Category Archives: How do you define success?
September—the word, to me, is a calling-to-attention for my brain. After allowing said brain to go fallow for most of the summer, September re-snaps my focus. Forward momentum rolls on new beginnings.
This year in particular the “new beginnings” theme resonates with many of my friends and acquaintances. With the whir of the passing of time come new retirements, new jobs, new universities, new courses, new living arrangements, new projects or new health challenges. Around me friends and acquaintances thrive or survive in changing circumstances, finding ways to fill empty spaces or empty full spaces. Like unicycle riders, afraid, excited, overwhelmed or uncertain, they hold arms out for balance and find a way to peddle forward.
In such times, the book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg comes to mind. At times of upheaval we need to mindfully form or change our habits to shape our days in the most positive way.
In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg breaks down the three-step loop: Cue, Routine, Reward. A habit is triggered by an external cue (a particular location, a time of day, a certain mood, other people, or an activity), the external cue sets a routine in motion, and at the end, we receive a reward. For example, an alarm goes off at 6:00 a.m., a person puts on jogging clothes and goes for a run, and then enjoys the runner’s high and a strawberry smoothie. Or, at 3:00 p.m. every workday, a person, bored and restless, leaves the desk and visits the vending machine for an afternoon chocolate bar boost.
Many of our habits serve to sustain us as we navigate daily life. Putting on our clothes, making our toast, or driving our cars requires a series of habits. The first time we do any of these, we think through each step. Cued by a feeling of cold, a hunger, or a need to get from one place to another, we work through every step of managing buttons, setting the right toast preferences and backing out of the garage. Eventually these routines become automatic “habits,” so our brain doesn’t need to think about them anymore. In other words, we need habits or our brains would be overwhelmed. “Habits, scientists say, emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort.”
Because habits are so necessary, and because our brains are constantly seeking to create new ones, habits have a powerful influence over our lives. And once a habit takes root, it doesn’t disappear. Duhigg writes: “. . . unless you deliberately fight a habit—unless you find new routines—the pattern will unfold automatically.”
What it means for us? We can examine our daily lives, identify our habits, figure out which ones serve us well and which ones could bear re-routing, especially during this autumn time of new beginnings.
“Hope is a beggar.” —Jim Carrey
Now take a moment to place yourself in a state of Faith. Think that everything around you is exactly as it should be for you to build toward what is next. How do you feel?
Hope says: “What’s happening now is not good enough.”
Faith tells you: “What’s happening now is exactly right.”
Hope is unfulfilled yearning. Faith is purposeful acceptance.
In Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don’t, Jim Collins writes about the Stockdale Paradox. The name comes from Jim Stockdale, who survived eight years in a Vietnamese prisoner-of-war camp. Admiral Stockdale made it home, but many didn’t. When asked, who didn’t make it back he replied, “Oh, that’s easy. The optimists.”
The ones who looked to hope to solve their problems, the people who did not face the brutal facts of their reality didn’t make it. Stockdale said:
“You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
Hope sees only that which is unfulfilled. Faith accepts the now as leading to the best “what’s next.”
May you have a faith-filled day.
Last week I wrote about a meeting with a group of people who have to make a difficult decision. The facilitator asked everyone to consider the costs and benefits of saying “YES” and the costs and benefits of saying “NO.”
The group considered financial repercussions, the effect on personal relationships and the overall societal implications—the usual stuff. When listing the benefits of saying “NO” one group spoke up with: “If we say no, we won’t have to face our fears.”
People nodded. True. So true. The status quo—the comfort zone—is very appealing. The people in the room agreed that saying “NO” would, in many ways, make life a little easier.
But it only took a second or two before there was a reflective pause and a murmur. “Wait a minute,” the murmur said. “Not facing fears would also be a cost.”
We realized that not facing fears is an ingredient in recipes for stagnation, disappointment, dissatisfaction, guilt, depression, anger and lots of other unpleasant aspects of life.
It’s not the easy choice. It’s not the comfortable choice. But sometimes it’s a whole lot of fun, and it’s better than getting stuck between the cracks of life.
Yesterday I took part in a meeting with a group of people who have to make a difficult decision. It is the kind of decision that touches people in a deep place, so we know that no matter what the result will create some uneasiness.
The facilitator for the group asked us to consider this: If we say “YES,” what are the benefits of that decision? If we say “YES,” what are the costs of that decision?
I have an opinion on the matter, so I knew that listing the benefits would be a breeze. Easy-peasy. No problem. But I thought I would struggle with pointing out the costs. I was wrong. I was surprised by how readily I was able to come up with both costs and benefits.
We were also asked to look at the situation from the “NO” side. If we say “NO,” what are the benefits of that decision? If we say “NO,” what are the costs of that decision?
Again, both costs and benefits came easily to mind. I didn’t have to dig around in the recesses of my mind to find them. I didn’t have to struggle with them or make something up. Both sides of the issue were ready for plucking off the surface of my brain once I chose to look for them.
I was surprised by how up close and personal my relationship with the other side of the issue was.
I realized that I had already, subconsciously or unconsciously, weighed the costs and benefits. I had arrived at an opinion having considered the costs but seeing the benefits as more important, on balance.
It made me wonder, how many people hold strong opinions on a matter without any awareness of how up close and personal they are, or have been, with the other side of the issue?