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On Being Sad

JonathanFoer-QuoteYou cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.” ― Jonathan Safran Foer You know that I believe that happiness is a choice. You know that I am in favor of making that your long-term choice. That does not mean that I think sadness is completely bad or even unnecessary. We all have times in our life where we experience sadness. I will not go so far as to say that you cannot know happiness unless you have known sadness. “You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.” This is not saying you must feel sadness to feel happiness or vice versa. This is saying that to guard yourself from one emotion is to guard yourself from all emotions. If you make a pact with yourself never to feel sad you are making a pact with yourself never to feel. If you think that you can cut yourself off from one emotion without impacting your ability to feel other emotions, I would suggest that you are being dishonest with yourself. To cut off all emotion is to place yourself at a disadvantage. Emotions when recognized and properly managed are beneficial to your growth and to your well-being. Sadness is an emotion and being sad serves a purpose. I recently encountered an article that lists four benefits that can come from feeling sad. (http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/four_ways_sadness_may_be_good_for_you ) Those four benefits are:
  1. Sadness can improve your memory – A negative mood reduces the likelihood that a memory will be distorted by other factors. When we are in a positive frame of mind we are more prone to distortion. A person who is sad when an event occurs will have better recall of that event than the person who observes that same event while in a happy frame of mind.
  2. Sadness can improve judgment – When we are happy we are subject to the ‘halo’ effect, we may view everything through our ‘happy’ lens. “…participants rated the likely truth of 25 true and 25 false general knowledge trivia statements, and, afterwards, they were told if each claim was actually true. Two weeks later, only sad participants were able to correctly distinguish between the true and false claims they had seen previously. Those in happier moods tended to rate all previously seen claims as true, confirming that a happy mood increases—and a sad mood reduces—the tendency to believe that what is familiar is actually true.” (http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/four_ways_sadness_may_be_good_for_you)
  3. Sadness can increase motivation – Feeling unhappy or sad about a situation can be more instrumental in pushing you toward making a change. Frequently when we feel happy where we are, we are not motivated to make a change.
  4. Sadness can improve interactions (in some cases) – You may want to read the full article to understand this benefit. It appears that in some social interactions a happy person is more direct and assertive while a sad person is a bit more polite, giving and attentive to external behavioral cues.
This is NOT meant to pitch you sadness as a leadership tool. Please do not go out there and seek to make your team members sad so that they will remember what you tell them, and make better decisions, and get along better with others, and be highly motivated. The point is that all of our emotions exist for a reason. I wish you more happy days than sad days, but in doing so I am not implying that it is wrong or bad to be sad.  
If you enjoyed this blog posting, then you may enjoy our bi-weekly ezine Turning Point for FREE tips and insights to discover A Path to Peace……!
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Who ARE These People?

stakeholder-who-are-these-peopleA brief description of a stakeholder is that a stakeholder is a person or organization who may be positively or negatively impacted by your project. That can be a large group of people. Think about it - when you are working on a large project or program just about everyone you pass in the hallway is a stakeholder. How are you supposed to manage all of these groups and interests? You cannot. What you want to consider is how can you strategically manage the various groups and interests? You cannot give everyone the same amount of time and attention, unless that amount of time and attention is ZERO. (Of course that is a bad idea.) This means that you need to spend some time identifying the various parties impacted by your work. You want to do this as part of your planning - so that your actions are proactive not reactive. Some people will receive more of your time and attention. This is not a commentary on their value as a human being; it is about their impact to your project. How do you know who these people are? Some you know because they are already involved with your project. If you are not 100% certain you can begin by asking these questions:
  • Who will make a contribution to the effort?
  • Who will be impacted, who will have to do something new or different because of this project?
  • Who will be expected to participate in telling others about your work?
  • Who is signing contracts or procuring items for your project?
  • Are vendors participating? If so how?
It does not hurt to revisit these questions throughout the project. Things change, staff members come and go and levels of participation change too. Once you identify your stakeholders you want to know more about them or to consider what you do know about them. This is not to be nosey or to gossip. It is so that you can best leverage relationships and so that you can devise a communication strategy that whenever possible strengthens professional relationships between all stakeholders. Things you want to know:
  • Do they make decisions vs. influence?
  • Are they for/against the project?
  • Their level of participation?
  • Their relationship with other stakeholders?
  • Their relationship with you.
  • What do you need from them on this project?
  • What are they getting from the project?
  • What are their strengths & weaknesses?
This is information that you will treat as confidential. Most politically savvy people are not going to come out and say that they are not in favor or your project. You may already know this is the case or you learn it. You want to make note of it and plan accordingly. If someone is difficult - again they may not know it or care to admit it - but you will plan for them being difficult so that you can navigate the challenges they bring. The truth is that the person you wish to avoid is the person you really need to spend time with. You may never turn a difficult person into an easy person to deal with, but you can mitigate the challenges they bring. It is almost certain that the more you ignore someone who is difficult, the more difficult they will become later. Of course if you spend all your time and attention on someone who is difficult, you risk annoying those who are on board with your project. That is why this is about balance. You can also leverage relationships - partnering people who work well together, placing someone who is enthusiastic about your project with someone who is less enthusiastic. Or put together a group who all gets along well and one person who is difficult. At some point though, you do want to put your 'easy' people together with your 'difficult' people. You may not want to wait until the very end to do this because it might be more disruptive at the end of the project. If you place them together earlier, they MIGHT hash out their differences (in terms of your project anyway) BEFORE final decisions need to be made. Now you see why Stakeholder Management should be part of your initial plan. When you communicate with people strategically your communications will be more successful. When you are purposeful about placing people together you will build stronger relationships. You don't want to feel like you meet your project objectives despite the people around you; you want to feel like you met your project objectives because of the people around you.    
If you enjoyed this blog posting, then you may enjoy our bi-weekly ezine Turning Point for FREE tips and insights to discover A Path to Peace……!
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The Trouble with an Open Mind

openMindTerryPratchettThe trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.” – Terry Pratchett Look out! When people find out that you are open-minded they will try to make use of your open-mind. The next thing you know people are stuffing your head full of all kinds of ideas. One colleague might come to you to talk about evolutionary biology and another colleague might come to you to talk about why he knows the vice-president of marketing is really a space alien. People will seek you out to bounce ideas off of and to share new information. You may find yourself invited to brainstorming sessions and pitches for new products. You are like a clearing-house for ideas. If someone has something controversial to announce, you might be the first person to learn about it. Your open mind might provide that person the perfect sounding board. But what about that part where your colleague wants to talk to you about his proof that the vice-president of marketing is actually here from another planet? You might not find that to be the best use of your time and your brainpower. That is where discernment comes in. Having an open mind does not mean allowing anyone to come along and fill it up. Your mind may be like a storage unit, but you decide how to fill up that storage unit. Use your discernment to decide which ideas to hang on to and which ideas can go to the trash bin. Conversations about evolutionary biology might be interesting to you and you might retain some of the concepts that your colleague shares with you. Discussions about space aliens working in your organization may or may not be worthy of shelf space in your mind. You may very well curtail these conversations or if you can compassionately allow your colleague to share his suspicions with you, let it go as soon as he walks away. How do you know if you are being too open? How do you know if you are allowing others to take up too much of your storage unit? If you find that your thoughts are being consumed by ideas about space aliens in the workplace or even about the latest theory in evolutionary biology and neither of those things are where you wish to focus your attention, then you have a problem. If you are able to entertain new ideas and still place your attention where you want it to be, then no problem. The trouble with an open mind is that people try to put things in it. If you combine your open mind with discernment, there is no trouble at all.  
If you enjoyed this blog posting, then you may enjoy our bi-weekly ezine Turning Point for FREE tips and insights to discover A Path to Peace……!
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Your Best is All You Have

At any given moment all you can do is your best.” – Said By Many do-your-bestAt any given moment you can only do your best. Why is that quote attributed as ‘said by many’? Because it is true. I have said it. I bet you have said it too. It seems like a straightforward enough expression, let’s take a look at it anyway. What does it mean to do your best? It means to apply the full strength of your attitude and aptitude to the task at hand. To face a task or a decision and purposefully draw upon your skills in the most powerful way that is possible for you in that moment. Your best is not always the same. On different days and even at different times throughout the same day your best will vary. Why? Your attitude and your aptitude are subject to environmental influences. When you are tired you might not think as clearly as when you are alert. When you are sick you are not at your strongest. When you are upset you are subject to the influence of your emotions. All of these elements combine together to define what it means to do your best. When your attitude and your aptitude are both fully engaged, your best work is amazing. When your attitude and your aptitude are not fully engaged your best work may or may not make the grade. You might find yourself coming back to some of your work on another day and redoing it or reconsidering decisions that you made when your best was, not really your best. This not something for you to beat yourself up over. It is a fact of life. Remember, the expression that you can only do your best is widely acknowledged. How can you feel good about the times when your best is not up to your usual high standards? When you know that you really did seek to work with a good attitude and with good intentions and you drew upon the skills that you had available to you in a specific situation, then you know that you really did in fact do your best. And that is what it means to acknowledge that at any give moment all you can is your best.  
If you enjoyed this blog posting, then you may enjoy our bi-weekly ezine Turning Point for FREE tips and insights to discover A Path to Peace……!
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Overwhelmed? 8 Changes YOU can make NOW

overwhelmed-8-changes-you-can-makeAre you feeling overwhelmed? Do you have too much to do and not enough time to do it? You have so many projects to manage and people who need to speak with you. It would also be nice if you actually got home at a decent time and saw your family and friends. Perhaps you even made a resolution to not be so far behind and not feel disorganized and spend less time in the office. Well then, let's take a look at some quick and simple changes you can make to feel less overwhelmed and more on top of things.
  1. Know how you spend your time. I am not implying that you goof off, but do you really know where your time goes? If not, the first you thing you should do is find an accurate and easy way to capture your time so that you can be aware of what is taking up most of your day.
  2. Spend your time the right way. In other words, are you working according to the REAL priorities, the critical path of ALL the work assigned to you? If so - skip to #3. If not it is time for you to step back and reassess why you are doing what you are doing. Why is it that at a given time you are not working on the most important priorities? You definitely want to realign your work with what is important. It is not enough to be busy; you should be busy with the RIGHT work at the RIGHT time.
  3. Don't be unreasonable. Do you always expect to complete more work than is truly possible? If every day and every week your to-do list keeps rolling over into the next day and then the next week, you are probably expecting too much. There are only 24 hours in a day and you do need to eat and sleep. You need to reconsider your work load. Remove some items from your to-do list. Is everything on your list really adding value? Stop doing work that is unnecessary.
  4. Delegate or offload the items on your to-do list which are priority items that add value but do NOT need to be completed by you. You have a team for a reason.
  5. Have a plan. You have a plan and a schedule for your projects, RIGHT? Well you should have one for yourself as well. Do you know what the priorities are for the week, for the month, the quarter, etc.? Be sure to track all of your important milestones both personal and professional. Do not let being busy sidetrack your career or family plans.
  6. Use your plan. Before you complete your day, do you revisit your plans and note any discrepancies? Have you revisited what is on for tomorrow? Don't be that person who is always running down the hall to a meeting or presentation because she forgot to check her plans last evening.
  7. Keep ONE calendar. In this day and age it is very easy to sync up your calendars. When you have a calendar for home and a calendar for work and a calendar for your other activities, it is too easy to overbook yourself.
  8. Take a break. Yes, you read it correctly. When you are feeling overwhelmed, take a break. Not as-in call in sick and come back when the coast is clear. But don't try to work harder and faster and do more things. Take some time to clear your mind. Take a walk around the building. Turn your back on your computer. A little bit of relaxation goes a long way!
Feeling overwhelmed? Take an honest look at how you are managing your time and consider these tips. And please feel free to send me your favorite tips so that we can all learn together!  
If you enjoyed this blog posting, then you may enjoy our bi-weekly ezine Turning Point for FREE tips and insights to discover A Path to Peace……!
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