remembering.

What was more surprising was the topic, “Love in Business.” My insides began to cramp up and I felt a bit queasy. It’s one thing to write a bit about this in my conversation here. It’s a whole other thing to talk about it on the radio with other people. It wasn’t panic so much as disorientation.  I felt that an important moment of my life was approaching.

When I first wrote about this topic, I asked, “What would your business world be like if love was out in the open, and guided your decisions and actions?”  Good question, and perhaps not the best starting point. To answer this question means we have to talk first about the question, “what is love?”

There is a library of books that talk about love from many perspectives – religious, philosophical, emotional and physical. We are offered many interpretations of the kinds of love that people experience. It all seems complicated and not quite right. The love I’m talking about is unconditional love – love that is offered freely with no strings attached.

Unconditional love is not something we have much experience with. Our relationships are for the most part conditional. Most of my friends love and accept me, as long as I conform to their perspective of what a friend is. If I stray far from that..well, the conditioning sets in. The same is true with life-partnerships. When things are going well or we want the world to think they are going well, we will say that things are good. Have the apple cart upset by some unexpected betrayal or other breach of trust and that old conditionality comes roaring to life.

Unconditional love can’t be experienced through my thoughts or emotions. Unconditional love requires me to be 100% present. That means that all of my attention is on the NOW, not the future or past. We spend so little time in this space, we can begin to see why unconditional love is elusive.

Since we are not often feeling unconditional love what can we do? We can, first of all, not pretend that conditional love is something it isn’t. We can practice acceptance of whatever we face without judgment. In a business context, this is a very powerful way to act. We all know that when we are judgmental of others or not liking what we are facing, our perceptions are clouded and the decisions we make are not our best.

This is the starting place to understand why love in the workplace is essential. Starting today, I will begin to write more about love and work. I invite you to share your feedback and experiences.

Why do I do the things I said I woundn’t do?

I have been wondering why people do things that they know aren’t good for them. When I talk to people about changes they want to make, they are so clear. They make a commitment to take new steps and then they begin. Sometimes this commitment lasts a few hours, or a few days. For some, it lasts longer, but still it doesn’t stick. Very few continue to experience these changes for long periods of time.  So what’s up?

As is often the case, I have my own example to help me examine this question. A few months ago I started writing this blog again. I promised myself (and you) that I would write five days a week. I started off a bit rocky, but then got into the grove. Along the way, I realized that if I was going to write, then why not every day. Ok, I made a new commitment and kept it up for a month.

Then my own version of dropping what I know is good for me popped up – how perfect. I was reading a blog that I quite like called zenhabits. The author, Leo Babauta, has created a large following through clear writing, listening to his readers and absolute service. He writes three times a week a simple and helpful blog. I got to thinking (this is the first step in getting off track) that maybe I should be only writing three times a week. “This would give you more time to deepen each posting”, was the logic of my inner voice.

This distraction had my attention on Friday and guess what, no writing. Along came Saturday and I was still under the spell of this inner voice. I began to write a longer piece on simplicity (isn’t that interesting?) and told myself that more research was needed. This meant that nothing was written on Saturday.

This morning, I was sitting with my wife for our morning tea and she, in her loving way, asked if I had not written over the past few days as a deliberate choice. There she goes revealing truth again. Sometimes I just don’t like to hear what she says. As I reflected on what happened, I began to get an answer to my question of why people do things that aren’t good for them.

Michael Murphy, who co-founded the Esalen Institute, wrote in The Future of the Body: Explorations Into the Further Evolution of Human Nature that a distinguishing quality of our nature is we are story-telling beings. We use stories to make sense of things. Whether it’s ancient myths or modern literature, we want to understand why things are they way they are (the distraction of this need will be a topic for a future posting).

Without examination, we believe these stories are true, often even when there is ample evidence to the contrary. Holding on to my past story is the root of the problem I faced this past week.  My inner story is that I’m not very good at writing and if I stopped it wouldn’t really matter.

This story has been in place since childhood. When I embraced a calling to write because it was clearly connected to my purpose, I knew this was true. Yet the old story continued. When I had the mildest distraction and moved my attention from my daily writing, the old story asserted itself. All this happened without my being aware of the story.

This morning, when I saw the truth in my wife’s comment, my automatic reaction was to reject what she was saying and offer some comment about things she wasn’t doing. I knew immediately this was a defense response and let it go. Now I was able to hear her without distraction. As I did so, I was able to locate the story that was at the root of walking away from my commitment to write. This story may persist for the rest of my life.

What a poignant reminder of the power of deliberateness. I was not aware of the disruptive nature of the distractions. They arose so quickly and quietly that I didn’t see their impact until now. Many of us lament that we don’t have the life we envision. We look around for quick fixes and despair when they don’t work.

The news (like you don’t already know this) is that there is no quick fix. Unless you consider being in the present moment a quick fix (it sorta is since I can bypass all the distractions). Being present comes when there are no distractions (visible or invisible) that take me away from NOW. When I am in the NOW, I am completely aware of everything and everything thing that I do or say or feel is deliberate. There is no other way in the present.

Something for you to chew on as we go into a new week.

Thinking Tomorrow will be like Yesterday can cost Billions!

I was thinking some more about the big loss at J.P.Morgan Chase. This weekend, I was reading an article in the New York Times, Discord at key JPMorgan Unit is Faulted in Loss.  In 2010, Ina Drew, who was the executive in charge of J.P. Morgan Chase’s Chief Investment Office (where the loses occurred) contracted Lyme’s disease. During this time, her department experienced inner turmoil that would normally be managed by her. This breakdown in relationships was a distraction that moved the group’s attention away from its normally successful practices.

During the time that Ms. Drew was working part-time, the CEO, Jamie Dimon, didn’t see the need to make any changes in the group’s management. After all, Ms. Drew had made billions in profits for the bank, and they weren’t causing any problems that needed his attention – except they were.

I find that every time I forget that the way things were in the past won’t necessarily be what happens in the future, I am setting myself up for a surprise. The past is not a reliable predictor of the future. Sure, we can learn from the past, but don’t be deceived into believing it’s an accurate picture of what’s next.

For starters the world system we are part of is too complex for this simplistic approach. More importantly though, this orientation conceals what’s happening right in front of our eyes. We miss the present moment and are tranquilized to boot.

Another reminder that you have to be present to win.