Values have Power, Massive Power

Values, what is the point of focusing on them? Although we rarely talk about them, our values are the foundation of ethical action. Values are both personal in their meaning, aligning with personal beliefs and universal in their understanding of its relative importance in people’s lives. Values have been studied by various disciplines such as philosophy, psychology, anthropology, sociology, history, theology, art, marketing, and behavioral sciences. Yet most of the time, we are oblivious to their impact, influence or importance in our lives. It is as if we want to prove values are unimportant by doing or being anything else than what our values direct us to do or be.

For example, I know that I can fill my time with activities, activities that ensure time is being spent and filled without thought to their significance to living a meaningful life. I can make piles, I can get the piles done, I can schedule, I can even avoid contacting people I am thinking about in favor of “getting things done.”

But all those return to their proper secondary or tertiary position when I ask myself these questions or reflect on the statements I am going to ask you to consider. As I reflect on the responses, it recalibrates my focus to that which is truly important to me. I think it may do the same for you.

• You have been asked to lead a team of advisors, all of whom are dedicated to their work and all of whom are committed to a best outcome: what values do you want to bring to this new team?
What other values do you think would be valuable for this team to consider?
• Describe what led you to pick these values.
Define these values with the relevance and meaning they have for you.
• Identify one of your top values. Talk about an experience where you expressed that value well.
• Think of a person in your life, who, in the last five to ten years, has had a powerful, positive impact on your life. Describe how they impacted you and how that experience has enriched your life.

Now, step back for a moment. See how you have just connected to your values and how that has affected you just now. Values have power.

Let me know what you experienced that brings your values to the forefront of your life.

Partner with your Strengths. They Are Ready to Serve You

Without our strengths, we would not be able to dispel threats, dangers and alarms. We would not be able to demonstrate skill, or show off, or be able to intercede when necessary.  Strengths are like breathing. We need to use them and often do, without thinking. The problem is like breathing, if we don’t know how to use them in various conditions, they may not be able to serve us when we need them most.

If you were in a smoke-filled house, wouldn’t it be important to know how to hold your breath as you got past the smoke; the smoke that kills more people than fire?  Your strengths are also how you show yourself to the world around you. When you want to impress, when you want to show off, when you want to make a statement or add value to a situation, you call on your strengths to “introduce” you. Your strengths are how people see you. They are a tangible representation of who you are.  We use them to perform and most people judge us by our performances.

Researchers in positive psychology have discovered that when we identify and regularly use our signature character strengths, life becomes more satisfying and meaningful.

Strengths are what I call your “Outer Cloak.” They are what you “wear” when you are out in the world expressing yourself, when you want to make an impression, when you need to accomplish a task or serious endeavor. You use your strengths. For example, you might express your strength in generosity when you are out with friends, your ability to organize in accomplishing a task, or your ability to persevere when undertaking serious endeavor.

Most of the time, however, you are unaware of the strengths you are applying. Most of the time you are unaware of how others see these strengths in you.

How do your top three strengths add meaning to your life? Let me know as I would like to hear what you say.

The Importance of Living a Meaningful Life Through Your Values

Values provide us a compass by which we live our lives. Although values are always present, we rarely give them much thought. Much like a compass we use on an unfamiliar hike, values provide us the platform from which we direct our lives. We judge based on the consistency of values utilized by someone.

 

The Barrett Values Center, in 2010, found, in researching more than two thousand private and public institutions in more than sixty countries, that: “Values-driven organizations are the most successful organizations on the planet. They found that values drive the culture as well as contribute to the employees’ fulfillment. In the book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, the noted the same outcome in companies they observed over several decades.

 

Martin Seligman, a leader in the positive psychology movement, found, through his questionnaire, that signature strengths and values fundamentally contribute to a meaningful life.

 

I remember, many years ago, thinking that emotions were fleeting and mercurial. They seemed to be missing a key ingredient to living fully.  When I was first introduced to the concept of values I thought they were a wonderful state to aspire to.  Years later, when I identified my core values, I felt a strong resonance and connection to my life. I realized that I could live from my values and when I did, life was clearer and more satisfying, with richer meaning and depth. I realized that they were my compass, the one I had been missing and to which my emotions could not relate.

 

What are your values? How cognizant are you of them on a daily basis?

Connect with Loved Ones over the Holidays by Trying This

It’s time for the family gatherings again. You know the ones I am referring to: where people cluster in their usual groups, talking about the weather, travel hiccups, politics; where people cluster around the food taking bites in short and informational filled conversations; where someone introduces a topic they know will fuel the flames of emotional reaction. Yes…those dynamics.

 

This year you can come to a family celebration prepared to add a dollop of meaningful connection. Bring a series of questions with which you can connect more personally with those you engage in conversation.

 

Start by asking someone to share something significant that has positively impacted them this year. Listen as they share that event or experience with you. Then follow up by asking them either: how this significant impact they experienced benefited them or ask them how this significant impact made them feel.  And again, just listen. When you do, you will find that they will share with you a value of theirs that is important to the core of who they are. This will connect you to them in a very personal way that small talk cannot.

 

I find that asking questions like these, at the end of the year, to be a wonderful icebreaker and connector with friends and family.

 

Let me know how the outcome of having this conversation at your family gathering. I would love to hear your comments.

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The First Step to Living a Significant, Relevant, and Connected Retirement

The 2016 professional tennis season is winding down. The final Masters 1000 tournament is underway and will determine the final two singles players and final doubles team who will gain admission in the prestigious world tour final tournament in London later this month.  Sampras, Agassi, Becker, Lendl and McEnroe may be familiar names of a few retired players who have won this tournament more than once. But I want to draw our attention to Agassi, who won this year end tournament once, and what he had to say about retiring, because for some, the thought of retiring is daunting.

Preparing for retirement filled Andre Agassi with dread. As he said: “It’s like preparing for death. Nobody knows what it’s going to feel like and nobody knows when it is going to happen and when it does, it’s your time.”  Agassi was not ready to retire.

I hear a similar thought of dread from those I talk to nearing retirement. They do not want to satisfy someone else’s “to do” list, they do not want to become recluse travelers. They do not want to be the default baby sitters for their grandchildren. They want to be engaged with their children and grandchildren. They want to travel and pick up dormant hobbies. They do not want to a life directed by someone else. They want to live relevant, significant and connected lives. But how?

Leaving a business you built or a career you designed can be a tough proposition.  How can you transition out of your company to a new chapter of life where you can keep the feelings that matter to you-significance, relevance, and meaningful connection alive?

The first step to take is to look at the footprint you want to make that you will then leave behind. Find the outline of that footprint by reconnecting with what is most important to you, your values, and finding a way to express yourself through them. Take the time to look at the meaning of your values to you and build a personal mission statement that reflects these profound meanings you have for them.

Remember, retirer merely means to draw again. So, now, draw that outline of a footprint you want to have and to leave behind as your legacy.

Agassi focused on the outline of his footprint, his values, and then created the footprint he is now developing and building. You can too.

For more tools, click here: http://www.focusandsustain.com/life-focus to see what would be wise for you to focus on so you can live a rich and meaningful retirement.

Tell me what you have observed as you engage with those reluctant to or avoiding retiring.  I would love to read your comment.  \

 

Reflecting

 

 

As They Removed Their Masks, This Choir Left Us in Tears

I recently returned from the GALA Choruses’ tenth quadrennial music festival held in Denver. With over 130 choruses and 6,500 singers from all across the U.S. and overseas, men and women commanded the various stages at the Denver Performance Art Center, the Convention Center and other downtown locations, with amazing shows.

One chorus, The Beijing Queer Choir made its debut at this festival. For this courageous and ground breaking group, joining a welcoming and supportive family of singers was very important. You see, in China, their lives as gay and lesbian people has to remain in the shadows. Family ostracization, lack of community support, and pressure from the government to marry and have children keep their identities concealed when they are performing on stage.

The members did not want to obtain individual visas for fear that “coming out” would led to harassment and imprisonment.  Although being gay is legal, it is not tolerated. Finally, three weeks before the festival in Denver began, the group was given permission to leave China and travel on a group visa, keeping their individual information protected.

Once visas were secured, plane tickets had to be purchased. As you can imagine, the cost of airline tickets this close to departure, was very high. After many conversations with various airlines, and ten days before the start of the festival, tickets were secured.

When performing in China, this eight-year-old choir performs with masks on so they cannot be individually identified. When they stepped on the Denver stage each had a mask on to cover their faces to keep their identities secret while they performed. As the interpreter talked about the great welcome and support they were experiencing in Denver, the singers, one by one, removed their masks. It was a powerful moment for the audience to watch these performers one after another, remove their masks, and reveal, for an audience, their faces, for the first time. And one singer kept their mask on to highlight the fear of retribution gay and lesbian people in Beijing have in “coming out.”

As you can imagine, the audience erupted in howling applause, tears and standing ovation for this chorus armed with courage, purpose, tenacity and commitment.

It was powerful to witness and experience the Beijing Queer Choir as they made their debut in Denver, unmasked.

Leave me a comment on how you have used courage and strength to identify and become who you are.

The Woman I Know Offers a Powerful Lesson for Us All

Bridging the gap between silence and connection can be a difficult bridge to cross. Let me explain.

A woman I know was in a terrible accident. As she was crossing the street, near her home, she was hit by a drunk driver. While the driver reversed her car in reactive panic, the woman I know was dragged further under one of the wheels.  The drunk driver instead of stopping was able to free herself from the struck pedestrian, and sped away. The woman I know woke up several hours later in the hospital, lucky to be alive. It has been four months of excruciating rehab, seven surgeries, with five more scheduled in the next year.

 

The woman I know coaches several competitive sports teams. There are a few important meets coming up which she will unlikely be able to attend as she has two more surgeries scheduled right before the meets. Her teams know of the accident and her rehab but do not know the real extent of her injuries, that they will, in all likelihood, prevent her from being part of their success at these pre-Olympic meets. The teams do not yet know that this woman, who has been their champion, their leader, and their light will be unable to join them. She does not know how to tell them and so she has avoided the subject all together. The woman I know does not know how to tell the teams and the meet’s organizers of the devastating state of her injuries and recuperation.

 

The woman I know, who has always been able to perform, always been the one others can count on, now needs to count on the understanding and love of others. She does not know how to bridge the gap from profound disappointment and not being able to be there for her teams and her desire to be there for them.

 

She is facing the consequences that silence will bring. She knows her teams will need her with them soon. She is still trying to control a situation that has changed control by the act of a drunk driver on a pedestrian who was crossing her neighborhood street.

 

The woman I know is at a crossroad which, if she does not manage, will find herself in a position of defending her silence. And you know her teams are already asking questions. They have to be as they get closer to critical pre-Olympic trial meets and find it odd that she is not giving them a return date. I have a conversation scheduled with her in a few days to help her to that conversation with her teams.

 

Are there gaps of silence you must construct a bridge to take you to the other side, the side of connection and best action? What are you doing to construct your bridge or is it too hard?

 

Leave me a comment. I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Silence is a Problem

I am amazed how easy it can be to be silent on subjects that need addressing.

 

I was talking to a gentleman at the gym the other day who mentioned that he was retiring in a couple of weeks. I asked him how he had prepared for this dramatic change and he laughed. He said he had asked his company if he could continue to use his office for eighteen months and be a resource for younger workers when they needed to have more of the background to certain projects. After all, he continued, he knew all the players, the projects, the problems, the landmines and great solutions. How often do you think employees will drop in his office and ask him for background information on a project? I have my guess.

 

 

The gentleman at the gym does not want to be home all day and is looking for a place to be for a while as he figures out his “real next move.”

 

Why is silence so important that we will use it to quell meaningful discussion? How can subjects be introduced when we are apprehensive about possible outcomes?

 

Asking for a conversation can result in delays or change of subject. The core of the matter is not addressed. Meanwhile time goes by, consequences are built.

 

I think it is important for any professional whose job is based on relationship building to be the catalyst to setting a presentable stage for sensitive or silent topics. We have to be willing, with compassion, understanding, wisdom, respect, love, discernment, and integrity be able to focus on and sustain the level of care and mastery to see the subject through to its best conclusion.

 

Tell me your thoughts on dealing with silence when silence is a mask to something more important. Because this is so important, I will examine the topic of dealing with the strength of silence again next time.

You Are not the only one who can Feel Unfairly Treated

You are out for dinner with friends and someone you know happens to enter the restaurant. She sits at another table. During your dinner, you casually glance over at the other table and hear her talk about tickets to the sold out Adele show she won on a radio show. You think to yourself. “That’s not fair. I must have hit refresh a 1,000 times. I should have been able to get tickets” Unfortunately, the only tickets you can get now are through the secondary market and they have already tripled in price in the area you want to sit.  As you try to reengage with your dinner friends, you feel the “it’s not fair, I never get what I want” feeling wash over you. You know you have to shake it off.

You are not alone. Your best friend has the same feelings. No, not that best friend, I am talking about the friend that is always there for you, your canine companion. Cognitive scientists working with dogs have found that dogs respond to their interpretive feeling of unfairness. These researchers have found that when dogs are put into a situation where they perform the same action, like shaking a paw, and do not receive the same reward, the one being treated “less well” withdraws.

Austrian dog cognitive researchers conducted a test where different levels of rewards were given to dogs for participating in an experiment: none, yummy smelling dark bread, and aromatic laden sausage. The researchers found an interesting outcome to this experiment that warranted 30 paw shakes. When one dog was rewarded in the early stages of the count, and other not, the unrewarded dog stopped “presenting their paw” after 12 times and was visibly agitated at the disparity of treatment. When neither dog was given a reward, they both needed verbal prompting to continue “presenting their paw” and completely stopped “presenting” after 20 times. The “game” had lost its appeal and was no longer worth playing for the dogs when their willingness to join in did not result in a “reward.”

Through their and other researchers’ studies, it has been concluded that dogs and other social carnivores understand the concept of being “treated less well” and respond accordingly. Responses can include revenge, aggression, withdrawing, sadness, pride, hierarchal order and more.

Do you need to settle for a feeling of being treated unfairly? I don’t think so. I think people have a secret sauce that can remove them from reacting like this. The secret sauce is in your values. When you use your values consciously, as a way of being, you can bypass many of the reactive emotions that demand and command immediate outcomes. When you live with your values at the forefront of your life, you think and act differently. You look to effect the world you live in with wisdom rather than with reaction, effect the world through a bigger lens rather than though a reactive filter.

Tell me what you discover as you ponder the insights in this blog.

Discovering Your Purpose leads to Discovering Your Principles

John Stuart Mill was a 19th century British philosopher and economist who championed the importance of creating and living a purposeful life. He came upon his meaningful life from astonishing circumstances.

When he was a small child he was merely an experiment for his father’s obsessive exploration. The young Mills was fed a steady and unbending diet of natural sciences, classical literature and classical music. All else was considered folly and not permitted around or in in John’s presence.  As Mills later accounted, “My emotions were starved while my mind was violently over-developed.”

By the age of twelve, Mills was as erudite as a thirty-year old. His father was pleased and the experiment continued. Finally, in early adulthood, John suffered a mental breakdown. Although he was an elite intellectually, he felt empty.  Like a muscle that breaks down and atrophies from disuse, this young man found his emotions were unhealthy from lack of use for his entire life.  He had no idea how to even access them. This breakdown led him to a story by the nearly forgotten French writer, Marmontel. The story, about the death of a father, moved Mills to tears, and beyond that, it planted seeds of emotions in him: emotions of sadness, guilt, shame, love and fear. This, as you can imagine, changed his life. Not only was this world of emotions overwhelming and accompanied by feelings of being out of control, he also felt drawn to exploring and understanding these emotions that were stronger than his mental ability to shut them down.

Once starved of a mighty element to life, the magnetism and effect of emotions, Mills now decided to dedicate his life to exploring the true meaning of life. From his explorations, Mills brought to the public a keen insight and understanding of two mighty principles, the principles of liberty and justice. If you would like to read further into his insights into these principles, his 1821 book: On Liberty and The Utilitarianism will provide you with more insight and information.

Whether you find it in the writings of John Stuart Mills, through my work in guiding people to live their purposeful life or if you find it through the neuro-scientific discoveries, it can’t be stated emphatically strongly enough: finding, developing and sharpening your purpose in life gives you more of a feeling of your own sense of happiness and value in life.

Does your life have purpose and as a result, meaningful direction? Let me know your thoughts, challenges or breakthroughs on living a life of meaning and significance.