Here we go again? GREAT!!

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , ,

What have you achieved during the ‘first’ COVID Lockdown period?

How you define ‘achievements’ in the question I leave up to you. You may choose work-related successes, which will include how you adapted your working practices to address the restrictions and the (yuk) New Normal; you can list any charity or community efforts you undertook; you can rattle through the personal development you made.

Or.

You can consider the lack of initiative you might have displayed in any or all of those areas. You can now consider what you could have done. You can think ‘I could’ve’ (not could OF) and ‘I should’ve’ and ‘I might’ve’. And you can wallow in the self-pity that ensues if you did nothing to take advantage of the developmental opportunity that this pause could have provided.

But GREAT NEWS!

In my area, several local authorities have been re-locked down. (In fact, Cardiff is technically under siege as it is surrounded by locked down unitary authorities.) There are constant rumours, even expectations that another national lockdown is a-coming our way. A second pause-button that you can press and decide ‘What can I do in this period of change?’

I’m lucky. I have no formal occupation other than writing and blogging so I had massive amounts of discretionary time. Oddly, I still have a 9-5 mentality and regularly ‘pack in’ at tea-time. Weird.

But in the period since March I have:

  • Lost 35lbs.
  • Increased my cycling – time and distances travelled.
  • Attended umpteen free webinars to stay on top of my game.
  • Sorted out some home-environments.
  • Written The Way.
  • Edited Three Resolutions. (Okay, I finished that just before it started but it needed a proof read.)
  • Rewritten Police Time Management (still doing that).
  • Had two mini-breaks with the extended family during the eased-off hiatus in the Pandemic Panic.
  • Refocused my mind.

And here we find ourselves at the cusp of another, allegedly 6-month lockdown opportunity.

The Three Resolutions ‘commitments’ provide a framework for consideration of exactly what you can do to take advantage of the gap. You can reinforce your self-discipline by choosing to eat less and exercise more. You can redefine your personal values and your congruence or incongruence in terms of how you behave in their respect. You can learn new stuff, or you can study the old stuff you need to know in order to do an excellent job. You can revisit your sense of Purpose and decide if what you are doing is right for you, while simultaneously considering what service, or what better service you can provide to others – either through work or in a voluntary capacity.

Or you can just accept the entropy that doing nothing engenders. You can actively pursue the self-redundancy that ‘just doing enough’ causes.

Which is the right choice? You KNOW it.

Now DO it.

The Great Advantage

Tags

, ,

“To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom,” said Socrates. Wise fella.

But you should take into account that while knowing yourself is desirable, it is neither the sole objective of self-analysis, nor the sole result. You can know yourself but you have to want to do that for a reason (purpose, for example). And once you know yourself there is a kind of added benefit.

To identify that benefit, consider this question: “Unless I understand myself, how can I expect others to understand me – and to understand others, myself?” In my latest book, The Way, I describe a process for discovering your personal values and rules, those states of being and definitions of what is and isn’t ‘right’. Not ‘right’ in the legal or even moral sense – they are matters for you – but ‘right’ in your own mind and soul. These values and rules are the reasons why other people annoy you, and why you feel guilty when you act in a way that you know isn’t ‘right’.

Having discovered your own values, you also discover that other people have values and rules – and they can be (often and routinely ARE) different to yours. They may use the same words, but they define their values and set their own rules for interpreting when they are or aren’t, or someone else is or isn’t, ‘compliant’.

That’s why, for example, as a time management and personal organising nutcase I get absolutely tampin’ mad (serious tampin’ – no g) when my beloved wife doesn’t display quote the same levels of effort in their regard.

Look at your own personality conflicts at work or in the family – are they merely the result of seeing things differently – of placing different levels of importance on stuff, or playing by different rules?

Once you know you have values and rules and others do as well, you are most of the way to understanding others better, and to being able to communicate at a higher level. Instead of (as we all do) listening while rehearsing our pithy comeback or superior argument, we try to fully understand the meaning of what is being said – the hidden, unstated concerns and motives.

That’s the problem with Twitter. You have 240 characters on a digital page to express an opinion. People read what you write, think they understand you despite having never met you, and make a conclusion – but a conclusion based on their values, paradigms and conditioning. They don’t read what you mean – they read what they have decided you mean.

Good reason for not getting involved.

Take some time to consider what is important to you, and then define that exactly. Recognise as you do so that what is important to you is not necessarily as important to others, even if they say they value the same thing. They may define it differently, or they may place that value on a lower rung in preference for something that is more important – to them, if not to you.

Shameless plug – my book The Way deals with this in 150 pages of observation, explanation and encouragement for a reader interested in discovering exactly what it is they’re ‘about’. Which gives you an advantage over anyone who hasn’t the foggiest idea.

Hitting the Sweet Spot

Tags

, ,

It’s been a while since my last blog entry, mainly because of a focus on a review of my time management book for former police colleagues. In the meantime I have made a few personal breakthroughs which reflect my own adherence to the philosophy of The Three Resolutions, as described and explained in my book of the same name.

I have lost over 35lbs in weight during the lockdown by dieting and using the infrequent good weather to cycle. The two efforts have synergised and now I can ride up hills a lot easier than I could at my baby elephant weight.

I completed my review of the aforementioned Three Resolutions, addressing a few edit errors and making some paragraphs a little easier to read. The fun part was re-organising the Contents page and paginating it, which will make it an easier ‘dip-and-read’ project for anyone who thinks they might benefit from a (relatively) simple but honestly hard to execute lifestyle philosophy.*

I also wrote and published The Way, a 150 page tome on identifying your personal values, and designing a life of integrity with purpose rather than one where you think you are (and might actually be) living with integrity but can’t be sure because you haven’t truly identified what you’re in integrity with.

And I went on a family holiday for a bit.

Now I am back at it, blogging, writing and teaching others who need input on what they have identified is, for them, a better way. And as I do that, I get better as well. Coaching/teaching/training is a mutually beneficial activity if it is done right. If it only serves the teacher, the motive is wrong. If it only serves the student, the teacher is in the wrong job. When both get better from the experience, a sweet spot is well and truly hit.

Where is your sweet spot? Are you doing the best job you can do, a job you truly love (even if bits of it cause neck ache), which serves others and is therefore, by definition, your Noble Purpose?

If you are – you’re already enacting the Second and Third Resolutions. Good on you. Now buy my book and understand why that is, and how you might be able to get even better at what you love.

It’s cheaper than 3 pints of cider and lasts longer. If you prefer the cider, you fail the First Resolution ‘test’.

Have a great week!

*Anyone who believes the words ‘simple’, ‘easy’ and ‘ultimate’ in a book title or description is probably also easily distracted by shiny things.

This book, here. Available at Amazon.

Why I write what I write.

Tags

, , , , ,

“Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.” Louise May Alcott

I sat in my chair this morning, wondering whether the books that I write will ever receive the attention and interest that I desire – all writers want to be a ‘success’ – and then I read the above paragraph and realised that success or not, writing my books is personally rewarding and informative.

When we write, there is a lot ourselves in the result. And not necessarily the ‘us’ that existed when we set out to create, but the ‘us’ that we became as we went through the process of researching, drafting, refining and finalising what was finally put into the public domain. I know from my own crafting of The Three Resolutions that I have become more disciplined, congruent, competent and other-people centred than I was when I began exploring the concepts.

Zig Ziglar felt the same when he wrote ‘See You At The Top’. He tells in its pages of how he weighed several dozen pounds more than a personal development speaker and writer ought to, and part of the writing process was to slim down and get fitter so as to be seen to be what he professed he ought. Yes. I did that, too. Think of me as the less fundamentalist equivalent of that ex-smoker who evangelises at anyone who lights up.

So while I would welcome some interest in my philosophical and practical musings on self-leadership, and my experienced and researched counsel on time management for police colleagues, I haven’t in any sense failed just because I’m not as famous as Stephen Covey and David Allen.

I won’t achieve their levels of success and brilliance. But I can aspire, like Alcott, to do my best to apply what I have learned and about what I have written. If only because of my firm belief that what I learned – about the principles and about myself – make the whole effort worthwhile.

What are you doing to get even better than you are?

Available HERE

Seven Habits – Day 17 – Habit 7 and Conclusion

Tags

, , , , , ,

Habit 7 is the Habit of Renewal, hence the epithet ‘Sharpen the Saw’. It is a metaphor for ensuring you’re sharp enough to keep working, rather then getting and staying blunt through poor and excessive focus on the P of th P/PC Balance discussed in week 1. How do we sharpen ourselves then?

Most importantly, we need to do so in all four human dimensions.

Physical. You achieve and maintain a healthy weight so that you aren’t dulled by excess. You eat wisely. You exercise to help the body act optimally and for as long as needed (endurance, strength and flexibility). You get enough sleep and try not to poison the body – the only tool through which you channel everything about you.

Mental. You read in your field, and more broadly where possible, so as to improve your intellectual capacity to apply different ideas, and to be creative. You make sure that you aren’t made redundant during what Covey later called the ‘professional half-life’ of about two years, that period being the point at which, untrained, your competence halves.

Social-Emotional. You maintain and improve relationships, both with others and yourself. Your self-esteem is important, provided it doesn’t grow into a huge ego. This is arguably the easiest part of you to renew because you are doing it constantly as you live your life around other people.

Spiritual. You discover your personal values and reflect on how to live in their accord. You ensure you find meaning. Even if that isn’t in work, you seek out and discover that which fills your heart – passions, hobbies and above all, service to others.

Renewal is in Quadrant B/2 – it is important but never urgent, so you have to act upon it. You have to plan your weeks so that you get the renewal done – with the exception of the social dimension that happens all around and all the time, the rest of it is down to you to arrange.

Try to synergise. Train at work, using work’s resources (physical, mental, social). Exercise with friends and family (physical, social, spiritual). Go on a nature walk and reflect upon your mission (social-emotional, physical, spiritual). The possibilities are many, and all serve you and your ability to live a principled, productive lifestyle.

Renew – stay relevant, happy, productive and ‘on purpose’.

That’s the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People down from 340+ pages to about 14. I have really edited down a synergistic, whole-life approach to the life you design because you want what’s in it.

Now I really encourage you to go get a copy and read for yourself the wisdom that Stephen Covey himself edited down from 200 years of what he called ‘the wisdom literature’. You would see that it isn’t just a list of to-dos, as many books can be. There is an intellectually compelling completeness to what Covey wrote. You start with learning about a Paradigm and then realise that you’re reading a book where you end up noticing that how you see each Habit affects how/if you apply it. You realise that everything you do well is in your Circle of Influence if you want it to be there – or it stays outside that Circle and just bothers your conscience. And you realise that you have the capacity to act, because you are aware that you can. If you want.

Be careful, though. Through reading and applying this material you might just get what you want. I did.

Good luck.

Seven Habits – Day 16 – Habit 6 – Synergise

Tags

, , , , ,

Once you’ve learned to listen and understand better, you can synergise. What is that? Habit 6 – Synergise – is based on the principle of Creative Co-operation. How so?

Synergy recognises a natural truth that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts which, put another way, means that the relationship between the parts is one of the parts, and an important one at that. In nature, you know that one plank can bear a great weight, but two planks properly placed together can support well in excess of twice the weight of the one. Synergy.

Nature is full of examples of synergy – two people can add up to two in a partnership, but  they can create a few more people if they breed! Synergy is in parenting, team games, the classroom – all examples of where the relationship between the participants is great and can magnificently improve the creativity of the sum of its parts.

But sometimes, it needs courage. When two people disagree, even agreeably, then it takes courage and confidence, plus a little consideration, to seek to introduce a synergistic potential to the debate. It requires one party to say, “How would you like to seek a third alternative that is better than the one either of us can come up with?” It takes courage to agree to that, and it takes courage to say, “Let’s hear you, first.”

The two then start a mutually respectful, “I think”, “Ah, but how about” back and forth until the 3rd, better alternative is found.

Synergy is better than compromise = where 1+1 = 1½. Compromise is for when there is a lack of trust between the parties involved. It’s the best that ‘enemies’ can come up with if they have equal power.

That courage and consideration mentioned earlier is in your Circle of Influence. It requires seeing (paradigm) the other party as an equal, worthy of deep respect. It also requires seeing that there can be an alternative – imagination, which is one of your human endowments addressed n the first few posts.

And sometimes, particularly in these days of polarity in debate, the bravest of us all can start the process of reconciliation and solution by saying, “Good, you see things differently. Tell me more.”

As Covey opined, when two people agree totally, one of them is unnecessary. Creative co-operation requires different viewpoints if it is to work, but it also means recognition that one may be superior to another, and that there may be other ways that have yet to be explored.

Synergy is the fruit of Think Win/Win (root) and Seeking First to Understand (the shoot).

As we come to the last Habit – Sharpen the Saw, you will come to realise that the 7 Habits themselves are an example of synergy – all the Habits have great value in and of themselves but when they are applied together in our daily lives they can identify, create and work for outstanding and effective results.

Habit 7 – the Principle of Renewal, is an essential, foundational Habit that serves and supports execution of the other six.

But can it also be ‘stand alone’? We shall see.

Seven Habits – Day 15 – Habit 5 (with good and bad examples)

Tags

, , , , ,

Empathic communication – sounds deep. And it is, but it isn’t impossible. Empathy is more than sympathy, which is just a form of agreement. Empathy is truly understanding another from their frame of reference, as if you’re in the same situation and feeling the same emotions. Why is that so hard?

It’s hard because in our world we listen with the intent to reply – or, more accurately, butt in with our better story or advanced and superior opinion. This is actually normal, so don’t grieve if you find yourself doing that. But when you can, work in your Circle of Influence, be proactive and aware, and decide to listen with the intent to understand before speaking. Habit 5 is called Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood. There is a sequence, and it is both logical and pathological.

There are 5 levels of listening; ignoring, pretending, selective, attentive and empathic. Most of us vacillate between selective and attentive, but the latter is the most effective in conversations involving emotion – like political and sociological debate. The enemy of empathic listening is the need to probe, advise when only listening is required, to interpret (wrongly) based on our experience, and to evaluate or judge.

To properly hear what someone is saying you have to listen with your ears, eyes and heart. Your eyes and ears will add emotion to the words being spoken, and your heart will seek to interpret what is really being said. Unfortunately, the Twitter world says we must decide in advance what the racist/sexist/transphobic misogynist is saying, even before they speak, and we then call ourselves enlightened and woke.

Covey’s advice is to reflect and reframe someone’s communication as a means of seeking to understand and to demonstrate that you hear what they are saying. If you want an example of how this is NOT done, watch Jordan Peterson being interviewed by Cathy Newman on Channel 4 News, where she keeps reflecting back what she has decided he said, when he clearly has not! (Go HERE)

My own experience is that once you start to listen ‘better’, you find yourself finishing other people’s sentences before they do – hopefully in less emotional discussions but the principle applies. You are clearly listening with intent to understand if you can demonstrate that understanding by completing the other’s thoughts!

Another way of seeing that you are effectively exercising Habit 5 is when you disagree with someone’s opening statement, then listen and find that your original counter-argument is amended – or even unnecessary. Listening has resulted in them realising the error of their thoughts – or in you doing the same.

Consider the art of empathic communication next time you watch any political debate on the television, and you will soon realise that ‘our betters’ are rarely interested in the first part of Habit 5. At the risk of starting an argument, watch Jacob Rees-Mogg and Vince Cable HERE, and see how each listens to the other without interruption, so that each can understand and counter the other’s argument. Then compare it to most such debates you see.

Habit5 requires that you work within your Circle of Influence out of genuine interest in the other’s thoughts and words; exercising the character to listen rather than speak; and also the maturity to be willing to be influenced by what is being said.

Stephen Covey once said that this was the hardest Habit for him – and if it’s hard for him, recognise that means you have to start practising now!

Tomorrow -Synergy.

Seven Habits – Day 14 – The Beginnings of Public Victory

Tags

, , , ,

If, as I would hope, you have accepted your own responsibility for ‘life’ and have started focusing in your Circle of Influence, creating and working on a plan that serves your legacy, you need to work with other people – which can be fraught. Working your Emotional Bank Account through Habit 4 is a great way to do that. It is the beginning of Public Victory.

Many people confuse the name of this Habit. When asked what it is, they say “Win/Win” with gusto. Wrong. It is “THINK Win/Win.” As you cannot predict or demand any response from A.N. Other, you can only focus on your own attitude and approach as that is firmly within your Circle of Influence. You have to take 100% responsibility for communication.

There are 6 takes on agreements. They are Win/Win, Win/Lose, Lose/Lose, Lose/Win, Win, Win /Win or No Deal. Think of them like this –

  1. Win/Win good; the ideal opening “thought-salvo” to any negotiation;
  2. Win/Lose; “I will beat you into the ground to get what I want at your expense”;
  3. Lose/Win surrender; “Walk over me, everyone else does.”;
  4. Win – also selfish but with no regard for the other;
  5. Lose/Lose is used a lot in divorces; “If I can’t have it neither can you!”; and
  6. Win/Win or No Deal, which means we can decide to disagree, agreeably, and not do the deal.

Only Win/Win and Win/Win or No Deal establish and maintain good relationships – all of the others fail that test and actually prevent future discourse.

There are 5 Dimensions of Win/Win, applied in turn in order to achieve the best ‘deal’. By the way, by ‘deal’ I mean any agreement from a merger between Pepsi and Coca Cola to getting your teenager to clean her room. The dimensions executed in order are Character – what you are as a person, e.g. congruent and reliable; Relationship – established and firmed up before proceeding; Agreement – results focused and made, confirmed, and described in a way both parties understand and accept (see DR GRAC); Systems – for making the agreement work; and Processes – for detailed execution of the agreement.

Character is also described as the nexus of Integrity, Maturity (balance of courage and consideration) and an Abundance Mentality (an acknowledgement that there is enough pie to go around). Maturity means having the courage to seek what you want but having the consideration to do so with the other’s needs firmly in mind and part of the solution.

Once you have the character to start negotiating – i.e. you enter with Win/Win as your objective – then you start to establish or improve a relationship so that open conversation can take place with a view to then entering into the DR GRAC element of the agreement. Once the agreement is reached, then systems for accountability, reward and execution can also be agreed and implemented.

In The Seven Habits book, Stephen Covey provides examples of each of the 6 levels of agreement, and examples of how this kind of thinking has worked in the home and in business. Indeed, his example of establishing such an agreement with his son, through DR GRAC, is now legendary in the world of personal development. It can be viewed on YouTube HERE. His son says he was framed.

Approaching any potential agreement with Win/Win in mind is the Root of interpersonal success. Tomorrow and Thursday we will look at the shoot and the fruit of the Public Victory.

Seven Habits – Day 12 – Habit 3 – First Things First

Tags

, , , , , ,

As Habit 2 is the habit of personal leadership, Habit 3 is the habit of personal management. The crux is that leadership is doing the right thing, management is doing things right. It is the ‘art of control’ and Habit 3 – time management – is the art of controlling events. How do you execute with leadership and vision in mind?

Time management addresses two measures – urgency (time critical) and importance (mission critical). In the 21st century, due to the immediacy of personalised communication and broadband, many of us have adopted an urgency mentality – it pops up, it must be read/assessed/done NOW! And that is all done regardless of (a) its level of importance and (b) whether it should ever actually be done at all. Habit 3 invites (demands?) that you use the ‘independent will’ in your Stimulus-Response Gap to make an assessment as to where, in a matrix, the task lies. The matrix looks like this:

I won’t insult you with a detailed explanation but as you can see, the most important things lie ‘above the line’, and this is the point at which you must decide where your task lies. If it’s below the line, it can wait. If it’s above, do it. If it’s above and to the left, do it now!

The best place to be is ‘Quadrant B’ and it’s where you do the preparation: planning, proper recreation, envisioning, etc. It’s where you ‘think’ so that ‘stuff’ like emergencies either don’t occur, (thus shooting you unprepared into Quadrant A), or are anticipated, meaning QA isn’t so uncontrolled. But you can’t prepare in QB unless you have done the work in Habit 2 to assess your mission, which requires work in Habit 1 to help you recognise you are responsible, that what you intend is in your Circle of Influence or Centre of Focus, and that you are seeing things as they should be (paradigm).

You see, now, how the Habits and basics all gel?

The way to plan is to find a tool into which you can place your TANC – tasks, appointments, notes and contacts (although the need for the latter has been electronically usurped since the book was written in 1989). You manage your time by keeping a one-stop shop for this stuff. Then, when you make an appointment, you record a note about how/why it was made, write down the appointment, and plan any preparation for that appointment in the task list so that it’s all done in QB before the QA appointment takes place.

There is a whole lot more in the book about time management but this page really boils it down.

Covey wrote a whole book in 1994 about interpersonal time management, i.e. on Habits 2 and 3, which I recommend. It’s called First Things First.

Tomorrow, delegation.