Monthly Archives: October 2015

Managing Your Time: “If You Want Something Done…

“If you want something done, ask a busy person.”

I remember the first time I heard it. I agreed with it. Now, I refuse to let it be repeated!

The first time I heard it, I was rushing around trying to finish: the last minute details of the first Vegtoberfest festival; the opening of a new restaurant; and not completely bailing on my sister as she prepared for her wedding. I was a busy person. And, I was getting a lot of things done.  Remember, I’m the woman who #MakesThingsHappen!

That was four years ago. And, I was a busy person for the next 18 months. Then, something cracked. I realized that I wasn’t happy. I noticed that even though I #MakeThingsHappen, everything I was working on had pretty much stagnated – including my health. The worst of it was that I couldn’t remember why I was doing half of the projects I had signed up for. Yet, that saying kept circulating around me and people kept asking me to get things done.

Who actually thought that saying up?  Busy people are BUSY for a reason – why are you going to interrupt them from THEIR mission by adding to it? Because we assume they are the most resourceful? Because they finish what they started? Because they’re dedicated? Because you can count on them to get it done? Because they’re not-so-secretly martyrs and will always say “yes” when they should really prioritize instead?

Ah, there’s the rub. The saying needs to be changed:

“If you want something done, ask a martyr.”

That’s a little more honest. You can count on a martyr to get it done. A martyr is dedicated to a cause (and sometimes too many of them). A martyr will finish what they started…often to their own death or detriment. You will assume a martyr is the most resourceful, but often only because their dedication to a cause is so high. A martyr may even interrupt the dedication to their own cause to help you, because they recognize that you are just as resourceful. So…why aren’t you just getting it done? Because a martyr will do it for you if you just ask them to.

Are you a martyr? If so, you need to read the rest of this blog! If not, please do the martyrs in your life a favour: stop asking them for help…and send them this blog!  If you want a martyr’s input, ask them instead to help you with something. Use their passion to get your project done together, and be inspired by their actions.

I have seen far too many martyrs in my life. Whether in the activist scene, the holistic health community, or in the business world – dedicated people (a.k.a “martyrs”) are over-worked far too often for the passion they hold that they could be directing in to a much more productive outlet.

Why is this happening?  Every person has their reasons, but here are just three that come to my mind first:

  1. Martyrs are more compassionate and empathic than most other people.  Well, that pretty much defines every activist or “light worker” I have met. It takes a lot of empathy to understand that something in our world or business needs to change. Perhaps, we’ve struggled in a situation and now see someone else in the same situation. Aren’t we supposed to be the person we wished we had when we were younger?
  2. Martyrs are dedicated in seeing results, and will keep pushing until they do.  The proper definition of a martyr is someone who voluntarily dies for a (religious) cause. That is the level of dedication assigned to people who put themselves in to this predicament.  Ask yourself, “if you were given the choice of death or this project failing would you choose death?”
  3. Martyrs forget to take care of themselves as well as they take care of “To Do” lists and other people. Yes! This is the single biggest reason that busy people get turned into martyrs, burning out before they get anywhere close to accomplishing their own mission.

Do any of these happen to you? Don’t worry, you’re not alone!  And, you can stop this situation in its tracks. How?

First: start by saying “No!”

I had a boss that would be flabbergasted when I explained to him how much I had to do. He told me to tell me “no” if I couldn’t actually get something done for him. In his words, “if you never tell me no, then I can never trust your yes.”

(Ironically, he would always just keep asking me when I did tell him “no,” but I’m sure I will write more on that later…)

Second: Choose your limits

What is YOUR mission? Why are you here? How are you changing the world? Your limits are all about YOU and only you. Knowing what is most important for you will actually help you in saying “no” to the people and projects that don’t fit in to that criteria.

Third: Schedule “Me” Time

EVERY DAY! You’re dedicated to getting that task list done, so you’re going to be looking at your schedule, your task list, or your day planner at least once a week. Put “Me” down on every day! And, during that time, do something that YOU love to do. Maybe it’s vegging out to Netflix, or cooking an amazing seitan roast, taking a bubble bath, or reading a trashy romance novel. I know you won’t get to that time every day, but at least putting it out there will help you think about taking care of YOU for at least a fraction of the time that you take care of everything else out there.

Of course, these three steps are just the beginning. So start with them!  In the next few months, I’ll share more with you about how to find your core competencies, delegate what you’re not good at; and stay accountable to yourself before all others.  I know what it’s like to suffer as a not-so-secretly martyr, and I want to help others stop suffering through it, so we can all reach our ultimate missions and really #MakesThingsHappen.

For all the Busy People out there, thank you for #MakingThingsHappen. You have done a lot, and now I’d like you to reclaim some of that time for yourself and YOUR mission. That is my ONLY request of you!

For everybody else, STOP ASKING BUSY PEOPLE TO DO THINGS and get it done yourself!

Book (Review)s to Change Your Life: Before Happiness

Before Happiness: the 5 hidden keys to achieving success, spreading happiness, and sustaining positive change by Shawn Achor

Before the Information Age, a researcher wrote a book for professionals and other passionate people on how to be a more effective person. That man was Stephen Covey, and his book was The Seven Habits for Highly Effective People. As a researcher, Covey had studied hundreds of “self-help” and “self-improvement” business books to uncover a better, more effective way of doing business and leaving a legacy.  I’m a Covey fan, and I know that I compare every book I read in the self help / business section to his ground-breaking opus of 1989. That’s right – Covey first published his book in 1989… years before the internet and the Information Age allowed us access to so many more ways to be effective and thrive in business. Some might say that with our access to all of this information we no longer need a researcher to tell us how to live a better life. The truth is we need researchers to tell us this more than ever before!

Twenty-two years later, Shawn Achor gave his infamous TedTalk on the Happiness Advantage.  Achor is a researcher of human potential, the science of happiness, and how to increase our performance in everyday lives.  What stood out most of all in Achor’s TedTalk was his ability to use humour to weave together stories from his own life in to the research he had done himself or found within positive psychology. Actually, that’s a lie – what stood out most was the story of his sister, the unicorn, and his brother-in-law’s struggle with menopause. Those are some amazing stories, so I strongly encourage you to check out that Ted Talk here: Shawn Achor: The Happy Secret to Better Work

Did you watch it? Then you have just witnessed Achor’s ability to touch on so much of our lives within just 12 minutes and 13 seconds.  That is exactly what he continues to do in his latest book, Before Happiness: the 5 hidden keys to achieving success, spreading happiness, and sustaining positive change.

BeforeHappinessBook

Why Is It Life Changing?

With such an array of examples, advice on how to incorporate the environment for sustained happiness in your life, and ideas that contradict what most people believe about success, there is bound to be something in this book that will speak to you.  The book is structured into 5 strategies that will encourage the reader to create happiness and success in their life. It begins with establishing a new way of looking at how we define our reality. Then, he goes on to explain how to choose the most positive reality for happiness and success to grow in. Once that is established, Achor explains how we can maintain the momentum of success and reaching our goals. There are then theories and practises shared on how to eliminate negativity in your world so that happiness persists. Finally, he leaves the reader with strategies on how to help others reach happiness and success, and a call to action to do so.

An idea that really stood out for me was Achor’s advice on encouraging creativity.  Research has found that those who are able to recognize alternative – new – realities and adjust to them will find themselves happier and more successful.  This is extremely relevant to building our resiliency in uncertain times, something that many professionals will have to do in their lifetime.  Through a case study, Achor explains that “those who embraced their new reality bounced back, while those who clung stubbornly to their old reality became mired in helplessness and defeat.”  How many times have you been disappointed merely by the fact that reality did not meet your expectations?  I know that I feel this most often on Boxing Day, but as an adult I am getting better with the “Holiday Hangover.”

Achor does not just explain what successful people or companies have done to maintain or build happiness and success. He also provides examples of how real companies have overcome adversity. One of his examples is from Kimball Electronics, who used to design pianos. Once electric organs became more popular than pianos and took over Kimball’s market share, the company faced a dismal future. Instead of collapsing, Kimball “sat down and decided to look not at their deficits but at their resources, and in doing so they realized they had a wealth of electronic experts who now had time on their hands to innovate.” By looking at what resources they did have rather than the customers that they no longer had, the company could overcome this setback and “today they make the electronic steering systems for Fiats” and other electronics.

Life is not just about success in the business world, though, and it is always good to read books that address our holistic happiness and success. Achor brings in several examples of life outside of work throughout this book. My favourite tidbit was The Positivity Ratio. Research has shown that “when people have three positive thoughts to every negative thought, they are more optimistic, are happier, and feel more fulfilled.”  This is surprising for many of us who still follow the “sandwich format” of giving feedback. The sandwich recognizes that constructive criticism is good, but we also need positive reinforcement to encourage us. The Positivity Ratio explains that the ratio of positive reinforcement to constructive criticism is much higher than the bread in a sandwich to the filling. In order to thrive, we need three times as much positivity as negativity.  In relationships, this ratio for success goes up to 5:1, which is what I found most applicable to my life.  As Achor points out, if a spouse hurts their spouse, they have to make up for it with not just one box of chocolate, but five!  Now that is information that is life changing.

People reading and carrying stacks of books
People reading and carrying stacks of books

Who Should Read This?

Have you ever struggled to stay motivated? Do you look around and wonder why everybody else seems to be more successful or happier than you? Then, you need to read this book! With subtle perspective shifts and illustrative stories, Achor explains how you can take control of your life and start creating the happiness and success that you always wanted.

Achor is a true story-teller. Every page contains some element to a story that he is using to illustrate a more complicated element to the research he has found on happiness. Those stories are easy to relate to while also being quite diversified.  Every reader can make a connection to what he is writing about in the book.

What Could Make This Book Better?

In the first read, the plethora of information can be overwhelming.  Luckily, Achor summarizes his major points at the end of each chapter in a numbered list of how you can live the principles he was addressing in the chapter.

It would be great if there was a better way to integrate what he is talking about into anybody’s life. Although the tips at the end are great if you follow them, there is nothing to keep you accountable to holding them but yourself. Creating a timeline for implementation would be a great way to enhance the principles discussed in the book. The tips are also all at the end of the very long chapters, which makes it more difficult to integrate the ideas as you are reading about each one. I suggest taking some time while reading the book to make notes on how you are doing or going to do this in your life going forward. Read a section of the book, and then journal about your reaction to the new information Achor has just given you.

Even if you don’t integrate the whole book, there is going to be something that you can take away from this book.  There are so many gems for finding our inner resources in this book that I am definitely going to be reading it over and over again to gain more insight every time.  I highly suggest picking it up, and learning something about designing your happiness today!

Also, check out Shawn Achor’s website Good Think for tips, tricks, and updated information on creating a world where there is more happiness! #MakeHappinessHappen

What Else Might You Like

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

Yes, I love this book! And, although it was written 26 years ago, it is still relevant today. Like Achor’s approach to the holistic success and happiness of the reader, Covey addresses more than just the “Professional” reading his book. He challenges what and how you might have thought about your roles, goals, and purpose in this life and encourages everybody to create a legacy of their life that they will be proud to life out.

Consistency – Part 1

This last weekend, I went through my Memory Chest. I’ve had this piece of furniture for the 20 years, and its sole purpose is to hold my memorabilia, trinkets, and other items that invoke dear memories for me.  Downsizing and organizing my Memory Chest is a pack-rat’s nightmare, and a semi-annual ritual for myself. Sometimes, it takes days to complete, but this fall – because I was so strict last time…and left half of as “needs to be finished” – it only took me an afternoon to finish what I had started this spring!

As I sifted through my memories, I came across an entire box of old journals.  If you are an eternal “aspiring writer” like myself, then you likely have something similar in your house.  The first few pages are PACKED with the day-to-day accounts of your life. You, too, had a fresh new journal, notebook, or beautiful book ready to be filled with your thoughts, dreams, and that award-winning novel idea. Then…something happened.  I got busy, life was pulling me in another direction, I lost my journal under the bed, etc., etc. The last few entries might have referred to a re-commitment to writing. “Dear Diary, I’ve been so busy lately that I’ve forgotten to write everything down. I’m so sorry! I promise to write more often from now on.” Maybe there were even attempts to summarize the missing months: “I liked GER a lot the last time I wrote, but now I am mad crushing on TYH.  It’s weird how I used to like GER so much. He was such a jerk…” (I came across a LOT of my writing from Junior High in my Memory Chest.) But, for whatever reason there is not a single notebook / journal / diary that is filled from one end to the other. Frankly, as an Environmentalist, I am ashamed with my younger self!

I’ve noticed the same thing with running. I love running! Sadly, my knees / my back / my ankles don’t like me running. I have “started running” at least once a year for the last seven years. I lay out my clothes the night before, set my alarm an hour early, and get my shoes out from the last drawer I shoved them into the last time. And, it feels great the first time. Maybe it feels great for the next three weeks, sometimes only the next week. Then, my knees hurt, so I take a break. The break turns into a month, then three, then I have to start all over again from the beginning.

determined running face
My first time running as a 30-year-old woman. I felt STRONG!

I’m learning from all of this, though.  I’m on week three of running right now, and pacing myself with every step. Pacing means my knees are getting stronger as I go, rather than taking all of the pounding until they can’t take any more.  I’m running in the afternoons when it’s sunniest out, or inside on rainy days. My phone has a running schedule that reminds me – frequently – that today is the day for my next scheduled run. I’m telling the world when I get it done: bragging on social media always keeps me going! And, most importantly, I remind myself of my overall goal: #runforme #runformentalhealth

running in the fall
Running October 7, 2015 in a T-shirt. Are we still in the North?!?

Last month, I had a great little visit with a fellow coach. As it turns out, she’s also a personal trainer and body builder and just such an amazing person that I was ecstatic to hear that she was life coaching, too! (Check her out at: We Are Timeless) In our conversation, I brought up my health goals, and my excitement that my new day job would allow for me to work on those, too. (More about her awesome insight into that later.) And, it dawned on me – so I shared my aha! with her: all I really want is to be in strong enough physical shape to run regularly without the knee pain or back pain.  When I run, I told her, I clear my mind; and I really want a clear mind. #runforme #runformentalhealth

running in warmer clothes
Still running in week three! I’m prepared for the chillier weather…

The funny thing is, the same thing applies to my writing. When I think back over my twenties, I realize that the winter that I had the most clarity and the least stress was when I was writing the most for me. I woke up a half hour early every morning to do my “Morning Pages.” I wrote a blog every day for my music blog: Edumusication. I worked on three other blogs, too, and I loved it! I met up with fellow writers and read some amazing authors, and my life was really good.

But, how do we return to “life was really good”?

It’s easier to keep going when we already have the momentum. How do we gain the momentum? By being consistent. How do ensure we are consistent? By remembering our reasons for doing it. By prioritizing the greater vision for our life over the little details that don’t matter that much. Why am I not getting up in the morning and writing? Because I have stayed up too late crocheting and watching Netflix. I know that – I’ll call myself out! Why am I staying up so late? Because it relaxes me. Aha! What does writing daily do for me? It relaxes me. It provides me with a place to set all of my thoughts, worries, and great ideas down so that I don’t fixate on them when my head hits the pillow. So, how can I write more consistently? Maybe writing at night rather than in the morning is a better idea for me…

Another thought I have on writing is that I need things to be perfect. I have this great attachment for every blog post to leave you, the reader, with hope and inspiration on how to improve your life. I would love to tell you that the above realization was a miracle and that I am doing it and life is really good. But, I can’t … yet. I am going to publish this without it being perfect, though…because life isn’t perfect, but maybe it can still be really good.

What do you think? How do you stay focused on your goals and increase your consistency when building new healthy habits?  I’d love to hear from you!

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