If You Can’t Have It All, What Can You Have?

I believe that we have been sold a myth. A myth that tells us ‘If you try really, really hard then you can have it all’ – love; money; success; a wonderful family; happy kids; health; a beautiful body; a lovely home…

This myth can exhaust us. We run around trying to get everything right. Feeling anxious about all we haven’t done.

My messy garden. I decided to grow some veggies – then I neglected them and they died

The messy garden; the plump belly; the distracted attention we give to our partner. The job list at work that never seems to get any shorter. The school tuck shop duty we didn’t do.

We think that if we were just more organised, smarter, better in some ill-defined way; then we would be doing all of these things with grace and flair.

But what if we were to accept that we can’t actually do it all or have it all? What would that be like?

Instead of focussing on getting everything right, perhaps we could give our attention to becoming more and more like our ideal self. We could focus on living our values.

Perhaps you can’t have it all but instead over time you can become a better version of yourself.

In order to become more like your ideal self, you have to decide what you want that person to be like. Rob has gathered together some values clarification exercises here that might help you to decide who you want to be.

However, I need to give you a warning.

Knowing your values may not actually make your life easier. Moment by moment, again and again, you will still have to choose – do I give my attention and energy to my kids, my work, my partner, my health, the housework…?

And that choice is sometimes painful. At those moments, try asking yourself: What would the person I want to be do now? It might help you to make choices that lead to a life that is rich and meaningful And that might just be better than having it all.

What do you think? Can we have it all?

(This blog post has developed as a result of some conversations I am having with CEO’s and senior managers about their experiences of meaningful success. I would like to thank Jayne Gallagher, Manager Product and Market Development at Australian Seafood CRC and Tristan White, CEO of The Physio Co for exploring this topic with me.)

How Believing You Will Be Successful Leads to Success..or Not

If, like me, you watch ‘The Voice’ or ‘Dragon’s Den’ or ‘(Insert Country you live in here) Idol’ or any similarly painful and joyful reality TV show, you will have heard competitors proclaiming that they won because they had ‘absolute faith’ that they would win.

Ben Gulak after being given $1.25 Million by the Dragons said, ‘If you really believe in something, keep going after it. If you want it badly enough there is always a way. You can make your dreams come true’

But if you watch a few of these shows you might also notice that there are hundreds of people with ‘absolute faith’ that they would win and most of them don’t end up the winner.

(Be warned  – this clip is painful to watch. Mary Roach who said ‘I want this so bad, there is no way I am not going to get it‘ and then gets a dose of reality.)

and sometimes it is actually the person who is a bit doubtful about how good they are who wins:

(The deeply vulnerable Karise Eden, winner of The Voice Australia, singing with her mentor, Seal.)

So what does this mean?

Believing you will succeed can help you to set challenging goals and persist in the face of difficulty which does increase your chances of success. But if you fuse with the belief that you will succeed and treat it as the absolute truth then you aren’t open to feedback. You don’t even notice subtle feedback and you respond to more direct feedback with defensiveness and anger. Which means that you can’t learn, improve or change tack. So you are actually less likely to succeed.

What is a better plan?

  1. Be clear about what values you want to express as you go after your goal. Notice the moments when the desire to win pulls you away from being the person you want to be. Then pause and breathe and come back to living your values. For Karise it looks like she has some deeply held values around singing from her heart; opening herself to the vulnerability of connecting with her own pain as she sings.
  2. Make a plan that gives you the best shot at success. Do some research. Have other people succeeded at something similar? What did they do?
  3. As you progress seek feedback and adjust your plan as you get more information.
  4. Have some clear ideas about how long you will persist. What sacrifices are you willing to make and what sacrifices aren’t you willing to make? What will you use as a marker to tell you it is time to quit and move on to something else or that it is worth persisting some more?

And remember, the goals that are most likely to lead to emotional wellbeing are about connection, curiosity and kindness.  So perhaps you don’t have to win ‘The Voice’?

10 Factors to Consider When Rewarding Staff

David has been working hard to deliver exceptional service. His manager, Sarah, is pleased and wants to recognise his efforts, so she nominates him for an ‘Employee of the Month’ award. David then starts to slack off. He puts in less effort and seems less engaged by the work. Sarah feels frustrated. What did she do wrong?

It seems to be a good idea to reward people when they do a good job. But it can often decrease motivation. Rewarding people is more complicated than you might think. Here are 10 factors to consider when giving a reward:

  1. Are rewards allocated in a way that seems fair to recipients?
  2. Do they occur soon after the desired behaviour?
  3. Do they tend to focus on clear performance standards. i.e Do I know what to do to get the reward?
  4. Are the rewards matched to the individual? Different people find different things rewarding. Extroverts love a public announcement at a meeting, introverts don’t.
  5. Most people find the following experiences rewarding: autonomy, respect, connection & belonging.
  6. Do the rewards feel controlling? This is subtle. For rewards to feel fair, I need clear performance standards but if I feel like I am being rewarded for complying with instructions I will tend to be de-motivated. We value freedom and autonomy highly. A ‘reward’ that is about compliance can make me feel less autonomous. For example, ‘Thank you so much for getting that board paper to me today, I appreciate that you had to stay back last night to get it done‘ is probably rewarding unless the evening before you told me, ‘You have to stay back tonight to finish that board paper’.
  7. Don’t use extra money to reward behaviours that the person would do anyway because they find the activity enjoyable or because doing it is in some way linked to their values.
  8. Do help people to make the link between what they need to do and who they want to be i.e. their values.
  9. Do reward behaviours that will help the person to learn something challenging. When we are just starting to gain a complex skill it is often hard and we need some external encouragement. Once we can do it well then we start to enjoy it for it’s own sake and we no longer need the rewards (in fact they can be counter-productive).
  10. The best rewards are ‘natural’  – a smile; a thank you; an authentic expression of the impact of what the person did. (Again think: autonomy, respect, belonging and connection).

So what went wrong with David? He had been giving excellent customer service for the joy of it. The award changed that for him. He felt controlled by it. Sarah presented the award at the monthly team meeting and David is an introvert and felt embarrassed. David knew that Connie had been giving a similar level of service but she didn’t get a mention. He didn’t feel that Sarah had been fair and he now felt awkward around Connie. It had decreased his respect for Sarah and his feelings of connection to the rest of the team.

So, give others lots of respect and as much autonomy as you can. Build feelings of connection and belonging. But think carefully when you use bonuses and awards – they are risky!

Sources for this post:

Judy Cameron, Katherine M. Banko, and W; David Pierce Pervasive Negative Effects of Rewards on Intrinsic Motivation: The Myth Continues. The Behavior Analyst 2001, 24, 1-44 No. 1 (Spring)

Edward L. Deci, Richard Koestner, Richard M. Ryan  A Meta-Analytic Review of Experiments Examining the Effects of Extrinsic Rewards on Intrinsic Motivation. Psychological Bulletin 1999, Vol. 125, No. 6, 627-6

and a thought provoking post to the ACT listserv by Dr Paul Atkins

Creating Great Mentoring Relationships

 

Last night I spoke at an event held by the QUT Career Mentors Scheme. They were a great group of people – the mentees are students about to finish their degree and the mentors volunteer their time to support the students as they make the transition from study to work.

I shared some ideas on how to create great mentoring relationships, particularly how to avoid mentoring relationships that lack vitality and are….frankly boring.

Here is the handout that goes with the talk: How To Create Great Mentoring Relationships

 

If You Had a Couple of Extra Hours In The Week, What Would You Spend Them On?

Just imagine, something magical happens and you suddenly find yourself with two extra hours in the week. Empty…waiting to be used. What a delicious thought!

How would you choose to spend those hours?

Romanian Family
Romanian Family (Photo credit: JoshLawton)

Would you:

  • Work on a pet project that matters to you?
  • Spend more time with loved ones? Doing what?
  • Look after yourself a little better – perhaps exercising more often; cooking healthier food; getting more sleep?
  • What would it be…..?
And…what wouldn’t you choose to do with that time?

I invite you to sit with those questions. To let them be with you over the next few days and see what turns up.

If you want to find time for an important but neglected activity, then I encourage you to start small. Just pick one action and commit to focussing on that area for 10 minutes more each week.

If that change seems to give your life more vitality, you might then choose to gradually increase it over time.

This question comes from an interesting book: Power Questions: Build Relationships, Win New Business, and Influence Others by Andrew Sobal and Jerold Panas

Effective Decision Making

Sometimes we have to make important decisions where the ‘right’ answer is unclear. I would like to suggest this process for making for those tricker decisions:

1. Which of your values are relevant in this situation?

2. What are the key facts? In this step aim to see the world the way it really is rather than as your mind tells you it is.

3. What is the relationship between the facts – how do they interact?

4. Focus in depth on different parts of the problem (whilst keeping the whole in mind). Take different perspectives – how would others view this problem? How will you view this problem in 5 years time?

5. Consider that there may be a better alternative that you haven’t thought of. Ask for advice. Do some research. Brainstorm. Consider trialling different options and observing how they turn out.

6. Be prepared to sit either with the discomfort of not deciding or with the discomfort of deciding and possibly making the wrong decision. See if it possible to have those difficult thoughts and feelings without them pushing you around. 

7. Make a decision and then check it against your values – is this a move towards what you want your life to be about?

6. Observe the outcome and be prepared to make incremental adjustments. Again, work to see the world as it really is – rather than how your mind tells you it is.

This process draws on Roger Martin’s work on Integrative Thinking

I think he has developed a great model and adding in connection to values, defusion, perspective taking and acceptance make it that bit better!

Rob wrote a great post on the costs of making decisions without any connection to values.

ACT for The Squeeze-Machine

This guest post was written by Maarten Aalberse.

We may have been asked to lead an in-company training for stress-reduction and performance-enhancement.

We may have checked as best as we can the ‘spirit’/ culture/ values of the company, and it doesn’t look bad at all. So we decide to agree.

And then… at some moment during the training we sense that something isn’t quite right.

Participants seem to be more reluctant to share their experience of the exercises we propose, there are hardly any questions after a short presentation, the work in small groups appears to be very ‘careful’, or something similar may make us uneasy, and we suspect that something in the company just isn’t right.

If we are lucky, we might hear something more in a break.

But maybe we just have to do with this nagging feeling.

What to do, then? In most cases, any direct questioning may lead nowhere, or even bring in more problems, as we observe people shutting down even more.

One option might be, after having introduced the ACT perspective on values, to invite the group to brainstorm on the values of the company. It would be really helpful if not only the ‘official’ values get mentioned, but also the more implicit ones. But again, this is most likely not something to aim for too openly. But we might pick up some clues…

Then – or at a later time, if it seems better to play safe, we ask the participants to clarify their own values, and explore if there appear to be any conflicting values, and explore some ways how such conflicts can be responded to.

Then the time may come to explore if there are any conflicts between the personal values and the values of the company, clarified earlier on. It might be useful to mention too, that this is a far from uncommon experience.

Now how can such conflicts be dealt with? The most helpful responses would probably be those that emerge from the group.

But some suggestions can be given, and even explored :

1)    Sensing how this conflict affects the particpants : which bodily tensions manifest when ‘staying with’ this conflict ? Which feelings emerge, and where in their bodies can these be felt ? What thoughts pop up, when staying with this conflict ? All the mindfulness skills explored earlier on can be most useful, here. It may be that new alternatives emerge. Or it may that this exercise has prepared the ground for another exploration :

2)    It may be useful to clarify the ‘value in the value’. If the company values (too much) the productivity of the team, we maight ask something along the lines of ‘And when, for your company, productivity is so important, what does it want to have happen through this productivity that is even more important ?’ The same can be asked about the personal values that appear to be in conflict with the company’s values.

Often, when these 2 ‘deeper’ values become clearer, it is easier to find ways in which they can become compatible. Or at least, better lived with. That is, in a way that the employees experience themselves less in an either-or situation that is inherently stressing, and that will bothr reduce the productivity of the company and the quality of life of the employees. 

I would love to read other suggestions for handling this very delicate and often quite important situation.

Maarten Aalberse is a clinical psychologist, living in France and conducting trainings throughout Europe about his integration of ACT, client-generated metaphors and emotion-regulation.

He has co-written two books : « L’intelligence du Stress » (Eyrolles, 2008) and : « Bi-Fokale Aufmerksamkeit » (= Bi-Focal Mindfulness), DKVT-Verlaf, in press.

Contact : m.aalberse@gmail.com ; site under construction.

ACT for The Squeeze-Machine

This guest post was written by Maarten Aalberse.

We may have been asked to lead an in-company training for stress-reduction and performance-enhancement.

We may have checked as best as we can the ‘spirit’/ culture/ values of the company, and it doesn’t look bad at all. So we decide to agree.

And then… at some moment during the training we sense that something isn’t quite right.

Participants seem to be more reluctant to share their experience of the exercises we propose, there are hardly any questions after a short presentation, the work in small groups appears to be very ‘careful’, or something similar may make us uneasy, and we suspect that something in the company just isn’t right.

If we are lucky, we might hear something more in a break.

But maybe we just have to do with this nagging feeling.

What to do, then? In most cases, any direct questioning may lead nowhere, or even bring in more problems, as we observe people shutting down even more.

One option might be, after having introduced the ACT perspective on values, to invite the group to brainstorm on the values of the company. It would be really helpful if not only the ‘official’ values get mentioned, but also the more implicit ones. But again, this is most likely not something to aim for too openly. But we might pick up some clues…

Then – or at a later time, if it seems better to play safe, we ask the participants to clarify their own values, and explore if there appear to be any conflicting values, and explore some ways how such conflicts can be responded to.

Then the time may come to explore if there are any conflicts between the personal values and the values of the company, clarified earlier on. It might be useful to mention too, that this is a far from uncommon experience.

Now how can such conflicts be dealt with? The most helpful responses would probably be those that emerge from the group.

But some suggestions can be given, and even explored :

1)    Sensing how this conflict affects the particpants : which bodily tensions manifest when ‘staying with’ this conflict ? Which feelings emerge, and where in their bodies can these be felt ? What thoughts pop up, when staying with this conflict ? All the mindfulness skills explored earlier on can be most useful, here. It may be that new alternatives emerge. Or it may that this exercise has prepared the ground for another exploration :

2)    It may be useful to clarify the ‘value in the value’. If the company values (too much) the productivity of the team, we maight ask something along the lines of ‘And when, for your company, productivity is so important, what does it want to have happen through this productivity that is even more important ?’ The same can be asked about the personal values that appear to be in conflict with the company’s values.

Often, when these 2 ‘deeper’ values become clearer, it is easier to find ways in which they can become compatible. Or at least, better lived with. That is, in a way that the employees experience themselves less in an either-or situation that is inherently stressing, and that will bothr reduce the productivity of the company and the quality of life of the employees. 

I would love to read other suggestions for handling this very delicate and often quite important situation.

Maarten Aalberse is a clinical psychologist, living in France and conducting trainings throughout Europe about his integration of ACT, client-generated metaphors and emotion-regulation.

He has co-written two books : « L’intelligence du Stress » (Eyrolles, 2008) and : « Bi-Fokale Aufmerksamkeit » (= Bi-Focal Mindfulness), DKVT-Verlaf, in press.

Contact : m.aalberse@gmail.com ; site under construction.

Who runs your life?

In this brilliant TED talk, Daniel Kahneman talks about the tensions between our experiencing self and our remembering self.

Daniel Kahneman – The Riddle of Experience v Memory

He says that our memories of the past inform our expectations of the future and determine our decision making.

The problem is that our memories are inaccurate. We fail to notice so much of what is happening in the present moment. Our memory of whether we enjoyed something is overly influenced by how the last few minutes of the experience went (Kahneman explains that it is the last minute of a colonoscopy that determine how we view the experience – good to know!). Each time we tell the story of what happened (even just to ourselves) we unconsciously slightly change the story.

Daniel Kahneman suggests that this causes us a significant problem. Our remembering self forces our experiencing self  to do things that aren’t really in our best interests. We work to earn more and more money (even though, once we are comfortably off, it won’t make much difference to our happiness). We spend our money on long, expensive holidays (even though a longer  holiday doesn’t actually make us much happier than a shorter one). We avoid doing what matters (calling Grandma; expressing our view in a meeting; doing our exercises) because our memory of the last time we did it suggests it will make us feel bad.

So how do we manage this tension? How do we make wise decisions?

The research evidence is growing that a helpful approach is to:

  • Hold the stories our remembering self tells us lightly – sometimes they are useful and sometimes not so much.
  • Clarify our values (what we want our life to be about) and then use them to guide our decision making.

Listening to The Future You

When you have to make a difficult decision (Shall I eat another chocolate almond? Shall I buy the $15 wine or the $50? Should I apply for that job?) considering how you would view that decision in 10 years time leads to wiser decision-making.

Daniel Goldstein explains how to better connect to the future you in this TED talk.