You’ve probably heard the expression “Life is but a game”. What if you were to discover that the well-lived life consists of a series of games that are worth playing because we are going for goals that matter? It’s true! And in order to win you must know what lies at the very heart of every interesting and worthwhile game.
Imagine– you’re on a soccer team, and before a game your coach announces the other team couldn’t make it, but you’re going to play anyway. On the field, you have the ball, you run for the goal and score – easy when there’s no one blocking your shot. This happens time and time again. How long before you are bored to death? No one wants to lose, but we do want a challenge. Games worth playing contain the chance to win or lose, and winning involves overcoming obstacles.
Obstacles are at the heart of every interesting and worthwhile game. Yes, obstacles – those objections, disruptions intent on blocking our progress. We try to be prepared, but sometimes they pop up out of nowhere.
They’re expected when it comes to sports, but in our own lives the single most noted reason we don’t begin to play for what we truly want is fear of the obstacles we know or even just suspect we’ll encounter. Or – we give up when we run into an unexpected one. Can you imagine being a soccer player, getting blocked by an opponent, and then stopping on the spot and walking off the field because there wasn’t supposed to be any opposition? No! Obstacles are part of the game of soccer and the game of life.
Obstacles are often deflating frustrating events. They can cause us to question ourselves, our abilities and even the goal itself. But what if we saw that what happens when we’re challenged is exactly what is supposed to happen? What if we saw obstacles as a sign that we’re doing something right, not something wrong? With this understanding, wouldn’t we be encouraged to keep going; to develop the needed skill to master the obstacles?
Take a few minutes and think back to a peak experience in your life. Were you required to learn something new or otherwise stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone?
Here’s my quick tip: Stop thinking of your obstacles as obstacles, and start thinking of them as invaluable opportunities to grow. No obstacles; no growth. Remember that they are at the heart of every interesting and worthwhile game and keep just playing to win!
Most of us wait until the job is complete before we celebrate. We never think to celebrate small victories. We think we don’t deserve it because we haven’t achieved that milestone yet.
Or – worse yet often we never celebrate at all! We finish one thing and just move right on to the next without even taking a few minutes to say “Wow! Good job!” This is one of the major causes of burnout. However, when we take some time to celebrate small victories along the way, it gives us the energy to keep going.
If you are in a leadership position it is especially important for you to set the example of celebrating the small victories of your employees or members of your management team. It has been proven that this is one of the best ways to achieve employee satisfaction and increase productivity.
It’s easy to celebrate the big wins and milestones, but celebrating the small victories along the way gives us the energy and motivation to keep going, especially when the going gets tough; to not give up when we come up against an obstacle we did not expect.
So here is a quick tip from your Coach: at the end of each day, before you leave the office, write down 3 things you accomplished that day. Notice any small victory or positive result that otherwise you might have missed and give yourself a pat on the back. This is sure way to end each day with a sense of satisfaction and to acknowledge a day well done.
Have you ever woken up with the answer to a problem that nagged you the night before? It’s like your brain worked on it while you were sleeping or something! Guess what – it did!
Many people – especially ambitious, successful people – subscribe to the false belief that if they sleep less they will achieve more. Yet there is a growing body of research proving that a good night’s sleep is essential to a productive day.
While sleep is often associated with giving rest to the body, recent research shows that sleep is really more about the brain! While we sleep our brains are hard at work encoding and restructuring information. Therefore, when we wake up our brains may have made new neural connections, thereby opening up a broader range of solutions to a problem, literally overnight!
In a fascinating TED MED Talk, Jeff Iliff tells us how, while we are asleep – and only then – the brain, in a process totally different from the rest of the body, actually clears away all the toxins that have accumulated in it during the day while it was hard at work. I posted the link to this incredible TED Talk on the Resources page of my web site for those of you who are interested in learning more.
In a Harvard Business Review article, called “Sleep Deficit: The Performance Killer”, Professor Charles Czeisler explains how sleep-deprivation undermines high performance. Professor Czeisler states that pulling an all-nighter or having a week of just 4-5 hours of sleep a night “induces an impairment equivalent to a blood alcohol level of .1%. Think about that! We would never say “This person is a great worker! He’s drunk all the time!”
Some good news for the early birds and night owls among us: science shows that even a nap can increase creativity. Recently, I had a late night and very early morning. Later that day I had to drive for about 3 hours later to a meeting. I became so tired I had a hard time focusing so I pulled into a Rest Area and within minutes was sound asleep – actually dreaming! 20 minutes later I woke up feeling alert and rested. I was able to contribute to the meeting in a way I never would have been able to without that cat nap!
In a nutshell, sleep allows us to operate at our highest level of contribution so we can actually achieve more in less time.
So here is my tip for all my sleep deprived viewers! Systematically and deliberately build sleep into your schedules so you can do more, achieve more and explore more each and every day.
A sunny day a few years ago I was at the stable watching my trainer work with a very reactive horse of mine that I have yet to be able to connect with. It may be because we are too much alike… Her name is Aliana (Ali) and she had ditched me more than once. My young friend, Amber, was standing next to me. She quietly asked “are you going to get on her today?” My trainer and I had been working with Ali for a few weeks. She was very calm and I had learned a lot about what I was doing wrong when riding her. It was a good time to get on her again, nevertheless I was very nervous, downright scared, but kind of excited at the same time. I knew Ali would pick up on it in a second. Who knew where this would go. I found myself saying to Amber, “I have found that in life if you wait until there is no fear, you will never do anything.” I know now I said it more to myself than her. With support from my trainer gathered up the courage to get on and had a nice first spring ride on a horse I really love, but had begun to fear riding. It was a breakthrough moment for me and things with Ali have been improving ever since.
Later I thought of how easy it is to let past bad experiences (like literally falling off a horse) influence our current behavior. Sometimes it’s a good thing, but often it just limits us. Instead of giving up on something you really want in life because you hit a roadblock, a formidable obstacle, or are just plain scared to death, find the support you need – a mentor, trainer, a coach – to make it happen. Some things are just too big, important or risky to do on your own.
A new report released by researchers from Harvard and the Wharton Business School states that, though many people are afraid to ask for advice or support and risk looking incompetent, they’ve actually got it backwards! The truth is research shows that people who seek advice or support are likely to be thought of as MORE competent, at least by the people they’re asking. So get the support you need and look really competent at the same time. Both Harvard and the Wharton Business School can’t be wrong!
“Without intimate mirrors we have no hope of knowing ourselves.” This was line in a mystery novel I read on my flight to and from the west coast this past week. It really resonated with me as I had just experienced what it meant. During the trip I had spent a fun-filled evening with two close friends, one I hadn’t seen in 4 years. We had been pioneers in a medical imaging technology that is now considered standard of care for almost all cancer patients. It was an exciting time that often pushed us to our limits and we loved it. My friends are two brilliant, exhilarating people and being with them brought back memories of the many things we had accomplished individually and working together. I saw myself through each of their eyes and was reminded of what I love to do and what I excel at. It was something I really needed and resulted in me making a rather large shift in my business plan as a result of it. I have been recharged with new energy ever since.
Who are the intimate mirrors in your life? What have you seen in them lately? Are there some changes or subtle shifts toward doing what you love within or outside of your current business plan that you are willing to take? Three wonderful questions guaranteed to get you thinking and maybe moving in a new more meaningful direction.
Recently a friend posted a video on Facebook showing how the Budweiser Clydesdales are trained to do things like play football (remember that awesome Super Bowl commercial a few years ago?) Their trainer uses mostly two methods and the first brought to mind something as leaders we often don’t do enough of – acknowledging others when they do something right.
The Art of Acknowledgement is a key leadership skill. When we acknowledge a person we are calling forth what is true about that person. For example – “Excellent presentation this morning Steve. It’s obvious this project is very important to you” or “I see where you worked late last night to finish the proposal Maria. Your commitment and enthusiasm are greatly appreciated.” Notice it’s not about what they did, but what you see to be true about them – they value their work, they are committed, enthusiastic.
An acknowledgement is not a compliment. A compliment is something you admire about a person and they are easy for people to shrug off – “Nice tie Sam” – “Oh, it’s an old one.”
One of the key things about acknowledgement is that, because it is what the person knows to be true, it sets the stage for trust. The person you acknowledge relaxes and is then more apt to accept your guidance.
Like any leadership skill, you must use it often to become proficient. Look for an opportunity to acknowledge at least one person each day. Notice not just the action, but what you see to be true about that person – they are courageous, empowering, supportive, flexible, focused, creative, etc. Observe the response you get from the person. Ultimately it will result in your excelling at the most valuable leadership skill of all – bringing out the best in others.
The second method the trainer uses? TREATS! We’ll save that for another day.