Today is August 26th, which means summer holidays are almost over. It is time to think about the new school year and how to ensure 2016/17 is successful. Many of us have truly enjoyed our summer pace and are wondering how on earth we are going to get through the September chaos. Here are some tips on how to ensure that you have a September that is full of excitement and inspiration rather than dread and chaos.
Tip 1 - Identify what is important to you
How many times do you find yourself wondering where the day has gone? Questioning whether you had a productive day or whether it was wasted on things that aren't even important to you? I often wonder if I am spending my time and energy on the important things in life, or if I am caught up too often spending my time on things that don't really matter. It is difficult to reflect on how we spend our time and whether how our time spent is going to fulfill us. BUT it is important and necessary. What is important to you? Do you spend time on what is important to you? These are questions you must know the answer to. Alternatively, we end up spending way too much valuable time on things that are not important. Tasks that drain us and create stress, rather than excite us and fuel us with energy.
Tip 2 - Commit to making it happen
Once you know what is important to you, think about the areas in your life where you are hitting the target. The areas of your life where you can say, YES, this is important and I do spend my time and energy on it. Celebrate that, and then commit to keep doing what you are doing. Even though life gets busier when September hits, make the commitment to keep it going! Next, focus on the areas where you are missing the target. The areas that are important, but you find that you do not spend your time and energy on them.. This is where the focus needs to be, Make a commitment to change and improvement. Use September as an excuse to make a change. Create a schedule that incorporates what is important and get rid of the non-important stuff. Take charge and know that you have the choice to change how you are going to spend your time and energy. Choose wisely, commit and make the change.
Tip 3 - Set clear RELEVANT goals
So now that we know where we want to improve, next it is time to set some clear relevant goals. It isn't easy to set goals and see them to fruition. Too often, we start off keen to set goals, we write them down and proudly post them on our fridge, and then forget about them a week later. To set goals that you will stick with and that are attainable you must set SMART goals.
S - specific
R - relevant
I realize that SMART goals may be overdone for some of you, but using this system does work. The trick is to also be held accountable. Share your goals with someone who will make sure you stick to it, and who will be your biggest cheerleader when you need it most..
Before I leave goal setting, I want to focus on the R for relevant. Remember the points I made earlier about needing to figure out what is important to you? And identifying the areas where you are missing the target? The goals you set, MUST be relevant to you. Set goals that are important to you and that mean something to you, or guess what, there is no way you will stick to them. If you are trying to hit goals that someone else identified for you and they don't mean anything to you, unfortunately, you will most likely not achieve them.
Tip 4 - Take Charge
I have learned over the years that there are things I can influence and other things I cannot. Proactive people focus their time and energy on what they can influence, rather than spend their energy on what they have very little or no control over. Reactive people blame others. Proactive people own and take charge of what is happening in their lives. Rather than worrying about things you cannot control, spend you time on what you can control. Rather than blaming what is happening in your life on others, know that you have the control to make choices and that you can choose to change.. You can control how you spend your time, your response to people, your anger, your frustrations, your hate, your lack of patience etc.
September is coming. You can't control it, so choose not to whine about it, instead, embrace it and figure out how to experience it to the fullest. If the summer brought your family together and you cherished the bike rides and trips for ice cream, then when September hits don't let that kind of valuable time go. Make it a goal to find the time because It is within your control! No excuses.
Remember: Think about what is important to you, identify where you are missing the target, commit to improvement, set goals and take charge. I guarantee that regardless of the fact that September is almost here and winter is not to far either, this approach to September and to life will serve you well!
I wrote this blog several months ago. It was posted on my blog I use with my students. I have decided to move it over to this website. I hope you enjoy it and learn from it. Please feel free to post comments. I would love to hear from you. Really, I would!
It has been a while since I found the time to blog. I find this ironic because the topic for this blog is the importance of finding the time to be still-to slow down and to be left alone with my thoughts. Instead, I have been bogged down by my To- Do lists. As soon as I slow down, I pull out my list and I squeeze every minute I have just to knock something off that list.
I must realize that the best way to be productive and grounded is to stop, breathe, and allow myself to be still. No phone, no computer, no to-do lists, no pressure.
Recently, I asked my leadership students to find a comfortable space within the class on the floor to lay down. My instructions were, close your eyes and lay down for 5 minutes. No further instructions were given. After 5 minutes, I brought them into a circle to discuss where their thoughts had taken them. To no surprise, the majority of students started thinking about life, about what was to come over the next few days, about what had happened earlier in the day, or a pressing issue that they were avoiding. Unfortunately, the students reported they wanted to numb their thoughts. Being in this reflective, free thinking space scared them. Most agreed that they wanted their thoughts to go away. One student said he forced himself to think about something different, because to think about life was too overwhelming.
What are we doing to ourselves? According to Lunau (2012), “a quarter of university-age Canadians will experience a mental health problem, most often stress, anxiety or depression” (para. 3). The high levels of stress may be due to the fact that students can’t unplug from their busy lives (Lunau, 2012, par. 8). When do we give ourselves the time to get lost in our thoughts so we can process our daily experiences? We don’t. We live in a society where being too busy is something we pride ourselves in. “Our culture celebrates the idea of the workaholic (Fried and Hansson, 2015, p. 25). Unfortunately, “getting over the hurdles of life takes time for introspection, and that’s in short supply” (Lunau, 2012, para. 23). We have removed downtime from our lives. We don’t just allow ourselves to sit, without distractions. As a result, we hit a breaking point, where we can no longer suppress our thoughts, experiences and even our internal struggles any longer. It all comes to the forefront and we are too overwhelmed to deal with them. We numb our lives (Brown, 2010, 14:40). We turn to food, alcohol, and vanity (15:33).
Thankfully, it doesn’t need to be this way. I just finished reading the book “The Art of Stillness” by Pico Iyer. I am so thankful for this book. I am one of those people who doesn’t know how to slow down. Even when I go for a run, I take my IPhone and listen to TEDTalk’s with the hope of finding more material and topics for my leadership program. Instead, what I should be doing is allowing myself to enjoy the run and allow my thoughts to either process my day and my experiences, or to even just let my brain think about nothing. The concept of thinking about nothing intrigues me. In fact, I just flat out, don’t understand how that is possible, so I am going to take small steps. For now, I am committed to taking the time out of my day. To stop. To think. To be still. It is my hope that I can instil this practice in my students and to whoever looks like they might need a break from their overwhelmingly busy lives.
How does this relate to Leadership?
Leaders must model a balanced approach to work, and to their lives in general. Leaders must lead the way, by showing that we can be productive, creative, and successful without having to remove all down time from our lives. Bring back the down time. Bring back the times when we would get lost in our thoughts, not in our phones, or To-Do lists. If we do this, we will be more creative, productive, healthier, and happier. Everyone wins!
Isn't it obvious? We should all live by our values. We should all act and behave in a way that demonstrates what we believe in. Unfortunately, leading through ones personal values structure is not always what we see in today's society. Factors like money, popularity, and power take over and are what drives decision making. Leaders forget what they fundamentally think is important. For leaders to be effective, morally sound, inspiring, and empowering, they must lead by their values. So what does leading by your values really mean? What is Values-Based Leadership?
Values-based leaders are individuals who:
"personal mastery is a process, a lifelong discipline (p. 132)".
Leaders must commit to personal mastery because when they do, people "...are acutely aware of their ignorance, their incompetence, their growth areas, and they are deeply self confident" (Senge, 2006, p.133).
It is my hope that I can empower the students I teach and clients I work with by modelling values-based leadership, and guiding them through experiences that allow them to think deeply about where their strengths and areas of growth lie. It is my goal, to ignite the leadership potential within each of my students and clients, because as Kouzes and Posner (2007) state, "leadership is everybody's business".
Senge, P. M. (2006). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization. New York, NY: Currency Doubleday.
Kouzes & Posner (2007). The leadership challenge. San Fransisco, CA: Jossey-Bass