In November 2006, I met my husband for the first time in his chiropractic office after crashing my dirt bike. I emotionally told him about all the events leading up to the accident and his response was, “This accident is the universe telling you to slow down. You are distracted and accidents happen when you aren’t paying attention.”
I will never forget this statement. In that instant, I thought about the big and small “incidents” I had experienced in those past months. Things like smashing my finger in the door, losing my keys, tripping during a run, my car being towed…twice, and most disheartening, getting into two car and now a motorcycle accident. He was right, I was distracted and I could see how the string of bad luck was really me rushing around, worrying about life, thinking about the past, planning the future...everything but paying attention to what I was doing in the moment.
Mindfulness and being present in the NOW is a popular subject these days. Many chalk it up to foo-foo mumbo jumbo, but if we actually stop for a minute and think honestly about the consequences of always being distracted, perhaps it makes more sense to pay more attention to what we are doing when we are doing it. Being more present (aka less distracted) means fewer mistakes, missteps, injuries, and opportunities to put your foot in your mouth. It also means you might enjoy life a little bit more.
Here are a few things I do to try to cut down on the distractions in my life. By no means am I even close to perfect; I am still distracted all the time. But I am better than I was a year ago and leaps and bounds beyond where I was nine years ago. And that, my friends, is the key: constant improvement.
To me, it feels like time is speeding up (how that can actually be, I don’t know). There is always a rush to do more and be more. This year has gone by with gusto, galloping at breakneck speed on its way to the next decade. Living in this fast-paced, technology-driven world, we can easily divert from the present. I think it’s time to put a foot on the brake and distract ourselves from being distracted by paying more attention to living life in the moment.
Check out these videos about the benefits of and science behind mindfulness if you are so inclined. They are short yet very informative.
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Every morning while I am getting ready for work, I think about the day I am going to have. I go through the things I need to get done, the conversations I have to have, and the meetings I need to prepare for. And then I think about how awesome my day is going to be. Even if it’s jammed pack and I am dealing with stressful issues, I imagine myself handling it all with ease and accomplishment. I tell myself I am going to have a successful day, no matter what comes my way. I mentally express gratitude for all the things in my life, including the challenges because they make me stronger.
Then I put a smile on my face.
I do this even when I wake up feeling grumpy, tired, overwhelmed, and generally like I would rather stay in bed and read all day. I refuse to have a bad attitude.
Attitude is a choice. And I choose to have a good one. Why? Because it feels good to feel good. Because I can get more done when I see the positive in any situation. Because people want to be around me when I am in a good mood. What fun is it to walk around grumpy, pissed off, angry, resentful, and being the victim?
Sure, life happens and things transpire that are out of your control. But you know what isn’t out of your control? How you react to what life throws at you. How you respond to the stressors in your daily existence. How you treat those closest to you. The one thing you have complete control over in life is your attitude.
I’ll say it again. The one thing you have complete control over in life is your attitude. Now that is powerful.
It’s easy to allow yourself to become the victim of your circumstance and blame other people (or the government, the weather, the school system, the fill-in-the-blank) for your hurt feelings, bad mood, stressful situation, and negative outlook on life. But it’s a cop out. You give up your power when you succumb to the problems (whether big or small) life throws at you. You can take that power back by simply choosing to view it differently and then respond accordingly.
For some, it’s easy to say, “Ugh, I feel grumpy today and I really dislike feeling grumpy. Better turn that frown upside down!” In an instant, the bad mood is changed to one that’s more positive. For others, it’s much more difficult. It takes a commitment, discipline and accountability to change from a pessimistic life view to an optimistic one. But it can be done (here is wikihows take on how to be more optimistic).
If feeling happier and more content isn’t motivating enough think about this: people with a better attitude are more likely to be promoted, get a bigger raise, be chosen to be on teams, and are generally more successful. Performance begins with you and if you want to perform better, you have to think better. Your mind is your most powerful tool (no, really, it isn’t your iPhone) and you use it so much more productively if it’s focused on finding solutions, making effective decisions, being a team player, and exploring ways to grow and improve.
It’s time we all started being more accountable for how we show up as the world is in desperate need of positivity, peace, productive problem solving, and teamwork. Your attitude has a profound effect on you and those around you. It’s 100% up to you how positive or negative that effect will be. What do you choose? How will you show up in the world?
My three old son, Jack, loves to work. He calls himself a “working man” and he gets upset if we don’t let him help us vacuum, move furniture, drive the forklift, change light bulbs, etc. He loves projects and he begs me to take him to work with me because he “just loves meetings.” At three, he is already a hard worker.
This warms my heart and makes me proud. The world needs more people who work hard.
I cultivate this love to work by showing him that I work hard, too, and that it is enjoyable and rewarding. I make work fun (even if that work is folding laundry or doing dishes) and never do it begrudgingly…rather I find something to appreciate about whatever I am doing in the moment (except spreadsheets…it’s hard for me to find joy in building spreadsheets and I am grateful to those whose talents lie in Excel).
Being a hard worker is a quality that I admire in people. I appreciate those who go the extra mile, are committed to quality, engage in what they do every day (no matter what the task), and drive themselves to be great at their job/passion/life. To have (and be part of) a successful organization, people who work hard are needed. And it’s helpful being around hard working people…their sense of pride in what they do is contagious.
So why is working hard so enjoyable, at least to me?
Because my self-confidence increases through my efforts.
Self-confidence is gained by achieving something and it’s hard to achieve something unless you work at it. Confidence builds upon itself and comes through the commitment to do the work that needs to be done (and then some), persevering even when you are tired and want to give up and quit. The more you accomplish, the more confidence you gain.
For example, when I built my own website, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment (I am non-techy person and never imagined in a million years I could do it myself). It gave me confidence to start writing my blog. The more I write, the more confident I feel. I’m several steps closer to making my dream of writing a New York Times Bestsellers List book possible.
Now that feels pretty dang good (even though it’s not easy) and feeling good is enjoyable.
An important thing to note, though, is that being a hard worker does not mean you always have to be working. To be at your best, you must have down time. It’s easy to burn out and damage your health and relationships if you don’t balance work with all the other important aspects of your life (read my blog on why being successful means having a balanced life here). Every day you should make time to relax, unplug, have some fun, play with your kids/dog/cat, engage in a meaningful conversation with your significant other, and laugh (aka don’t take yourself so seriously).
And then get you can get back to work!
It’s hard pick up the phone and call (or have a face-to-face meeting) when you can hide behind an email. I know from experience…I’ve typed many an email despite that nagging feeling that I should pick up the phone and call the person. My mouse anxiously hovers over the SEND button while I argue with myself...“I really should call. But emailing is so much easier. Ugh. Just hit delete and call. Ugh. Ok, take a deep breath and dial.”
I’m sure you’ve been there, too. You have to deliver bad news, receive painful feedback, talk to someone you dislike, or follow up with someone you were hoping would call you. There’s a pit in the bottom of your stomach. You tell yourself it would be so much less complicated to type up an email. You convince yourself that receiving an email would be easier on the person you have to communicate with, too. You come up with excuses as to why you HAD to write the email instead of communicating in person. You apologize for not calling (without admitting you lacked the courage, of course) and then hit send. It’s out in ether now…it’s out of your control. Whew, don’t you feel better?
The answer should be no. You shouldn’t feel better. Avoiding in-person communication, whether over the phone or face-to-face, is the easy way out. And taking the easy way out never feels good, especially in the long run because over time, it tears at your reputation and your self-esteem.
Making the call when you’d rather email takes courage and a commitment to always act with integrity. It shows that you respect the person you are communicating with. It demonstrates that you have strong character and don’t shy away from the discomfort of difficult conversations. When it comes to doing right by others, you should never take the easy way out. Just pick up the phone and call.
Oh, one more thing, making the call only to leave a voicemail doesn’t count.
If you’d like some tips on preparing for the call/meeting, please read this blog (the power of the WHY) and this blog (delivering bad news).
Falling into the trap of complacency is so easy to do. And it’s no wonder. Humans are homeostatic beings. Just as our bodies work to maintain equilibrium, our brains work to keep our external environment stable, too. We are driven to resist change. We like things just the way they are….even if we actually hate the way things are.
The thing about complacency is that it sneaks up on you ever so quietly. It happens slowly over time, going almost unnoticed. It might be disguised as contentment. It becomes invisible in the wake of success. It conceals itself behind relationships you take for granted. It hides beneath the surface of self-justifying statements like, “I had no control over the outcome” and “I’ve paid my dues and now it’s someone else’s turn” or the worst, “I’m just easily bored.” But make no mistake, it’s always there waiting, luring you into believing that you can sit back and take a well-deserved hiatus from the hard work that’s required (almost constantly) to grow as a person, employee, leader, and organization.
The next thing you know, complacency has led you to mediocrity. Mediocrity results in uninspired, undistinguished, unexceptional, lackluster, and forgettable performance. Whew, that’s a tough place to pull yourself out of. Mediocrity is like thick, sticky mud that sucks you back into the swamp. Unless you are ready to break a serious sweat and painstakingly claw your way out by making major changes to your life, team, or organization, you are stuck.
You must guard against complacency at all costs. The best way to do that is to ALWAYS shake things up. Turn off the TV and put down your phone. Get off the couch and go for a jog. Do something you’ve never done before. Change your routine so you meet new people. Hire a coach. Go see a marriage counselor. Ask for feedback and then do something with it. Admit your weaknesses and work fervently to minimize them. Pitch an idea to your boss. Ask to lead a major project at work. Pay careful attention to your competitors. Stay current on what’s happening in your industry and anticipate how changes in it will affect your business. Pick apart your business model and then reconstruct it. Move people into new positions within your company. Help your employees and coworkers solve problems. Set goals and make a plan to achieve them.
And make sure that you (and your team) are crystal clear on the WHY of what you are trying to achieve. Wandering around aimlessly without a well-defined (and shared) purpose is a surefire way to cultivate complacency. Doing something for the sake of just doing it is about as uninspiring as it gets.
Most importantly, never ignore the little things that start to tear at the fabric of your family/team/organization. Don’t sweep problems under the rug. Act swiftly and with care because if left alone, you are setting the stage for acceptance of complacency and mediocrity.
As always, thank you for reading and sharing (please click the Like buttons below to share…if you are so inclined).
As a CEO of a company, there is very little that I do on a daily basis that creates a tangible work product. By tangible, I mean something that I can count, something that can be easily measured, or something I can touch. When my husband asks me how my day was, I don’t tell him about the number of POs I wrote, boxes I shipped, tools I built, or sales I closed. Instead, I tell him about the conversations I had, the meetings I went to, strategies I implemented, and the decisions I made. Both types of work are important but very different.
Writing this blog has helped me remember how incredibly rewarding it is to create something. Something that I can write, edit, read, share, and track. It has sparked creativity in me that I had forgotten was there. While I love my job and am fulfilled by what I do every day, it’s gratifying (and thought provoking in a different way) to produce a tangible work product.
We humans take things for granted without even recognizing it, especially something like creating because we do it all day, every day. Some of us (like me) get so caught up in the unsolid-ness of our work that we forget what it’s like to produce concrete, physical work. Or opposite, we forget that we are even creating. We get bored with the repetitiousness of what we do and lose sight of the value of producing touchable, shippable work each day.
Creating is what humans are meant to do. And creating something that others can see, touch, smell, hear, taste, share, and experience is worthwhile of our time. While I am inventive, resourceful, and imaginative in my work every day, I am grateful to have been reminded the power of creating a tangible piece of work.
I hope this is a good reminder to you, too.
Have you ever stopped to question your thoughts? Where did this thought come from? Why do I think this way? Is this thought even true?
It’s a pretty powerful moment when you wake up and realize that the way you think might not be the truth. In fact, it’s probably not THE truth.
Here is a perspective…as you read my blog posts, you are having thoughts about it. You love it, it resonates with you, and you can grab hold of something from a post and take action right now! Those thoughts are based on your experiences, your preferences, your judgements, your emotions, and most likely your feelings about me as a person/leader.
Someone else reading my blog is having a completely different experience. She hates it, thinks I am writing nonsense, and can’t find anything in any post worth trying to implement.
Both experiences feel like the truth to each person, but who's truth is right? The answer is neither and both.
We live in an age where we tell ourselves that being RIGHT is worth fighting (killing) for and where tolerance, acceptance, compromise, and admitting that you are wrong are signs of weakness. But here’s the kicker: WE ARE NEVER RIGHT BECAUSE THERE IS NO RIGHT WAY. There are 8(ish) billion people on this Earth which means there are 8(ish) billion different ways to think about everything there is to be thought about. That’s mind blowing! So if there are 8(ish) billion different ways to think about the thought you just had, how can you be so sure that yours is the truth?
Questioning your thoughts is extremely powerful. Yes, it can create discomfort, especially when you challenge your own belief systems (you can read why I think discomfort is a good thing here) but it is also eye opening and life changing. Not believing that your thoughts are true…that your way is the only way…can lead you to new perspectives, new ways of thinking, to stretch yourself, and most importantly as a leader…to making better decisions. Not believing everything you think allows you to make room for other people’s ideas and solutions. It cultivates tolerance, acceptance, and compromise. It helps you be a better person, parent, and leader.
Here are some questions I ask myself when I am feeling passionate (ok, defensive) about the way I think or feel about something or when I am being judgmental about a person or a situation. Sometimes I can detach from my thoughts and sometimes I can’t, but this process always helps me put things into perspective and helps me be more open and compassionate.
Why do I believe this? Why are my feelings so strong?
What if I believed something different? What would change?
What story am I telling myself about this person or situation? How do I know that story is true? What other stories could also be true?
What assumptions am I making?
What would happen if I just let this thought/feeling go and it never crossed my mind again?
Is this how I really feel or is my ego getting in the way?
Why am I being judgmental?
Most of us can agree that the world would be a better place if we weren’t always arguing, judging, defending, and warring. If we want to change this about our world, we must change it within ourselves first.
Thank you for reading today. Please leave comments if you are so inclined.
A Quick Blurb on what this blog is about.
Welcome to my blog! My name is Kerry Siggins and plain speaking, honest leadership is my mantra. My intention is to help those who lead (or want to lead) become better at saying and doing what needs to be said and done in a way that it can be heard and seen, one person at a time.