A Changed Mind

It started out like any other goal setting session. One person was a little late. When they arrived, there was instant credibility as they entered the room. They took their seat at the head of the table.

Head of the Table.

Introductions. Head of the Table had done just about everything. They were in their mid to late 80s, held prestigious positions, made a difference, and created things. Decades of life and success.

Head of the Table. Decades of Life and Success.

The goal setting and strategic vision session began. Before too long, Head of the Table (before it was time) stated a clear and specific goal that set the stage. The goal was bold, big, and a little disruptive. You could see the goal pass through the group like a wave.

Head of the Table. Decades of Life and Success. Goal shared first, Setting the Stage.

The discussion keep moving and started to flow. There were other voices, other perspectives, other ideas. As the day progressed, there were more voices, more perspectives, more ideas.

Head of the Table. Decades of Life and Success. Goal shared first, Setting the Stage. Other Perspectives, other Ideas.

Then something happened. There was a shift. Head of the Table made another bold move, yet another surprise. Head of the Table announced that after hearing the other perspectives and the other viewpoints, their original idea was not as good, not as applicable, and not what the organization needed. They had a changed mind.

A Changed Mind.

The room energy got an immediate boost. Some of the more timid and less experienced participants (who had introduced the different ideas and perspectives) found their voice. Those voices began to participate with a new-found confidence as they felt able to share their vision of the new, the different, the better.

A Changed Mind. People finding their Voice.

As the day moved towards conclusion, the goals, the vision, and the plan started to take shape. Building a plan was not the exclusive thing built that day. Excitement was building for the new future and direction of the organization.

A Changed Mind. People finding their Voice. Building Excitement for the Future and Direction.

Thank you Head of the Table for leading the way, for staying engaged and active over so many decades, and for demonstrating to all of us the power, and impact of a Changed Mind.

After

After.

After is harder than I imagined.

Before is filled with fear, anxiety, and tension.

Before is about setting a goal that would stretch and challenge.

Before is the decision to try.

During is about action.

During requires getting up each day to train, learn, or push.

During has failures, setbacks, and obstacles.

During connects you to others on that goal or project.

During feels alive.

When the big day arrives, all the training shines through.

Goals are accomplished.

After comes next.

After has a brief time for celebration.

After brings about an end.

After is when the team moves on to other things.

After there is a feeling of loss, as lives return to normal.

After there is a feeling of being lost, as you think about the next big goal.

After is a time to rest and gain perspective.

Before returns.

During will bring a new structure, a new routine, a new plan.

After will come again.

Let Me See Your Calendar

Often we wrestle with getting certain projects or activities completed. There are times I wonder if procrastination should be elevated to some sort of art form. The level of creativity that abounds when avoiding certain tasks is nothing short of a masterpiece.

If procrastination was art, I would be Picasso.

This procrastination can permeate through simple tasks and projects, down into our roles both personally and professionally. What starts off as a delay in painting a room or cleaning up your desk, can become putting off coaching employees or participating with your family. One day you wake up to a mountain of unfinished projects, ideas, or roles.

I was listening to a speaker give a talk on what it takes to be a good leader, and one of the keys was following through on certain tasks. When coaching others, this speaker often listens to leaders talk about the things they would like to do, and then says a simple phrase.

“Let me see your calendar.”

The speaker then challenges the leader to show them in their calendar the time the have scheduled to work on that project, and where the deadline appears. Reluctantly, the leaders typically respond that those ideas or projects are not in the calendar. The desire was present, but not the mechanism to create the action needed to complete or make progress on these tasks.

Instead of shaming the person being coached, the speaker then simply works to find dates and times in their calendar and holds them accountable for completion.

I am trying the same approach with myself and others. While coaching a few individuals recently, I realized how much we all need this encouragement and accountability. A few days ago during a coaching session, I realized that there was a project that I had put off for about 12 months. The project itself would take about 1 hour, but there was some sort of procrastination mountain standing in my way.

This morning I spoke that simple phrase, “Let me see your calendar.”

There was space, and the project was scheduled and completed. One simple phrase and the project came off the stalled idea mountain and is now a reality. Imagine the results if we use this simple phrase with ourselves and others.

Try it out, it may just Change the World.

The Conclusion

This post will make more sense if you read the original post.

Click here for the original adventure post.

Our oldest daughter’s bucket list had this mountain remaining as we set out for attempt number 2.  She will graduate in a few short days, so it became important to try again before she receives her diploma. For the past few weeks it has been cold, but the weather broke and it became just warm enough to hike, but cold enough to ward off the bugs. Duct tape is now a staple of our packing supplies and there was another round of our youngest’s “dam” jokes as we approached the trail.

There is something strange about trying to achieve something that is difficult when you failed the first time. There was a little more determination combined with a little more seriousness in the plan and the pace.

We couldn’t help but talk about shoes that disintegrated and how the first attempt was not successful. With each passing step the goal seemed within reach. New challenges presented themselves with periodic patches of mud and snow (yes there is still snow here on the trails in April), but we pressed on.

This time we had an adventure without the bonus surprise adventure. Sometimes it feels good to have your plans work out without extra stress that the unexpected brings. Certainly the first attempt helped to prepare for the second and brought with it a focus that was not present during the first try. It was interesting to notice the lack of complaining and an increase in encouraging each other that accompanied this new attempt, even though the route was much steeper than the original.

We are going to make it.

You can do it, we are almost there.

I suppose the conclusion is this:

Our first attempts that result in failure can be what helps us succeed IF we try again. Trying again can be hard, but sometimes the view at the top becomes well worth the effort.

The Mountain Top

Time

Yesterday was the first day wearing my watch in almost two years.  This watch had been sitting dormant because of its need for some major repairs.  For most people, a watch is just a way to keep track of time, but this watch is something different (or at least it was supposed to be different).  This watch and I have been together for 20 years.

A few short days after graduating from high school, I woke up each day in the Navy. Every day was planned, structured, and dictated by someone else.  Days were long, routine, and blended together and I never wore a watch.  There was never really a reason to wear a watch when each day was someone else’s and you were just along for the ride.

But as my four-year journey was coming to an end, I began to think.  Maybe spending all that time at sea gives you time with your thoughts that the average person doesn’t normally have in life…or maybe it was just breathing all that salt-filled air.  My thoughts were filled with plans, ideas, and goals for life.

One of the first things I did upon my return (besides rushing down to start dating the woman who would ultimately become my wife) was to buy myself this watch.  It took a while to find the right watch.  Something nice, but not too nice.  Something that would last, and stay in style.

Eventually, I found the watch I was looking for and in an overly ceremonious way, purchased the watch.  After unwrapping it, and placing it on my wrist, I told myself something as it rested there for the first time.

“Your time is now your own, and this should be a reminder to make the most of it.”

This reminder helped me through harder times ahead, through college exams, moving and changing jobs, and periodic failures in life.  The reminder was present at amazing times of our wedding, kids, first houses and jobs, and establishing a life together.

Yesterday as I drove to work, sat in meetings, went to a parent-teacher conference, shopped for school supplies, and came home, the watch was there.  Periodically while glancing down at the movement of the hands, I was reminded of my words to myself so long ago.  It was as if for a moment, I was receiving a reminder and a challenge from my 22-year-old self.

“Your time is still your own, are you making the most of it?”

Untethered

There may be a better word, a better term, or a better way to describe that interesting feeling that comes from feeling completely scattered and overwhelmed.  However you describe it, the unanchored position during chaotic times can undo us.  Unfortunately, this untethered state can creep into our lives before we realize it, and the blur of activity seems to help keep us unaware of our own state of mind.

Are you untethered?  Answer a few of these questions to see.

1.  Are you feeling anxious even if no specific event can be pointed to as the cause?

2.  Do you feel that time is slipping from you and you are not accomplishing what you need to?

3.  Is your to-do list growing at a rate faster than your accomplished tasks?

4.  Are you tired, even when you are not doing anything?

5.  Do you have a hard time starting projects even when the deadline is looming?

6.  Do you jump from task to task despite not completing the prior activity?

If you answered yes to 3 or more of these, you may be in an untethered state.

What can we do if we find ourselves in an untethered state?

Here are a few recommendations.

1.  Don’t make any large decisions (unless absolutely necessary).

2.  Slow down, make lists of what you need to do as long as you also include a list of what you should STOP doing.

3.  Do at least one of the difficult or hard tasks on the list first each day.

4.  Connect with others and be accountable for the hard things on that list.

5.  Find a tether or anchor that will help keep you from being scattered.  This can be a person, a book, a setting, or a state of mind.  For me this includes going to a “third space” or a place that is not my home or office where distractions are limited.  My favorite space is a local library or local coffee shop where it seems just separate enough from my other places that I can focus on specific projects that need to be completed.

6.  Regulate your screen time (Computer, phone, and TV).  Too much seems to act like a distraction from our actual lives.

7.  Stop multitasking.  Doing multiple things at once just add to the untethered state.  Accomplishing the most important task in front of you will prove more productive than simply doing a piece of five tasks.  I printed out a little card for my desk with a few simple words “What is the highest and best use of my time…RIGHT NOW!”  This small reminder acts like a tether that keeps the focus on what I need to do, especially if I was avoiding a particular task.

8.  Get some exercise.  You don’t have to run a marathon, but get moving.  Go for a walk, run on that treadmill, or just stretch your arms above your head and breath deeply.

When you find yourself in an untethered state, remember to try a few ideas on the list. Start slowly, and over time you may feel more anchored, more in control.

You can do it! I know you can! 

The Adventure Within (the Adventure)

The Adventure Within (the Adventure)We try to get outdoors as often as we can as a family.  With all of the work, school, life, and errands, this can be a real challenge.  As part of the yearly goal setting, hiking a certain mountain where we live was on the list for 2012.

Labor day weekend seemed like the logical choice for us, and this hike was on one of the oldest daughter’s “bucket list” for college.

What a perfect way to cross off a goal on a few lists while spending some quality time with the girls.  Our backpacks were full of snacks, water, supplies, band aids, eye drops, extra allergy medicine, bug spray and a few random things like headphones and a few toys.

The route was selected based on a consensus of research.  The route was a bit longer but a less steep path since this mountain is bigger than our casual small hikes of the past.  Walking sticks in hand, our small tribe’s adventure began.  The day was perfect, mid 70’s with a cool breeze and good spirits all around.  We were entertained by a series of jokes at the expense of a small dam.

“Looks like we are on the dam trail.”

“Hey, I am walking on the dam footbridge.”

” Welcome to the dam, I will be your dam tour guide, and I will be here to answer all of your dam questions.”

“Hey, is that the damn dam over there?”  (It got a little out of hand, and we had to redirect the conversation.)

After about an hour, our middle daughter mentions that the tread on the tip of her boot is coming loose.  We stop, and a small bungee like cord from a backpack wrapped around the toe seems to solve our problem.  We hike on.  After a short while, she mentions her boots again.

“Ummm, Dad, I think you need to see this.”

“Did the bungee come loose?”

“Nope, but this did.”

She was holding the entire boot tread in her hand.  It had come completely separated from the boot and we are miles from the starting point, and not quite halfway to the summit.  We spring into action, searching for every kind of solution we can in our bags.  Now it had been a while since we did serious hiking and we packed pretty well with one exception.  There was no tape.  Not even that white medical tape you typically find in first aid kits.  What we would have given for a roll of duct tape!

Luckily a friend of ours had given us a few paracord survival bracelets (small woven bracelets made from parachute cords), and the kids remembered to wear them.  We separated the cords and tied up the shoe.  The hike continued.  It wasn’t a perfect solution, but we had a mountain to climb.  Another 20 minutes went by.

“Ummm, Dad, it is happening again.”

Her second boot suffered a similar fate.  The tread had completely separated itself from the boot.  We stopped in a little clearing to eat lunch and assess our situation.  After additional attempts to tie the treads on, a few tears, lunch, and asking every passing hiker if they had any tape, it was clear that the summit was not a reality.

The hike down was not easy, and included continual evaluation and readjusting the cords and the addition of a few hair elastics.  Eventually some medical tape was provided by a sympathetic passerby.

Towards the end, one of the treads came completely off again.  Instead of stopping, or even missing a step, my daughter simply held it up high above her head and marched on.  Her strong defiant stand against the day’s difficulty was signaling that she was not giving up, and she was going to make it.  And she did.  We all did.

Later while in the car, we were discussing the high points of the hike, and what each of us remembered.  Besides another round of jokes about the “dam footbridge” by our youngest, we talked about working together to solve the boot issue, and what we liked best about the day and what we were thankful for.

“Remember when my boots fell apart, I was kinda scared, but we worked it out and made it back safe.  Now it is pretty funny.”

We all laughed about the boots.  Once safely in the car the fears or even tears became a distant memory.  We never made it to the summit.  The adventure that we planned was not the adventure that we had.  But isn’t that the way life is sometimes?  The unexpected challenges or obstacles bring both hardship and excitement to our adventure.