Choice keeps the wolf from the door.

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“Unemployment is a characteristic unique to the human species only. All the other creatures and creations seem to know what they are supposed to do.” This was a quote ascribed to an unnamed economist who I am sure had his tongue half-squished into his cheek, but it is a thought provoker. Of course, the human condition means we can demonstrate compassion to those who have not and who cannot, whereas the animal world rarely shows that (dolphins, whales?).

My question, which might invite challenge, is – should we be so compassionate towards those who will not?

As a police officer, I met people of all three ‘persuasions’. I met the poor, the challenged and the disabled, who to my mind represented the have not and cannot and for whom I had some sympathy. But for too often, and presumably because of the circumstances surrounding the ‘call for service’ that resulted in our meeting, I met those who would not.

Those who would not work in case it made them have to get up in the morning. Those who would not because it involved being subject to supervision and rules. Those who would not because of the inconvenience. They would do one thing – they would go and collect their benefits and then pop next door – and it was next door – to buy their beer. Then they would go out and steal and rob ‘because they needed money to live, Your Worship’.

In a nutshell, there are those who can’t exercise the Three Resolutions,  there are those who don’t know how to exercise them, and there are those who won’t.

And there are those who defend the latter by lumping them in with the former. They make excuses and seek evidence to justify their findings. Instead of giving them a metaphorical slap and showing them how to get a grip, they pander to their failings instead.

Fortunately, there are also those who come half way, giving that metaphorical slap and then helping them to discover a new sense of personal discipline, a new and better sense of character and new competencies. And my experience suggests that those who are helped to achieve and execute those First and Second Resolution ethics frequently go on and execute the Third Resolution in ‘paying forward’ what they were given, to the benefit of all.

I love seeing that. I love seeing people rescued from hopeless and useless to helpful and useful. I remain scathing towards those who are useless and hopeless but who revel in it and demand respect for it.

And I feel that way because, unlike animals, such people – all people – have the ability and capability to do and be better because they have a choice. Animals are usually led by instinct. A dog chases a car but probably doesn’t know why. A human who ‘is’ useless is well capable of choosing better and should be encouraged and helped to do so.

Once. Maybe twice. Maybe even three times. But after that – let the wolves have them. Wolves know what they’re there for.

 

For more, got to Amazon and buy the book on Kindle or  paperback.

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Politicians – read and learn.

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The annoying things about politics and politicians.

They never apologise. Do you know why that is? It’s because other politicians don’t understand gratitude or humility in victory.

For example, party A has a policy, and a policy is usually well considered by many before it is announced. Party B decries it and demands changes.

Now, for all the best will in the world, there will be factors Party A didn’t consider because of a lack of omnipotence, and there will be factors they considered because of their value structure. (That is, the right tends to promote personal responsibility and conservation of what is, while the left tends to promote societal responsibility and want constant change in that direction.)

With that in mind, something comes to light or an alternative viewpoint is acknowledged and accepted, and Party A adapts the plan. Immediately, Party B rips into them for ‘U-Turns’ and ‘lack of leadership’ and ‘strife within the party’ and all that cobblers.

Try managing with that over your head. It is exactly like you making an honest mistake at work, apologising, and then being punished, attacked, demotes, moved, etc., despite correcting your error.

So instead of apologising, you try to justify yourself. Like any political party.

They don’t tell the truth. Occasionally, they do lie. (See above.) But one thing I learned from a lawyer years ago is that professional ethics occasionally mean they have to take a certain line – in the lawyer’s case I discovered that if a client tells them ‘I did it, get me off’ then they cannot sit there and listen to them lie. They have to go no comment. When I learned that I changed my approach from “solicitors are gits” to “No comment, eh? I must be on to something!”

 It is fair to say that senior politicians are privy to secrets and confidences, just like us. And just like us, when asked about them, they have to avoid answering ‘correctly’. Which means avoiding the question or using another tactic. Bear in mind that even the answer, “I can’t tell you that, it’s an official secret” breaches the Official Secrets Act as it (usually) confirms a presupposition in the question asked.

Occasionally, they don’t know the answer. Of course, ‘we’ know everything and expect the same of them. When they say ‘I don’t know’, the ‘examiner’ with the answer in front of them attacks them for not knowing that random statistic. Then the press joins in. Now, if the subject of the interview is clear and it is an obvious question, the politician should have prepared. But surprise questions with stats held by the interviewer shouldn’t be abused by the press. Anyway, they aren’t allowed to not know the answer, so they avoid giving one, which looks like avoidance of a truth.

They waffle. It’s often quite funny watching this. A question is asked, and it is immediately answered with ‘Let me clear (about something else)’, or ‘The reality is (party political broadcast)’ or ‘The real question is (combination of both)’.

 Nobody likes to answer uncomfortable questions, least of all us. Politicians are made up of ‘us’ but with the added expectation that they ‘must’ be transparent. Give them some slack and know when they are uncomfortable. They don’t want to offend the voters, even while offending the Opposition.

They have no manners. To my mind, there seems to be a complete – and ineffective – lack of manners when it comes to politicians and political interviewers. Interviewer asks a question, and as the interviewee draws breath they start attacking the answer not yet given, or the ‘opposing’ guest butts in. How wonderful it was to see Jacob Rees-Mogg and Vince Cable debate Brexit politely and intelligently without interrupting each other.

You can’t challenge a viewpoint or opinion effectively without listening to it, considering it, and seeing the holes. The ‘loudest shouter’ isn’t necessarily right. Make notes, wait yur turn, and then state your views. They are a lot easier to hear when you’re not arguing over each other.

What has all of this got to do with The Three Resolutions?

The Second Resolution argues for Character and Competence. For politicians, the spin doctors have invented a new competence – political avoidance, with training provided. (I find that non-pointing fist thing annoyingly inane, most of all.) Every statement must be slapped down and ridiculed by the opposing party, even when their own point of view is equally unclear through the same prevarication, avoidance or opinion. ‘The end justifies the means’, they say: but this means attacking the ‘enemy’ for doing what you would do yourself, but in the belief that their motives are evil while yours are good. Your ‘bad’ means are done for good ends, while their ‘bad’ means are done for ‘evil’.

Poppy-llocks.

What I would welcome is an improvement in the Character Ethic of the politicians and the media. Ask open questions, listen to answers quietly and respectfully, and then challenge in an appropriate tone and with considered responses where necessary. Acknowledge and respect the willingness or reluctance of the interviewee to provide answers and see things from their perspective, even if just at first. Just like Jac and Vic. Let your intellect say what your emotional outbursts actually obscure.

As a police officer, I was expected to do that when dealing with rapists and murderers. Wouldn’t it be nice if politicians and newsreaders gave the same respect to each other that I was expected to provide to the worst in society?

Let people change their minds; let them have secrets but let them say why it is a secret; interview them politely and challenge waffle – let them say ‘I don’t know, and I’ll find out’. It’s supposed to be about discovering the facts, not necessarily about finding them out in a convenient TV slot.

Let politicians rediscover Character as an ethical approach to politics, instead of perpetuating the ethic of Personality, where looking good is more important than being good.

The Bear Facts.

In the UK, what do you tend to think about when asked about ‘military excellence’?

There is only one obvious answer unless you are prone to regimental/squadron/ship jealousy, isn’t there. The Special Air Service, of course. Tales of derring-do abound, but generally speaking we are awestruck about their training/selection procedures as much as we are their expertise, mainly because if they tell us what they do they’ll have to kill us. In the absence of operational disclosure, then, it’s their selection that remains legendary.

For those who know not, the SAS was formed as a commando-style unit operating behind enemy lines during the WWII desert campaign in North Africa. It was the idea of Col David Stirling and unless they’ve secretly changed it, their HQ is still referred to as the Stirling Lines.

I read this on LinkedIn the other day:

“As an alternative to ‘NY resolutions’ here are the Four Tenets by Col Sir David Stirling (founder of the SAS). Stick to them and it’ll be a good year.

  1. The unrelenting pursuit of excellence.
  2. The highest standards of self-discipline.
  3. Tolerate no sense of class.
  4. Humility and humour at all times.”

(That last one may be why they can get away with calling their officers Ruperts.)

I am pleased and abashed to say that The Three Resolutions are partly paralleled by those principles. The Four Tenets directly reflect the first two Resolutions. Remember, the first Two Resolutions state:

First Resolution – “To overcome the restraining forces of appetites and passions, I resolve to exercise self-discipline and self-denial.”

Second Resolution – “To overcome the restraining forces of pride and pretension, I resolve to work on character and competence.”

Stirling’s First Tenet matches the intent and practice of the ‘competence’ element of the Second Resolution, doesn’t it? The Second Tenet matches the First, eh? And there is a definite correlation between the ‘character’ element of the Second Resolution and Stirling’s Third and Fourth Tenet.

Great minds……

So if the officers, NCOs and men of the SAS think the Three Resolutions are sound – it is the Special Air SERVICE, so that’s the Third Resolution covered after all – then isn’t it a good idea to try our best to do the same in our own fields of endeavour.

Which is why I am abashed, because seeking perfection in execution of the 3Rs is not ‘easy’. In fact, while trying to live up to ‘my’ 3Rs can’t honestly match even the physical expectations of an SAS applicant, it is still hard.

Nevertheless, it’s worth trying. So, here’s my advice this week.

Be like Rupert.

“That’ll do.” Er, no it won’t.

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In a piece about the American education system and the perception that it was mediocre, Dr Bruce Lockerbie wrote a piece explaining why he thought that this wasn’t so. He listed the students that were taught by teachers who were assisted by support staff assisted by manufacturers, writers and editors who were assisted by policy- and law-makers and money. Each flea had a smaller flea, as they say. Each of those supporters were, or were the responsibility of, individuals. He concluded:

“Schools aren’t mediocre, but some of us who are administrators or teachers, and our students, have been half-hearted about our management, our teaching, their learning. You see, mediocrity is first a personal trait, a personal concession to less than our best, an individual lethargic resignation that says, “I guess good enough is good enough.” Soon, mediocrity metastasises throughout the body politic, causing the nation to be at risk; but always remember – mediocrity begins with ME!”

In the main, we all want to do a great job. We want our performance to be above reproach and our results to reflect the effort we put into our work, our relationships, our very lives. So why is it that we eventually resign ourselves to being and doing less than we are capable of?

We make excuses.

In fairness, those excuses can be quite valid, to some extent. We try hard, bash our heads repeatedly against rules, regulations, other peoples’ objections, obstructions and obfuscation and City Hall, and eventually we are beaten into thinking “I guess good enough is good enough.”*

Occasionally, the availability of time and materiel impact on our efforts and we do the best we can with the time and resources available – which I consider a valid ‘good enough’ – but now feel guilty that we couldn’t do better. In my own line of work, our effectiveness in terms of client service is often frustrated by the clients themselves, who kick off a process and then step back and absolve themselves of further responsibility despite an explicit need for their further involvement.

Sometimes, however, even as we say them silently to ourselves, we know that the excuse we are making is exactly that – a statement designed to excuse a temporary unwillingness to put a piece of ourselves into something which may increase our workload. Sometimes it is because we know that we are metaphorically digging a hole with the sole intention of merely filling it again. We see no conceivable result at the end of our toil, just the toil itself.

I don’t have ‘the’ answer, and I am certainly guilty of having such thoughts from time to time. But I do have ‘an’ answer.

Stephen Covey opined that ‘the enemy of the best is the good’.  Therefore, my advice to you and to me is to just try harder to make the effort to be better than mediocre. It may seem pointless in the moment to strive for a particular outcome, but that striving is a way of learning to do it better, faster, and even cheaper next time. It serves creation of our own system, which in turn can help create a standard that others can follow, to the benefit of all. That’s all Three Resolutions in action.

Why do you think software keeps developing? It’s because someone has discovered, possibly through frustration, that there is a better or more complete way to achieve a digital outcome.

My advice, dear reader, is – don’t be mediocre, be the best you can be all of the time. Or at least try. Even if you don’t quite hit perfection you’ll be a lot closer than you were. And a lot better than ‘good enough’.

A LOT better.

 

*The funny thing is that those people who browbeat and have their own sense of ‘good enough’ for their work expect you to maintain an excellent performance to which they sweetly avoid committing when it comes to their own roles.

Get the F on with it.

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You have, haven’t you? Even if nothing obvious, you have something in mind, don’t you? It IS January 1st, after all.

You have some idea of what you are going to ‘do differently’ for 2018. Some call them Resolutions (I can’t because of the title of the site), some call them Goals, NLP types call them Outcomes, but in the final analysis we are all talking about creating a new vision of how we are going to behave in order to get something we don’t have already.

Probably – and this is the painful part – the same things we promised ourselves last year and never achieved. Just like Yours Truly.

Why not start off by doing something at the end of this paragraph that you promised you’d do? If it is to start exercising, go for a fast-paced walk. If it’s to read a certain book,* pluck it from the shelf, blow off the dust and get to it. If you have to buy it, do it now. If it’s to cut back on sugary foods, go empty the cupboards of sugary foods. Duh!

Yes, now. Stop reading.

GET ON WITH IT. Time’s a-wasting. The year is flashing by already.  No more blog, just go.

(And off to the gym.)

 

*A certain book.

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Attendance is optional, productivity is not.

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Larry Winget, American motivator-with-attitude, says in the introduction to his book, “It’s Called Work for a Reason!”,

“Bye honey, I’m off to work!”

Oh, bull! You aren’t going to work at all. You are going to the place that isn’t home, where you have to dress a little better than you do around the house. You are going to a place that is full of other people who also just lied to their significant others. You are all liars – you AND those people you say you work with. You say you are co-workers, when the truth is you’re only co-goers.”

I admit I chuckled a bit at that. I am in an envious position where I can manage my workload and, getting it done quickly with (slightly imperfect) time management expertise, I have more down time than most. I try to do an excellent job, but am most challenged when I, like you, are trying to do an excellent job when another expectation-of-an-excellent-job rolls up, closely followed by more. It’s hardly surprising that we want a quiet 10 minutes to prepare for more work.

But Larry does have a point. We are paid to do more than turn up, we are (as my first employer actually told us on an induction course) to put in a good hard day and go home pleasantly tired. Unfortunately, the world has changed and that is now harder to do.

I’m not talking about back-breaking manual labour, even though that is ever-so-slightly less back-breaking than even it was.

The world has changed in that our ability to focus on ‘work’ has been severely compromised by our inability to focus properly on anything! Mobile phones pinging, bleeping, ringing or just being in view mean we MUST check them several times an hour – even if only to see why we HAVEN’T heard a ping or a bleep or a ring. Downtime also excuses a quick Facebook/Instagram/Snapchat/WhatsApp session, doesn’t it?

Perhaps this is why we are now providing courses on ‘How to manage millennials’, a concept that confirms surrender to the ‘me’ generation, rather than suggesting, firmly but politely, that they are being paid to benefit the employer, they CAN be replaced if they don’t work hard enough, and the sun does NOT shine out of their baby-smooth bottoms.

You are paid to work, to produce.

Now, a slight counter-proposition, too. If you are not paid ‘just to be there’ as I suggest, then IF your productivity is good/excellent, IF your standards are high, and IF you can be seen to be a worker, THEN liberties can be given and taken.  I recall an amusing story about a CEO who wanted a manager to have a word with an employee who turned up at 8AM, but went home at 12 noon and played golf all afternoon. After some enquiry, the manager told the CEO, “He’s the most productive employee you have! Get him to teach everyone else how to do that and we’ll be rolling in it!”

Work is measured by RESULTS, not merely PRESENCE. But if you can produce the first through maximising the use of the latter without burning out, your job will be safe. Wherever you work.

 

I’m using a WIG. Or Four.

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Hello. I’m back.

I went away because I was a bit tired of espousing personal development philosophy while manifestly failing to come up to my own standards. Furthermore, as a direct consequence of said lack of integrity and the physiology that resulted, I felt bloody terrible. I had (still have) a dodgy knee, but carrying 42 lbs of spare weight wasn’t helping. All that weight was on my front, which probably didn’t help with the back. I was constantly tired when I woke up in the morning, and I was motivated only by virtue of the fact that I would do things only if they were on my prioritised action list in my planner. I could simply avoid doing things by not putting them onto the list. I needed space.

I booked some time off from work, and set myself only four WIGs – wildly important goals – for the 18 days available.

  1. Stick to a diet that had worked in the past.
  2. Go to the gym on every free day (i.e. those when I did NOT have whole days dedicated to other events – which only amounted to 2, anyway).
  3. Finish the edit of Police Time Management so that I can sell it through my professional body’s website.
  4. Clear and organise my attic.

Might not seem much but I had various events, meetings and other commitments to fill my time. Those 4 were the specific outcomes or strategies I chose that would address many of the physical and mental blockages that were causing my malaise.

How did it went?

  1. The diet I chose is known as the Natural Hygiene Diet (look it up). In a nutshell, only have EITHER a protein OR a carbohydrate ‘main’ accompanied by vegetables or salad, and avoid (as far as is reasonable) heavy sauces and other taste bombs. Eat lightly, and use fruit as your treats. It’s Slimming World without the sins. I also ate only four slices of bread the whole time. My only variance was a bit of a treat after a day-long conference and drive home, where I indulged in a sandwich snack and some sweeties.
  2. I surprised myself, here. I went to the gym every day but the two days when I had all-day commitments, sat on a static cycle for 45 minutes (and pedalled!), pushed some weight and did some gut-stressing leg raises. I even took my kit to an overnight halt before the aforementioned conference and did it in the hotel gym.
  3. I finished the edit far quicker than I thought and it will soon be available for purchase either on its own or as a freebie on an investigator’s course.
  4. This was a challenge because of an unexpected obstacle known as ‘other people’. I found it easy to sort out ‘my’ stuff – chuck, charity, colleagues, keep. Other people – predominantly ‘review, keep, put back’. And their proclivity for finding other things to do which could be done better/at other times/not at all, but seemed to pop up just when I was climbing the attic ladder.

How did I feel? Much to my surprise, by day 12 I felt physically much fitter, lighter, and more disposed to movement. On the final, 18th day, I weighed myself and I had lost 11.15lbs.

The attic is tidier and, most important, I can get at anything I need at short notice. (And I found some stuff I’d been looking for, for months!)

Success!

But why? Why did it work now and not before?

Anthony Robbins often says that when we change, it is for one of two reasons – inspiration, or desperation. The 100-Day Challenge, which I manifestly failed to execute, was born of the former, while the success of this moment was clearly, unequivocally and sadly founded on the latter.

I have said before that the principles (of successful living) work if you work the principles. The principles I worked this last 3 weeks were:

  1. WIGS. I set only four Wildly Important Goals, around which any other things were organised.
  2. Time Management. I recognised that I was sitting around ‘saving time’ and not ‘using time’, so deciding to use the gym at a specific time every day (4pm) was better than leaving it to ‘IF I have time’.
  3. Sensible eating. I realised that when I have been stuffing my face it has never, ever been because I am hungry. It is because I am bored. And I realised that seconds after a meal was completed, the ‘event’ was over and my mind and body had already forgotten. So why go to that effort? Just eat sensibly and feel just as ‘forgetful’, but healthier!
  4. I learned to cook omelettes, scrambled eggs and poached eggs. Thanks, Delia. Masterchef beckons.

One sobering event. Early on, I was at the gym when I met a friend I have known over 20 years, and I mentioned I was on leave and intended to use it daily. On day 11 I met him same place (and time) and he said, “I didn’t think I’d see you again.”

What does that say about me? What have I been communicating over the years, at least in terms of my physical state? Evidently, I have been saying, “Here I am again, this week’s fad. It won’t last.”

No more.

100-Day Challenge, Day 66. Truth Hurts. A lot.

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I have long been an advocate of integrity excellence, a fundamental (but not exclusive) element of which is honesty. The principle of truth, spoken loud. The valued exercise of telling it like it is, even when doing so discloses, as Al Gore would put it, an inconvenient truth.

And the inconvenient truth on Day 66 is this: while I maintain that the Principles of Excellence in the physical and mental spheres always work, I have failed to work the Principles. I have known what to do, but I have failed to do it.

In my defence, the ‘excellence’ I have sought to perform in the competencies I look to possess has resulted in my being appointed a ‘Masters Mentor’ with the Institute of Advanced Motorists, and I look to produce high-quality work on a professional level. I still do my funky thing for all those I seek to serve.

But physically I am a wreck. I am no further forward in terms of weight loss from Day 1. Exercise-wise I have the genuine reason of a knee injury which, as much as I tried to compensate through different approaches to exercise, just got too painful to move. Even walking was challenging. Where I failed most of all was to not adapt my eating habits (a) to lose weight ‘at all’ and (b) to compensate for the inability to work out.

The ultimate weight-loss principle is and always will be ‘eat less, move more’. I started this Challenge by using the ‘move more’ approach and that worked. But when the injury kicked in I did not then apply the ‘eat less’ approach and that has meant, well, failure. There are 34 days left so I can still do something, but I am not going to hit my original target unless Montezuma seeks terrible revenge, and as far as I know I have not offended any Mexican gods.

Of course, as a personal development writer this has to reflect on my reputation – a bit. I occasionally feel like the clown who is sad inside: the clown, promoting laughter and entertainment while forever crying inside. But part of my challenge might be that I eventually face the possibility that I am comparing my situation, and potential, to that of the truly great writers, performers and coaches in this field, and looking to play like Ronaldo while only having the talent of a (insert name of good, non-International football player here).

I am reluctant to settle for less than ‘perfection’. Nobody should do that. But even perfection is subjective, because as soon as it is achieved someone will always come up with an even better version of it. And even if I did approach an ideal version of me, that very approach would inevitably identify an even better ‘better’. That ‘even higher standard’ could be identified because one of the giants in my field found it, even if I didn’t. And then I would think ‘here I go again’.

Anyway, I will carry on moving ever forward, seeking to finally achieve those elusive, higher levels of personal congruence that will enable me to truly walk my talk and be the individual I would dearly love to be.

Perhaps, as I write that last sentence, I realise that I have to ask myself some sobering questions:

“Am I willing to work hard enough to be the man I want to be? Exactly how dearly do I want to be the best ‘me’ I can be? Do I want it enough? And – finally – do I actually have a clear idea of what that best ‘me’ will look like when I finally get to ‘be’ that person?”

I guess we’ll find out. But one thing must apply. I won’t blindly adopt other peoples’ standards and measure the final ’me’ against those. They have their values, beliefs and behaviours and they are not necessarily mine.

The ultimate identifier and judge of my congruence with my values and unifying principles will be – me. Eventually.

100-Day Challenge, Day 59. And a word about personal development philosophies

Holidays. Despite not going nuts on food and drink, and spending hours walking about, the curse of a holiday reared its ugly head and I gained two pounds. Suffice to say, the original objective is now impossible unless I suddenly obtain the capacity to train like George Foreman (in his boxing, not grill days). 41 days to lose 31 pounds is not impossible but when I achieved something remotely near that (losing a stone in 2 weeks) I spent the 14th day in bed and I suspect that my 55-year-old metabolism is not the same as my 40-year-old metabolism. Do any readers have suggestions or experiences that might be fun for others to read?

Speaking of holidays, how do you do yours? As a coach/trainer I find that I spend a lot of ‘time-off’ thinking about ‘time-on’. For example, as I toured many book shops during my break I found myself gravitating to the self-help section, and then cursing myself because I want to focus all my energies on Principle-Centred Self-Leadership and the writings of Stephen Covey. I’d pick up a book and then put it back – I don’t need to read these things any more! Why?

This is a piece of advice I give any clients of my courses. Find the ONE philosophy and system that floats your boat – and stick with it.

Why do that? Why do that and not explore potentially better alternatives to improved living and personal development?

The reasons are two-fold.

1.       When looked at deeply, the teaching is basically the same, even if the terminology and examples differ slightly. In The 8th Habit, Covey touched on this very subject. He was at a big-name leadership shindig and during a discussion with other greats he made this point – that fundamentally, what they taught using different words was the same stuff. All agreed. (And this is why seeing a book on leadership with a ‘new, different, better, latest leadership teaching’ tagline leaves me cold.)

2.       Trying to apply one system is a lot easier than trying to jump between different ones. Canfield’s Focusing System, Ziglar’s Goals Method, Allen’s Getting Things Done, The Seven Habits and others – all great, but you can’t ‘do’ any of them consistently  – and effectively – when you’re trying to ‘do’ all of the others. Find and use one system – I prefer the 7 Habits version because I have been applying it for 22 years and it works. But you might like the others. Just find ‘one’ and stick with that – or you’ll fail while desperately trying not to because your time is spent trying to juggle alternative technologies.

Recap – the philosophies are generally the same; the methodology serves those philosophies, but in slightly different ways. And different strokes suit different folks.

Find one route, and stick with that.

100-Day Challenge, Day 44. And about a ‘Cure’ for Stress.

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This week I have been mostly exercising every two days, eating sensibly and producing like a dervish. I discovered that ‘being on holidays’ equates to ’90-120 minutes a day dealing with voluntary tasks’, in that two days of this week felt like I was one of those CEOs who claims to get a million emails a day. Every single one I dealt with generated two more, I swear. Hence this input on Stress.

Stress is self-imposed. (Cue anger.) Okay, let me temper that a bit.

On Monday I went to Cardiff Yes Group, a post-Tony Robbins event ‘alumni’ event where personal development lecturers keep the audience ‘on track’ with their commitments. All are welcome, and there are UK-wide events available.

The speaker suggested that (one of) the reasons for stress arise from overwhelm and an inability to cope with change and pressure because life/we/bosses etc haven’t allowed time for our neurology to get respite from the constant changes of direction (e.g. from interruptions like constant demands for attention from emails). That inability to cope can be genuine and physical, or it can be a perception. By that, I mean that the stress is all too real to the sufferer but if they weren’t so pressured they’d realise they could control it, if they only knew how.

In other words, the stressed individual says, “I have 101 things to do and I just can’t see a way to do it.” The individual with a control strategy says, “I have 101 things to do today and 8 hours in which to do them. Do-able.” That is 480 minutes – about 4.5 minutes a ‘thing’, and for every ‘thing’ that takes a minute, that rate expands.

Time management might seem like a management cliché but in my opinion, from years of applying it, time management properly taught, accepted, encouraged and applied is an absolute – yes, absolute – cure for stress.

Please understand, I am not talking about stress resulting from trauma, accident, disaster, relationship failures and so on. That’s different, even if some relevant TM training can help. I am talking about task overwhelm in work and in the home.

Charles R Hobbs, in his epic book ‘Timepower’, suggests that high self-esteem is served by the ability to be in control of events. I am fairly confident when I suggest that those with genuinely high levels of justifiable self-esteem (as opposed to ego) rarely suffer from work-related stress. And that is because they are, or they feel they are in complete control of what’s ‘appenin’, OR they know that they can take control – even of the unexpected. They have techniques and approaches that enable that control.

In the mid-1990s I had what I call ‘an episode’ where this 6’ tall, macho, fightin’, drivin’, chasin’, action-man copper left a boss’s office in tears and went home before his shift was due to start. (Short version, I think it was slow burn.) Fortunately, I had been reading The 7 Habits and books like Timepower for years. I went home, took the wife and kids out for a family meal, and took stock. I recognised that what was happening was a stress build-up.

Then I took control and decided what I was going to do about the situation. I was back at work within 48 hours asking for what I needed to regain control. And got it. Never happened again.

We all know of people who do the tears thing and aren’t seen for months. They lost control and didn’t or couldn’t get it back, and that was because they didn’t know that there was an alternative to pills.

Values-based time management – might not be penicillin but by all that’s holy it’s a damn good treatment for what ails a lot of people.

Try it out. My book or theirs, you decide. It’s you who controls your decisions if you want to.