Greg McKeown’s recent Harvard Business Review article, Why We Humblebrag and About Being Busy, is worth a read. While I might frame a few points a little differently, his overall comments on the causes and recommended antidotes to busyness are spot on.
“It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything.
There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now.
And you may as well do it now. Generally speaking, now is as good a time as any.”
~ Hugh Laurie
It wasn’t that long ago that Suzanne Beaumont would only run in the dark. She was that self-conscious about being seen, huffing and puffing, struggling to get into shape.
Although Suzanne had run earlier in life, many years had passed since she’d last laced up her shoes. Her days were full up with a demanding career as a software engineer, her three children, and all the routine activities of life. Exercise had gone by the wayside.
A shock and a commitment.
That all changed when her father had a massive heart attack. As she watched him pull through, willing himself onto the treadmill, slowly gaining his health back, she found herself thinking, “If he can do it, so can I.”
She started out walking, progressed to jogging, and as her fitness level and confidence increased, so did her interest in further challenging herself. “I began asking, what’s something I’ve always wanted to do? I decided I wanted to run a marathon by the time I was fifty.’”
The challenge wasn’t only physical.
Suzanne considered signing up with Team in Training® (TNT). TNT provides marathon and other endurance event training for people willing to raise money for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
“The idea of training with a team appealed to me, so I went to one of their meetings. It was something I wanted to do, but I was terrified of the fundraising and the marathon. I didn’t sign up, but as I walked away I looked back. There was a gray-haired, grandmotherly-looking woman in an old-fashioned flowery shirt-waist dress turning in her form and registration fee. And I thought, if she thinks she can do it, why don’t I think I can?”
The value of support.
Suzanne was still deliberating when she attended my workshop The Art of Balance: Creating Sustainable Change in Work and Life™. She shared with the group how much the fundraising intimidated her.
The women were eager to help. One said, “Send me your fundraising email, I’ll mail you a check” and others followed these women, none of whom she’d ever met before, did for her the same thing as the older woman in the flowery dress – helped her see what’s possible.
That was the nudge Suzanne needed. Then throughout her training, strangers, teammates, sports professionals, friends and family all helped her not only focus on what was possible, but also get ready to make it happen.
Winning before reaching the starting line.
Halfway through training for the marathon, Suzanne sent me this email:
“This whole training experience is … teaching me what it really means to stretch and do something that I may not understand that I can do. It is teaching me that even something as individual as running a foot race cannot be accomplished … without the help of a lot of different folks: coaches, nutrition specialist, physical therapist, friends and family urging me on, teammates to train with.”
“Training for the marathon is teaching me very much about living my day as I want to live my life.”
On October 22, 2006, at 49 years old, Suzanne ran the Nike Women’s Marathon in mega-hilly San Francisco.
You don’t have to run a marathon to change your life.
But the same factors that help a newbie runner cross that finish line can help you get unstuck and reach your goals.
- Commitment. It’s hard to find a plan strong enough to overcome a lack of true commitment. Be sure you are clear on why making a change is important to you now.
- Pacing. You wouldn’t try to run 26.2 miles your first time out. But so often we try to implement drastic change overnight. Start with manageable steps and build up over time.
- Persistence. Change is exhilarating, scary, and messy and sometimes all three at exactly the same time. You’ll need to stay strong when your ingrained habits are singing their siren song, luring you to the path of least resistance.
- Support. Support keeps you going when you feel stuck or discouraged. Sometimes you want warm and fuzzy emotional support, but other times you need tangible assistance of someone to hold you accountable.
Suzanne has since run six marathons and countless half-marathons in the years since that first TNT meeting. Running has shaken up everything in her life.
She now regularly asks herself, “Why not?” about everything, and is breaking down barriers to things she’d previously avoided. She’s better able to handle whatever life throws her way. Best of all, she’s learned, “We can be who we imagine ourselves to be. So, we must be careful to allow ourselves to dream of the best, and then repeat it daily!”
“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.”
~ Paulo Coelho in The Alchemist
“The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.”
~ Don Williams, Jr., American novelist and poet
“If I’d known this was how it would turn out, I’d never have done it.”
In one day, two clients and a friend said exactly the same thing. Although each of their situations was different, they’d each had an incredibly disappointing outcome after big investments of time, energy, and in one case, money.
We’ve all been there: that stomach-sinking moment when you realize events are not playing out the way you’d hoped. The promotion, relationship, business success, whatever it you’re striving for, isn’t happening. The time invested, sacrifices made, believing it’s worth it, believing that if you work hard, play by the rules, have faith, do the right things, watch The Secret, bend over backwards (fill in your favorite), you’ll reach your goal.
Except sometimes that’s not the way things work out.
And that’s why you don’t want to wait until after the fact to declare you weren’t really willing to take the risk or make those sacrifices.
Things outside your control happen.
My client Margaret spent fifteen months working her tail off for an unreasonably demanding boss who painted lovely pictures of all he would do for her. Bordering on burnout, with virtually no personal life, she was convinced the big promotion and exciting opportunities would make it all worthwhile.
We’ll never know if her boss would have delivered.
As she was eyeing her future and sacrificing her present, her boss left for another job, taking his promises right out the door with him.
Margaret was stunned. “He never even suggested he might leave.”
You never know what the future holds.
That’s part of the adventure, and avoiding risk won’t keep you safe from hurt or disappointment.
But before you trade off today for tomorrow, consider all the outcomes and be sure you’re willing to say, “Whether or not it works out as hoped, this is worth doing.” And that will help you live your day the way you want to live your life.
“The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.” ~ Don Williams, Jr., American novelist and poet
Not long ago I picked up a voicemail from my friend Ruth asking for help with an upcoming presentation. She’d been up to her ears with a big deadline and while this was important – it was an internal presentation to a group of IBM women – it was not part of her “real” job.
She was in a bind; the presentation was in two days.
Ruth knows her stuff and she could have pulled off a good enough performance. But she was speaking on a topic she’s passionate about and didn’t want to give short shrift to the women who’d be showing up.
But she was running out of time.
I knew she wouldn’t have asked if she were not in a jam. I was happy to help. When we got on the phone, she said, “This is why you’re on my list of 911 friends.”
I’d not heard the expression before but I immediately loved it! She went on to say, “I have 911 friends I call when I really need help and 411 friends I call for information. Though she used the word “friend,” she meant it in a much broader context … all of your relationships whether professional or personal.
Your 911 and 411 networks help you stay unstuck.
Your 911 friends are the people you call when something has gone sideways and you need help now. The co-worker you call when you’re stuck on a project with an approaching deadline and you’re ready to pull an all-nighter. The neighbor you call to host your kids for dinner, so you can deal with a client emergency. The friend you call when you’ve had a horrible week and need to be dragged to a yoga class to save you from the box of chocolate.
One of my more memorable call-a-911-friend opportunities came when my web host (now ex-webhost!) began misbehaving right after I’d announced a new program. I put in a late night SOS call to my friend Grace who not only knew exactly what to do, but actually took care of the problem for me.
Make it easy.
Your 411 folks are the ones you go to for information.
They have the facts you need or know where to direct you. The old adage, “you’ll never remember how to spell [fill in your word] if you don’t look it up yourself,” isn’t always the best advice … often it’s easier to simply ask someone who already knows ;-).
So know who to dial up when the going gets tough.
When you know who to call, things are quicker, easier and so much less stressful. It helps keep you from getting bogged down or banging your head against the wall. And the bonus is you’ll deepen relationships by asking … most people appreciate the opportunity to help.
The key is to know who your two groups are. Scrambling around in heat of the moment is not the time to be frantically scrolling through your contact database wondering who you can call.
Your action step.
Start your own directory of 911 and 411 friends. Take a few minutes and write down their names. And then keep it handy for when you need it.
Of course help is a two-way street. So the second part is to write down who you are a 911 friend to. As much as people are happy to help, it’s often harder to be the one asking. So, let them know that it’s okay to call you when they need something even if it’s short notice, the middle of the night, or whatever it is that you’re offering.
As wonderful as it is to have someone make our own lives easier, it’s just as nice to make that difference for others!
“After the verb ‘to love,’ ‘to help’ is the most beautiful verb in the world.”
~ Bertha von Suttner, First female Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
“I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.”
~ Thomas Edison
A few evenings ago, I’m in a yoga class in the middle of a pose that only Gumby could do, when the teacher calls out, “Find the fun here.”
My arm is attempting to wrap itself around my leg, requiring my body to bend in a way it ordinarily doesn’t, and I’m also trying not to tip over. Everyone is intently focused, while simultaneously glancing around to see if anyone else can do this and, oh yeah, we’re all concentrating on our breathing.
Actually, she was right on. It was amusing.
I do yoga for many reasons: it’s good for my mind, body, and spirit, my mat is a fabulous place to practice awareness and being present, and it makes me feel good. And none of those reasons preclude me from enjoying the moment.
And that applies to any moment.
Several years ago, I worked with a client who couldn’t figure out why he was so dissatisfied with his job. A well-respected senior executive at a large bank, his job was interesting and challenging but something just wasn’t working for him.
Turns out he wasn’t laughing much during the day, and that was deadly for him.
He’d been on the verge of launching a job search but decided to try an experiment first. He committed to inject ten doses of laughter into each day.
Once he started laughing again, he found fun lurking in all kinds of corners. And within six weeks, not only was the laughter goal a piece of cake, he experienced a surge in motivation and productivity.
What makes the day fun for you?
Is it laughter, connection, conversation? Opportunities are everywhere; sometimes you just have to look closely or get creative.
It won’t make you any less professional, committed, or proficient. But it could help you live your day the way you want to live your life. And that’s fun!
“When you have confidence, you can have a lot of fun. And when you have fun, you can do amazing things.” Joe Namath
“When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds: your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world.
Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.”
~ Patanjali, who compiled the Yoga Sutras, a foundational yoga text, circa 400 BCE