Tag Archives: Change

Acceptance or Campaign for Improvement

I’m not much for horoscope or astrology but it is true that I am a Libra and I have spent my life thinking about and seeking balance – so I don’t discount the nugget of truth in these ideas.  Balance is such a simple concept and so difficult to achieve, especially across all the aspects of a life.  We each have to decide for our own selves where we should best put our energy and effort – what we should accept, what we should challenge.  We can see the waste in the story of Don Quixote – all his energy spent tipping at windmills.  But there is also something sadly noble about his adherence to his beliefs.

 

On the other side is this concept that one can see popping up in many places – ‘It is what it is’.  Acceptance is important as a philosophical choice, especially in circumstances where we hold no sway.  But what if we choose to accept in a situation where we could have taken some control and affected a better outcome?

 

“I am only one.  But still I am one.  I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.  And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”

~Edward Everett Hale

 

I participated in a seminar that laid out the control spectrum like this:

S – system

O – others

S – self

We have control over only one of these, ourselves.  But we could have some influence over others, based on many factors.  Depending on the size and complexity of the system, acceptance is probably the best course.  At least in the short run.

campaign

A decision to develop a campaign for improvement about a system is best done by starting with a compelling argument to influence others, turning the campaign into a group effort.  And so on, just as a small trickle of water can influence the shape of a mountain.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

 

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Snuggled in Our Comfort Zones

comfort zoneA big part of progress can be attributed to our human search for comfort – we’ve come a long way from living in cold, damp hovels and putting tremendous effort into survival on a daily basis.  I am particularly thankful to the inventor of central heating and subsequently to the inventor of the programmable thermostat.  I like to save money and let the house cool down during the night, but I don’t have enough pioneer spirit to get out of bed before the furnace warms the house back up from frosty levels.

 

But we can get too comfortable and complacent which can keep us from moving away from so-so situations to more risky but potentially highly rewarding ones.  ‘I might have missed my dreams by a wide margin, but I make decent money and I know what’s expected of me at work’, we can say to ourselves.  ‘There’s no room for me to grow, but maybe that’s not so bad since I have benefits and I did just get to the point of a couple of weeks for vacation.’

 

Some trade-offs are necessary, after all only a small percentage of any generation is going to make it to the NFL, be a bankable movie star, write a best-selling series, or numerous other pinnacle positions.  But we shouldn’t convince ourselves not to reach just that little bit further just because we know it will bring difficulties and shift us away from our comfort zones.  We should sometimes ask ourselves if we’ve gotten too comfortable.  Plus we could keep in mind that we can achieve new, and better comfort, after that period of difficulties.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

 

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Cultivate Resilience

resilienceChange, especially when it comes upon us suddenly or unexpectedly, is painful.  We don’t like to have our comfort zones altered in any way.  A small range of variety and only the addition of good things like a bigger paycheck, please – this is the good life for most of us.

Being willing to change allows you to move from a point of view to a viewing point — a higher, more expansive place, from which you can see both sides.

~Thomas Crum

Some changes, regardless of our normal malleability make us brittle, at least for a little while.  Changes such as a death, a job loss, a major illness – usually something catastrophic – make our lives seem suddenly overtaken by sharp, cutting edges everywhere.

The greater the amount of natural resilience that we possess, or the better we are able to nurture and grow our natural amount of resilience, the better chance we have to adjust and feel like our normal selves again.  Notice I didn’t use the word return.  We like to use the phrase ‘return to our normal lives’ when we experience shocking changes, but the reality is that the shocking change is just as much a part of our normal life as getting up in the morning and plodding through our regular routine.  We just want to distance ourselves from the unpleasantness.

There is some small part of each of us that draws inside and doesn’t know quite how to go on, our own inner Miss Havisham (from Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations).  Personally, reading this as a teen I thought that her family must be quite different than mine by letting her create the stasis that she did.  In my family, you got your moment to think, adjust to the new reality, and then the expectation was to figure out how to move forward.  I cursed this behavior then, and bless it now.

Pay attention to how you respond to difficulties.  Give yourself a moment or two of crap that is maddening.  And then train yourself to start to look forward, develop a plan (or two) to get yourself back on the track that you want.  Enlist the aid of someone who can help you from backsliding into the brittleness of stasis.  Look for joy.

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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When ‘Why’ is Not the Right Question

whyI have already written a couple of times about the importance of knowing why you are doing something because it will allow you to be more successful.  However, there is a downside to asking why as well which can get you mired in place and unable to move forward.

Why becomes a trap question when you turn it on your own situation – ‘Why did this happen to me?’.  You abdicate the ability to redesign your situation, extricate yourself, move on because you are making someone else responsible.  (Maybe someone else is, but that is beside this point.)

The question to ask when you are in a place that you don’t like is ‘How’.  How do I redesign, extricate, move on from here to a place/situation that suits me better?  Now it doesn’t matter if someone else is responsible for getting you in this spot because you are going to get you out.  You don’t need to do much to get started, just open your mind to the potential that is out there.

Once you are free of the passive ‘why’, you could ask yourself what you want to do instead, what would it take to make some small changes that could make the world of difference to your sense of fulfillment.  This would move you from the passenger seat of your own life into the driver seat.  You hold the control over your own choices.

How exciting, think of the possibilities.

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Changing Relationships to Time

timeChildren have this ability to spend long moments choosing just the right color from the crayon box for their latest masterpiece, or idly tracking an ant’s progress across the sidewalk.  Or whatever task might suit their current fancy.  The ideas behind now, later, in 3 sleeps are too abstract for very small children.

 

When school starts a set schedule is introduced, but it is usually someone else’s responsibility to keep track of the time and stick to the schedule.  Mom or dad takes care of the morning routine until the hand off to the teacher for the school day and back to mom or dad for the remainder of the day.  The idea of keeping your own time may be introduced by giving the child a watch, but ownership to stay on schedule isn’t handed over.

 

My parents had an early digital clock that was designed like a rolodex with the numbers on plastic pieces that would flip.  We spent entirely too much time trying to watch the exact moment when the next number would flip over.  But it was Sunday, or vacation, or we were waiting for mom’s ‘minute’ to be up until we could do whatever we had asked to do.

 

Somewhere in late grade school or early high school ownership of the schedule is handed off to the child.  Sometimes because the child wants this responsibility, but more often just because – the child is suddenly expected to understand how the passage of time affects their adherence to a schedule that the child has little control over.  The child starts to get rated on time management having been taught how to tell time, but not given any lessons in creating a structured schedule except by osmosis.

 

Missing due dates for homework, not being prepared for a test become the consequences that the child faces, with perhaps a teacher and one or both parents peering over the youngster (or more likely at this point, teenager) asking why.  Did the teenager understand the assignment?  Did he or she write it down?

 

The adults never seem to ask questions about the teenager’s understanding about time and scheduling.  Did the teenager take into account assignments from other classes, after school activities, a job, any other variable that could affect the outcome like a tiff with a friend or a big dance?

 

In college I took a Stage Movement class (teaching actors to understand how body position and movement can affect character and how to translate actions for the stage) and one ay many students were struggling with an activity.  The instructor started asking how many of us had crawled as babies, which made us laugh.  Then she explained that there is a correlation between crawling and your understanding of body movement.  She had us all get down on all fours and crawl around the room for the remainder of the class period to pick up that movement knowledge that some had missed.

 

How many of us ever consciously thought about our relationship to time – how it affects our world, how the quality of time changes depending on the day ahead or the task at hand?  We might need to go back and crawl to relearn how the structure of the passage of time affects all that we do.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

 

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February 14, 2013 · 9:22 am

What Do I Want to be When I Grow Up?

question-mark

 

Adults love to ask this question of small children, but really we could keep asking ourselves this question throughout our lives.  Very few of us answer this question in the same way at the different stages of our lives.

 

I had stopped thinking about this question in relation to myself once I got into my twenties but then one day there were a bunch of us moms waiting outside the preschool to pick up our kids.  We were all going through kindergarten screening with our children and we learned that one mom had kept her daughter in preschool for an extra year  ‘because she wanted to give her a better chance of knowing what she wanted to be when she graduated high school’.  My response, before I even thought about it, was that I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up.

 

My generation was told endlessly by parents and educators that we could be anything that we wanted to be – the sky was the limit – because we were part of the first wave that had less limits in opportunities than previous generations had experienced.  It paralyzed a lot of us, this too vast landscape.  I dabbled in various things in college because I had a lot of interests.  Then I felt strongly that I wanted to be home with my kids.

 

So why do we all do what we do?  Expediency?  Passion?  Fear?  Inertia?

 

I have continued to dabble as an adult – I’ve worked in food service, a library, retail, an office.  I have worked at various levels within organizations and in organizations of various sizes.  Counting my volunteer work gives even more nuance to the list.  There has not appeared to be continuity in my efforts, yet I have found themes that cross these experiences and the variety feeds my writing as well.

 

It has been said repeatedly that the old norm of working for the same company throughout your work life is extinct for the most part.  Perhaps then it would be good for each of us to ask ourselves this question every so often.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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January 12, 2013 · 9:31 am

Different

danger-sign

In our eternal human quest to simplify, we usually allow only two choices for something new – Right or Wrong.  I propose a third choice which should be prominent – Different.  Putting something new in this area for a time allows for reflection, consideration, exploration.  It allows for adjustment.

 

This is kind of like driving.  Most of us seem to have the idea that we must have our foot on either the brake or the gas (only 2 choices).  When I was teaching my sons how to drive, I talked to them about coasting as a viable option.  It gives you time to think before coming to a decision – therefore hopefully making your decision stronger.  Of course, this is an option and should not be used in an emergency, say when the car in front of you suddenly stops.  But if you are paying attention, you have time to think if you allow your car to coast toward potential issues.

 

Different is similar to coasting.  It is a safe place to try out a new idea, theory, concept without immediately categorizing it.

 

Years ago a company meeting was called in the lunchroom without any detail being provided by senior management.  Luckily the time span between the announcement and the meeting was short so very little postulating was done.  The purpose of the meeting turned out to be an announcement that we had grown too large for our current location and a search had been initiated to find a new one.  We were being advised because a For Sale sign was about to be posted out front.  Details of how the search for a new location were shared – all employee home addresses had been shared with a consulting company and were factored into other parameters for the new location.

 

This was certainly something entirely new and unexpected for all of us.  I was intrigued, hopeful this would mean a move closer to my home, and pleased that employee concerns were being called out and discussed.  I found that I was in the minority in my somewhat positive/somewhat neutral reaction.  The majority reaction was quite negative.  Opinion was weighting toward senior management taking some sort of advantage, evidence just presented to the contrary.

 

This announcement was filed in the Wrong category by most of the listeners without much consideration because it was surprising and therefore unwelcome news.  There were a handful of us who suggested a wait and see attitude should be adopted, but we were brushed aside.  (As it turned out it took several years to affect the move, but that is a story for another day.)

 

Putting something unfamiliar in the Different, or wait and see, category gives you time to look it over – both actively and passively.  Give it a test drive, see how it looks on a shelf in your house, mention it in casual conversation.  Unfamiliar or new isn’t bad, it’s just different.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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January 11, 2013 · 8:52 am

Great Interview Prep Tip

I’ve mentioned confidence going into an interview in a previous post. This idea will help you to have confidence that you are prepared to prove that you will be an asset to the company.

 

Jean Baur, a career counselor and author of Eliminated! Now What? Finding Your Way from Job-Loss Crisis to Career Resilience offers this tip in Appendix F – The Interview Map.

 

Here is what she has to say:

“The purpose of an interview map is to prepare you to “manage” the interview, or at least to include critical parts of your background in the interview process and to help you keep track of what you’ve covered with each interviewer.”

 

Taking this action will require some effort on your part, but it isn’t much if you are serious about your job search and it will be proof to the interviewer that you have put thought into how you will fit into their company based on the job posting and your research.

 

You can create a template in excel to use for each job/interview.  At the top you will want to provide space for the name of the company and the name of the interviewer.  You should consider a date field as well.  Below this, you will have 2 columns – the first is Key Components of Position and the second is My Matching Accomplishments.  Fill in the details below these headers.

 

At the bottom, you can put in your expected questions, based on “When It’s Your Turn – Interview Questions for a Possible New Employer”.  You can then print this page and keep track of the topics covered during the interview.

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

 

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Why

You want something.  You really, really want it.  You deserve it, you are certain.  But you are one person and not omnipotent therefore you must get some kind of assistance to attain this thing.  Why should anyone help you?

 

Because you have put together a compelling argument for why: your intended goal has what positive benefit for them, will bring them closer to their own goal.  There has to be a tangible benefit for this person, very few of us are truly altruistic.

 

“If you need something from somebody, always give that person a way to hand it to you.”

Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees

 

The argument is compelling when you have centered it on whatever will compel your target helper to act.  Just for clarification – argument in this case does not resemble some tiff on a reality show; rather this is your reasoned proposal, an effort on your part to persuade action on the part of another to achieve your objective.

 

“Obstacles cannot crush me.  Every obstacle yields to stern resolve.  He who is fixed to a star does not change his mind.”

~Leonardo Da Vinci

 

To succeed, it is usually best to make this argument from a positive perspective, not a negative one.  People prefer to think that they are moving toward something good not away from something unpleasant.  Also, it is important that you make it clear that you are taking the lion’s share of the responsibilities.  People are more likely to assist when they are not taking over the burden, just providing aid.  And be entirely ready for the next steps before you make your argument.  Once you have their attention, you don’t want to make them wait – they may just move on to their own next task and you will have lost your opportunity.

 

Good planning is part of good luck.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

 

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Out with the Old, In with the New

On this last day of the year there is no denying the passage of time and the effect that it has on our lives whether we like it or not.  Time shows that to a certain degree, it manages us in its march ever forward.

 

Whether 2012 was good, bad or indifferent to you, 2013 is coming on for us all.  Most likely 2012 was a mixed bag of many events since 365 days is a lot of time to cover – but you are left with an impression as you look back over this past year.  Regardless of the variety of occurrences that you experienced during this year, you will most likely distill it into a short, straightforward phrase.

 

So as you sum up the year for yourself, make it a positive memory – take the learnings from the unfortunate or bad experiences that will help you be a better you in 2013 and wash out the parts that will be of no use.  Highlight the outright good happenings in your remembrance and think about how you can duplicate them in this New Year.

 

For me, I will keep in mind to Do My Best, compose a mission statement for anything really important, and anything else is just practice.  May 2013 have wonderful experiences for us all!  Happy New Year!

 

© 2012 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

 

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