Life in 3D: Which “D” Are You Living?

Jim Rhon once said  “We now have enough evidence to conclude that it is possible to design a successful life.”   I once would have scoffed at that idea.  I now think that statement has a lot more truth in it than most of us realize.   Although he and many others of this opinion are quick to add that a lot of grace is required (and it clearly is), even a cursory study of the successful would demonstrate that common elements undergird their success.

This is the 3rd year I’ve signed up for Michael Hyatt’s 5 Days To Your Best Year Ever goal setting course. It’s really given me a lot of traction the last two years and I highly recommend it. This year, in addition to the great 5 step process Michael walks you through, I got some insight into something I wasn’t expecting. That something was a simple and general classification system of how people approach life.  I find it’s a very valuable heuristic because:

  • It appears to be consistent and aligned what you can readily observe in the real world.
  • One category is consistently associated with those who succeed.

Because success can mean a lot of things and at least a bit different for everybody, I need to pause here and  make sure the waters are clear before going any further.  I’ll define success as  “making measurable progress in the pursuit of a meaningful goal or cause.”  That definition makes success more of a process than destination and allows for whatever results from the process.

There are 3 basic ways to approach life, but only one is likely to get you what you really want. Here is the 3-level classification:

  1. Drift– The Drifters approach life without a plan. They react to what comes, good or bad, and just go with the flow. They often wake up years later (sometimes a lot later….too late in fact) realizing they never wanted to end up where they find themselves at.
  2. Driven– The Drivers overcorrect. They are driven to make progress and achieve goals, but usually in just one or two areas of life. And they achieve their success at the expense of the rest—often health, relationships, and emotional well-being.
  3. Designed– The Designed Life is about living intentionally so we can succeed both in business and in life, including the full range of relationships and activities that matter most.

Any guess as to which  approach is more likely to get you where you want to go?

025 Lift MentorIn this fallen world we live in, you have to be intentional in order to get what you really want from life. There may be some rare exceptions, but there are millions (billions?) of examples of casualties.  And since you only have one precious life, it makes sense to take the high probability approach. If that’s true, then why don’t more people choose that route? Good question and one we can only guess at. Perhaps because it takes awareness, time, effort, intention……the list goes on.

Since we’ll never the answer to the question above, a better question is one you can know the answer to: Which approach to life are you going to take this year?

While you may not hit your target exactly and a lot of grace will still be required along the way, choosing to live a Designed life will most definitely will get you closer to what you want out of life.

Please leave a comment and let me know which “D” will you be living out of in 2016, what best next-step you’re going to take to get started, and what you need to get there.

How You Value Time Determines The Return You Get

“I just don’t have enough time!!” Really? How many times have you said that this past year? I know I have…way too many times. I wonder what I would say…and how I would act….If I really (really) understood the true value of time.

Most people don’t grasp the fact that time is a positive magical resource with all upside and no downside. In fact, most people think just the opposite:  Not only do they say they don’t have enough, but often complain that the quality of what they do have is unsatisfactory.

Unfortunately, I still find myself with that thinking way too often. The reasons?

So what is the real value of time? A question like that could be answered a million ways depending on who you ask. However, sometimes you come across an answer so well stated, so obvious in retrospect and so true that it stops you in your tracks. That is exactly what happened to me when I read the following comments by  Arnold Bennett on the value of time:

“Time is the inexplicable raw material of everything. With it, all is possible; without it, nothing. The supply0293TimeValue II
of time is truly a daily miracle, an affair genuinely astonishing when one examines it. You wake up in the morning and lo! Your purse is magically filled with 24hours of the unmanufactured tissue of the universe of your life! It it yours. It is the most precious of possessions. No one can take it from you. It is unstealable. And no one receives either more or less than you receive.  In the realm of time there is not aristocracy of wealth, and no aristocracy of intellect.  Genius is never rewarded by even an extra hour a day, and there is no punishment. Waste your infinitely previous commodity as much as you will, and the supply will never be withheld from you. Moreover, you cannot draw on the future. Impossible to get into debt!

You can only waste the passing moment. You cannot waste tomorrow; it is kept for you. You cannot waste the next hour; it is kept for you. I have said the affair was a genuine miracle. Is it not? You have to live on this 24hrs of daily time. Out of it you have to spin health, pleasure, money, content, respect, and the growth of your immortal soul.

It’s right use, it’s most effective use, is a matter of the highest urgency and of the most thrilling actuality. All depends on that. Your happiness, the elusive prize that you are all clutching for, my friends, depends on that. If one cannot arrange that an income of 24hrs shall exactly cover all proper items of expenditure, one does muddle one’s whole life indefinitely. We shall never have any more time. We have, and we have always had, all the time there is.” ~Arnold Bennett

Well said, and as the saying goes, “’Nuff said.”

I love the comparison of time to capital and investment; it’s only fitting for something of such high value.  If more people valued time this way, perhaps fewer would complain about it. In fact, can you imagine the return and benefit you and I would experience if we valued time this way and acted accordingly? The beauty and other benefit is that those associated with us would be come much richer as well.

So what needs to change in order for you to get maximum return from your time?  Is the way you value of time currently serving or sabotaging you? Those are good questions to ask yourself and ones I know I’ll be  working on answering it throughout 2016.

If you have time, please leave a comment :).

8 Perspectives Of Time That Can Help You Do What Matters Most

Given that Thanksgiving 2015 is now in the rearview mirror and Christmas straight ahead, my experience tells me the rest of 2015 is going to go by in the blink of an eye. Is it the same for you?

This time of year is always a reflective one for me. I think it is for most people.  Once again, I’m reminded once again of the brevity of life. It just seems to keep going by faster every year.  It’s all perspective of course; a day is still a day, a minute a minute and a second a second.  None of these units of time ever goes any faster or slower, it just seems that way.

So how can we have a perspective of time that helps do what matters with the time we have?  Perhaps putting it in the context of meaning can help. I found the list below compiled by Michael Altshuler extremely helpful for my own perspective, perhaps you will as well:

  1. To realize the value of 1 year, ask a student who had failed a grade
  2. To realize the value of 1 month, ask a mother who has given birth to a premature baby
  3. To realize the value of 1 week, ask an editor of a weekly magazine
  4. To realize the value of 1 day, ask a daily wage laborer who has kids to feed
  5. To realize the value of 1 hour, ask the lovers who are waiting to see each other
  6. To realize the value of 1 minute, ask a person who has missed a flight
  7. To realize the value of 1 second, ask the person who has avoided an accident
  8. To realize the value of 1 millisecond, ask the person who has won a silver medal at the Olympics

Wow….how do those land with you?! A few of them were extremely personal and gave me a quite the jolt.

Way too many people always say they don’t have enough time, and unfortunately I’m too often one of those people. The reality is that all of us have all the time there is to have. Our problem is that our perspective of time doesn’t always motivate us to prioritize and spend it well. After all, you can’t fully appreciate what you don’t appreciate to begin with.

The question now is where to go with this so that it actually makes a difference in what we do with our time? Awareness brought on by proper perspective often makes fertile ground for proper decision making and action. Asking ourselves a few relevant questions like the ones below, each elucidated by a quote, can motivate us to act in a way that truly reflects how much we say we value our time.

  • What does time mean to me personally? “Killing time isn’t murder, it’s suicide.” ~Harvey Mackay
  • Just how valuable is my time? “You can always get more money, but you can never get anymore time.” ~Jim Rohn
  • Where should I spend my time? “The key is in not spending time, but in investing it.” ~Stephen Covey
  • How should I spend my time? “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?” ~John Wooden
  • What can I do about my time?  “The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.” ~Michael Altshuler

While we can’t control or manage time, we DO control our priorities and where we focus our energy.  With a proper perspective on time, how do you need to direct those two things within your control so you can do what matters most with what’s left in 2015?

What other perspectives of time have helped you appreciate it’s value and what to do with? Please leave a comment, I’d love to hear about it.

3 Reasons Why The Hedonic Treadmill Will Get You Nowhere

Have you ever found yourself thinking or saying “I’ll be happy when……”? If so, it’s likely you’ve been on the Hedonic treadmill. Unlike a real treadmill, we usually don’t recognize when we are pacing on the hedonic treadmill.

What the heck is a “hedonic treadmill”?! The hedonic treadmill effect is the tendency of people to quickly return to their baseline level of happiness despite getting a small win (“I beat the traffic light before it turned red”) or a major score (“congratulations, you won the lottery!”). The good news is that it works both ways and we naturally rebound from negative events as well. The bad news is that it becomes insidious when we stride on that treadmill “to get more” and “be happy when……”.  Because even when you get what you’re after and were you want to go, you just never quite seem to arrive.

I know I’ve been on that treadmill before. How about you?

In his excellent book “The Law of Happiness: How Spiritual Wisdom and Modern Science Can Change Your Life” Henry Cloud points out at least three reasons why  thinking “I’ll be happy when I get…….the new house, the new job, the new relationship, the bigger bank account, etc.” and other circumstantial things is a treadmill mindset that will not make you happy:

  1. External circumstances do not have the inherent power to bring us happiness- a lot of the desires and wants we think will make us happy just don’t have the staying power to fulfill. They are simply temporary “states” we find ourselves in.  The associated emotion fades once “it” is achieved or obtained or your circumstances change. Return to set point. Ironically, the very thing or achievement can then become a source of angst if we begin to worry or fear losing it.
  2. Circumstantial happiness doesn’t last– circumstances are just that: circumstantial. Not only can they change, they most definitely will. In addition, circumstances typically only account for 10% of our happiness. I could identify with his comment that whether or not he was called Henry or Dr. Cloud, his happiness had more to do with whether he was practicing the laws of happiness than with the fact he had a degree.  I had a similar experience. In fact, it was made even more poignant by the way my grandmother proudly introduced me to her friends shortly after I earned my Ph.D. She said “….he’s a doctor now, but not the kind that can really help anybody”. I knew she meant to say that I wasn’t a medical doctor. However, it was a little humbling and deflating non-the-less. Return to set point.
  3. We ignore things that can boost our levels of happiness when we chase the ones that can’t- Just like your body needs certain nutrients to make it healthy, your heart, mind, and soul need certain practices to stay healthy. There are too many to list, but some include self-regulation, confidence, novelty, relationship, intentional worship, giving, personal growth, and making steady progress in the pursuit of meaningful goals.

I think Jim Rohn said it best when quoting his mentor Earl Shoaf: “Jim, I do hope you become a millionaire one day. Not because of the money you make, but because of the person you’ll become in the process”. True happiness is more about what we are becoming and who we become than about what we get.

It’s always good to step back and reflect not only on what we are doing, but why we are doing it as well as who we are becoming in the process. As you look down, what’s telling you you’re on firm ground and not a treadmill?

Please leave a comment, sometimes the obvious is anything but and your perspective can help.

What Is The “Best Flavor” of Life Happiness?

Are all “flavors” of happiness created equal?  I don’t think so, and chances are you won’t either after reading this.

When I’m coaching a client, he or she will invariably use a general term like “success” or “better” or “good” when describing what they want. When I ask them what they mean with they use a term like “better”, it never ceases to amaze me how my idea of what it means is different from theirs!

So it is with Happiness. When you dig deeper and look closer, you begin to see certain categories or “flavors” of happiness emerge that can be defined. Martin Seligman has done an excellent job of identifying what I see as “4 Flavors” of life happiness:

  1. The “Pleasant Life”-  wrapped up in the successful pursuit of the positive feelings, supplemented by the skills of amplifying these emotions.
  2. The “Good Life”- not about maximizing positive emotion, but recognizes both positive and negative emotions in order to fully develop and flourish. In addition, there is a focus on successfully using signature strengths to obtain abundant and authentic gratification.
  3. The “Meaningful Life”- encompasses the Good Life, but has an additional facet and very important distinction: using your signature strengths in the service of something larger than yourself. I would also add that it goes beyond the temporal and includes something related to the eternal.
  4. The “Full Life”-  which is to to live all three.

I believe another important element integral to the “Full Life” is having clear-cut goals that give us a sense of purpose and direction. As Carolyn Miller points out in her book Creating Your Best Life, the beauty of making meaningful progress in goals related to key areas of our life is that it often has a “spillover effect and raises our satisfaction in other important areas.

We can choose to live day to day and feel good by exercising good happiness practices and activities that truly gratify vs simply pursuing small pleasures. We can also use our talents to pursue meaningful goals and accomplishments. However, without a higher purpose and meaning we won’t experience the taste of living our lives at the highest level.

In our age of mass marketing and media overload, we’ve been spoon-fed a diet leaving most of  us with a taste for only the “Pleasant Life”. Think about it- what flavor of happiness do you find yourself in pursuit of most of the time? The next shoe to drop (so to speak) is “What do you need to do to refine your taste?”  Please leave a comment. I’d love to hear about your flavor(s) or ones you want to try!

Who Are The Trail Guides On The Road To Happiness?

Perhaps just as important as mile-markers on the journey to happiness is a guide. As it turns out, we have a lot more guides available to us than we think….the elderly.  It’s interesting to me that as much as our culture seems to worship youth and stereotypes the elderly as lonely and less happy, the body of evidence says otherwise:  Older people tend to be happier as a group.  Why?

It appears these folks have some important things to tell us about how to be happy.  Listed below are 5 things a larger group (~1,500) of older people (aged 70 – 100+) had to share about life lessons that they would like to pass on to those coming behind them. These are from Eric Barker’s post with some additional tweaks and commentary:

  1. Don’t stay in a job you don’t like.
  2. Choose a career for the intrinsic rewards, not the financial ones. Selecting a profession based only on the potential for financial gain is perhaps the biggest career mistake you’ll ever make, while a sense of purpose and passion for one’s work almost assures satisfaction.
  3. Don’t give up on looking for a job that makes you happy, stick with it. Those who know the most say persistence is the key to finding a job you love.
  4. Make the most of a bad job. If your job situation is starting to hint at or actually makes a giant sucking sound, why waste the experience?  Many at the top of their field now wouldn’t have gotten there without the growth gained while in the fertile soil of a a bad job…..some time really fertile soil.
  5. Emotional intelligence trumps all others. A high level of interpersonal skills is the real currency of success, especially in today’s knowledge economy; technical competence is simply the ante to get in the game.  Even those with the highest technical skills are likely to fail if they lack emotional intelligence.

Everyone needs autonomy. Career satisfaction is often dependent on how much autonomy you have on the job, especially in creative, heuristic type work.  Look for opportunities that give you the freedom to make decisions and move in directions that interest you, without too much control from the top.

In addition, what these elders didn’t say was deafening: If you encounter any of the four mile-markers below, you likely heading in the opposite direction from your happiness destination. When you begin to experience these, find an exit or make a U-turn, FAST:

  • Trying to work as hard as you can to make money to buy the things you want.
  • Thinking it’s important to be as or more wealthy than the people around you.
  • Striving to have more than others.
  • Choosing work based on your desired future earning power.

Interesting…all the factors above relate in some way to Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose, which are key elements that give us our Drive or internal motivation.  The other thing to take note of is that unlike mile-markers related to time, these all deal with things that are within our control.

If you’re interested, you can find a lot more sage advice from the same group of elders I mentioned above in Karl Pillemer’s  book “30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans.” If you don’t have time for the book, Eric Barker’s excellent post  not only condenses that main point of the book (ie. those listed above), but gives some additional direct commentary.

Finally, if you not only want to know more but really experience the most from the happiest among us, simply go ask an older person you know and respect. The beauty that is not only what it will do for you, but the gift your interest will give them as well.

Who are some of the notable happiness trail-guides you’ve had in the past? Just as importantly, who is one you need to engage with now?