This past week I’ve been reflecting upon time management. Well, to be more specific, time management in relation to projects, tasks, and, then, after a conversation with a colleague of mine, energy.
Have you ever thought about scheduling your day by the energy you exert in relation to the projects or tasks you work on? Well, I had never really thought about my time this way either.
Or rather, I think a lot about how much energy a project or task takes, yet I have never created a system for analyzing my energy output.
Well, it’s about time, I think. Pun intended.
Before we go on further in the discussion, however, let’s first take a look at my projects and tasks in a linear format, which is the picture below.
I find it helpful to write out the projects and tasks I am responsible for.
Yet, in the linear version to the left, I am missing several pieces needed to get a grasp on the whole picture.
Meaning, how do the projects and tasks relate to the department priorities? Good question.
Let’s take a look.
Below is a mind map to assist in answering this question.
Completing the whiteboard mind map helped me see a couple of things that are not apparent when data or information is presented linearly.
Here are some of the things I learned from mapping the projects and tasks nonlinearly.
Most of my time is currently spent in meeting the department’s sustainability priority.
There are at least three commitments that aren’t connected to a department priority. They are the bubbles, or circles, that are off to the side, disconnected from the rest of the mind map.
We are working on systems in each program, yet they are different systems.
And here is a question that arose after reflecting upon this mind map overnight.
How does my time on these various projects and tasks vary as a function of energy output?
It is very common to measure out time in, well, units of time. For instance, project A takes X amount of time, whereas project B takes Y amount of time. Helpful.
Yet, what we also know about time is that, for instance, you can work on a project or task for an hour, let’s say, without exerting that much energy. While, conversely, you can spend 30-minutes on a project or task that requires much more mental, or physical, output. How do you then manage your time?
If you simply gauge or measure all projects the same way, you may, for instance, have a work day that is full of high energy outputs, and a day that has very little, which may cause a balance issue.
My suggestion? Good question.
Well, I plan to remap my projects and tasks by energy output. It might look something like this.
A rough sketch this is, however, even in this rough sketch, you can get the idea.
What this sketch does not take into account, or, rather, does not, at this time, have space for, are those projects that fall outside the department priorities.
More reflection for me.
Alright, that wraps up this entry in the reflection series on thinking about time differently.
Remember, if we simply use time as the only way we measure our output, without considering energy, for instance, we may be missing a big piece of the overall framework of how we schedule ourselves and our work.
An Exploration of 4 Years Inside A Non Credit Department at the Local Community College
As I continue to reflect upon the last 4 years in the position I hold at the College, I learn more about myself, and about being a human being on this planet.
It is funny to think that leading a team at a small community college in Albany, Oregon, would provide insights of this kind, and yet, they do. Why?
Because no matter where you lead, it’s you doing the leading, for one, and two, all contexts to some extent are the same. Yes, the challenges, people, systems, and structures, are different, yet you are there, and you are always getting to know, and developing yourself and other people. Same.
After spending time in leadership in the private sector, and now having done so in the public sector, there are several things that we will discuss in this new series that are similar; and, in some ways, mirror each other.
In this first installment in this new series, I will lay out a brief outline, if you will, of the posts to come. It will be a way to set the stage for the concepts we will discuss, unpack, and walk through together.
I’m going to frame this first entry, and the following entries, by year, which will provide us a base from which to work through the narrative to follow. Ready? Alright, here we go.
I remember well when the job description for the position I currently hold, Director of Extended Learning at Linn-Benton Community College, landed on my desk. I was working in a program at the college, which was struggling, and in threat of being eliminated. In fact, the program has been eliminated.
I looked over the position description, talked to my wife, friends, and family, and took a walk with a colleague, who asked me this question. Are you an operations man, Jeff? Whoa. Was I?
I was very unsure, and needed to think about it. Here are some of the considerations I made previous to applying to the position, which, I think, are quite generalizable.
Reflecting upon my work and academic career.
Reflecting upon what I would bring to the position.
Doing research about the position.
Having conversations with the hiring supervisor.
Having conversations with staff in the department.
There were more, bet you get the idea. It is important when making a life change to make all of the considerations and reflections we feel necessary. What happened? Well, I ended up saying this to my then wife.
If it was meant to be, we will know by getting the offer; and, if not, then not.
Of course, you know that I got the offer, and have been in the position for almost 4 years. And, what was the first year like? Hell and heaven all rolled into one. Kinda like life.
The first year, especially the first six months, was extremely painful. One of the most painful experiences of my life. Why? Because all day every day, I was outside of my comfort zone. I was also, at this time, not treating my mind and body very kindly.
Here is what the first year looked like.
Remembering who I am.
Development outside of the college.
Breakdown to breakthrough becomes a reality.
Relationship development, with myself, and the team.
I say often when talking about that first year, that that was the year of relationships. Yes, we did other things, which I’ve written about in other posts, yet the basis for almost every action that year was developing deeper relationships with ourselves and each other. Painful in many ways, yes, and beautiful in many more.
In the second year, things started to move. Meaning, we began to move, well, almost like a team. We were getting closer, and yet, had a lot more work to do.
Here is what the second year looked like.
Process and system improvement.
People in the right positions.
Vision, mission, goals.
Metrics and measurement.
As we then moved into year 3, the team became more aligned, and we began to get traction in all areas of our business. As a matter of fact, in the fall of 2019 we were on pace to grow our service to the local communities by another 10%. Amazingly fun.
Then, as we moved from fall to winter, we continued our alignment trajectory, and, of course, you all know what happened in early 2020. Yep. A pandemic.
Here is what that looked like.
Filled classes, growth, sustainability.
Creating 5 new business models.
Initially, we were wrestling with questions, such as could we deliver completely remote classes. At that time, we did not have remote offerings, so there were no processes or systems to draw upon. Yet, we ended up taking all 5 business models completely remote, and the community response was stellar.
As we entered year 4, all 5 programs were either creating and delivering remote classes and training, or would be by the fall of 2020. And, there was a lot of work to do to continue the momentum we created earlier that year.
Here is what that looked, and well, is like.
Creating all new processes and systems.
From disruption to sustainability.
Filled classes, growth, sustainability.
Engagement, relationships, conversion, process and priorities.
Planning for the future.
10 business models?
And for next year? Well, I’ve actually been reflecting upon this question quite a bit. Someone asked me recently, what do you see for our work as we, at some point, begin to offer in-person classes again. First, I think offering in-person classes again is still in the distant future, yet I do have some thoughts.
As we move into the second-half of the 2020-21 school year, we are offering new classes and training, and filling them up with local community members.
I see a 2 to 3 year slow progression from completely remote classes and training, to what I think will be a hybrid-model of both remote and in-person classes and training in the future.
What will the percent mix be of remote and in-person classes in the future? I don’t know. I do think, however, that, unlike when the pandemic started here locally, it will not be sudden. It will take time.
And, that’s okay. There is no rush. We will meet the community needs as they change. That’s part of what we do, and what we do well.
Alright, that completes the overview of the Leading From Within series. I look forward to future posts, where I can share, in more detail, how each of these years has impacted me as a leader, and, even more importantly, as a human being.
Now, in this article, we will discuss how we can increase our productivity by simply being the human being we know ourselves to be. Yep. Ready? Good here. we go.
Have you ever seen behind the scenes of a theatrical production? Yes, no? Well, either way, there is a ton of work that goes into creating a stage production, even a small production at a local high-school.
I remember taking, what was then called stagecraft, in high-school, and that was our job. Creating the stage, or, in sociological terms, creating the visual context for the play. Was great fun.
Erving Goffman, an American-Canadian Sociologist from the 1950’s, talks about life in terms of a play. Noting that we all take on particular personas based on socialization, yes, the context we are working or living in, and the ideas we have about who we are, and, yep, the ideas we believe others hold of us. Phew. That’s a lot of information to hold, which, hint, hint, is part of the point of this article.
I digress, back on track. Here is a short, well, relatively short, synopsis of what Goffman terms dramaturgy.
Dramaturgy is a sociological perspective that is a component of symbolic interactionism and is used in sociological analysis of everyday life. Developed by American sociologist Erving Goffman in his seminal 1959 text The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, dramaturgy uses the metaphor of theater to explain human behavior. According to this perspective, individuals perform actions in everyday life as if they were performers on a stage. Identity is performed through roles. Here, the term “role” works in two ways, referencing both the name for a theatrical character and the ways in which individuals fill roles in reality by acting as a mother, friend, husband, etc. Dramaturgy argues that the presentation of oneself through role is a way of engaging with society.
Well, think about all of the roles you take on each day. Seriously. Count them real quick. Here, I’ll do it too. I came up with 7. And, that was just a quick inquiry. A more focused inquiry would reveal many, many, more. And, you? How many did you come up with? Yep. Good.
Now, with all of these roles, and what I will now term performances, how much preparation do you do to create, deliver, and sustain these performances? Hm. Quite a bit, I bet. And, time? Yep, preparation is time. And time is energy.
Alright, so we spend a lot of time backstage, in Goffman terms, preparing for our individual performances, even when we are unaware. Yep. And, then frontstage, delivering them? Exactly. We spend a lot of energy there too. True.
And, now, let’s add in being inauthentic. If we are, let us say, working even harder on our performances, because we believe we need to look, act, and behave a certain way, either because we feel we should, or, we feel that others expect that of us, that is even more tiring. Phew. That’s a lot of tiring. Yet, there is another way. How?
By being authentic. And, guess what? Yep. When we are authentic, we save energy.
Authenticity and Productivity
When we are authentic, we save energy because, quite simply, we work less hard trying to convince ourselves and everyone around us that we are someone we’re not. As we’ve already seen, it takes a lot of time and energy just to perform our various roles, which does not include trying to perform them in ways we think we are supposed to.
Further, we all have a limited amount of energy to utilize throughout our day. We can think about our day in terms of exchanging units of energy for each task, project, or activity we take on.
As we exchange our units of energy, our stores become depleted. Now, we can recharge these energy stores by doing various things, such as taking a walk or sitting and breathing for a couple of minutes.
However, we should also covet these energy stores by being aware of our energy levels throughout the day. And? Well, when we are continuously thinking about our performances, our energy is depleted at a faster rate. Why?
Because we are distracted with thoughts and mentalizations that make the work we are engaged with more arduous. Pretty simple.
However, when we aren’t concerned about our performances, meaning we are being authentic and true to the person we know ourselves to be, our energy is saved from tasks such as worrying and overthinking. Important.
And, when we save our energy we can be more productive.
Alright, here then are three productivity byproducts that come from being authentic. Being who we really are. Just for fun, we will call these the 3 C’s of Authentic Productivity.
Capacity – when we are authentic, we have more energy for the aforementioned reasons, and we also have more capacity. More capacity to do the work we need to do, free from the constraints of spending time and energy concentrating on performing in ways that we think we are supposed to, or we think others expect us to.
Concentration – when we are authentic, we are also able to concentrate more easily. Our minds are not busy fretting about our performance. For instance, wondering what someone thinks about what we just said, or how we are acting in a particular context. When we are free from these mentalizations, we are much more clear.
Clarity – and, yes, when we have more capacity to concentrate on the work at hand, we are also more clear. We have more clarity in general about all things, and are able to complete tasks and projects with much greater efficiency and effectiveness.
There is one more bonus to being authentic. Insight.
When we have more capacity, are able to concentrate more effectively, and have more clarity, we create the possibility of receiving more insights. Insights occur when our minds are quiet. When we are quiet.
And, we are much more quiet when we are not in a continuous internal battle about who we are. When we are authentic, this battle drops away, and insights come more frequently.
Wow, that was fun.
Alright, that’s the 3 C’s of Authentic Productivity. Know there are many more benefits to being authentic. Seriously. Many more.
Pretty much everything we do, we do more effectively and efficiently when we are authentic. As we’ve seen in our discussion, worrying about our performances depletes our energy levels.
However, when we are authentic, we save our energy, and in doing so increase our capacity, ability to concentrate, and overall clarity.
You are already just as you are supposed to be. So be who you are, be authentic, embrace yourself, and enjoy each moment of every day.
Oh, yes, and, remember, when you do so, you’ll also enjoy more insights along the way. And, believe me, that’s super fun.
Alright. Now, as I’ve written before, I understand why vulnerability is defined as it is, yet I see and experience vulnerability completely differently today.
Let’s explore three of the ways I experience vulnerability in this article. Ultimately, I believe, vulnerability leads us to new possibilities. New ways of being. Bottom line. Truly. And, here are three reasons why.
Vulnerability as Growth
When we enter into situations or create contexts that are vulnerable, we are instantaneously navigating a space that is full of growth opportunities.
Being vulnerable is about growing. In fact, growth is impossible without the ability to be vulnerable. Why?
Because it is in the areas that we fear to go most that our largest measure of growth awaits us. Truly. And?
That growth potential already exists within you. It is there. Awaiting you. Now, you can leave it there, if you choose.
There is absolutely no issue with not practicing vulnerability, and it is not a problem at all. However, to really be alive, to feel alive in every aspect of your being, you must allow yourself at times to be vulnerable, and to grow as a result of that vulnerability.
That doesn’t mean, however, that you have to take up every vulnerable situation, or continuously create vulnerable contexts for yourself to grow. Really.
Rather, being mindful about vulnerability simply means taking a vulnerable step. One at a time.
I think sometimes people think it is an all or nothing proposal, or approach to vulnerability they must choose from. You must be vulnerable all the time to grow, all day everyday. Not so. That is daunting, and, well, impractical and quite scary. Nope.
If you are looking to add more vulnerability into your life as a way to grow yourself, take one step at a time. One vulnerable moment at a time. And?
Before long you will find that you are adding another vulnerable moment to the previous one; and that my friends is growing.
Vulnerability as Understanding
When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we also gain a much deeper understanding of ourselves. And, as we learn more about ourselves, we also learn more about everyone around us, and all of humanity. Why?
Because to be vulnerable means to feel things that we’ve resisted or avoided feeling. For instance, to feel and be with the fear or anxiety we have about doing something or talking to someone.
When we face those fears, step into them, and work through them, we learn. And, inside of that learning, we get to know more about how our minds work, how our feelings work.
And, as we learn more about our own mind and emotions, we can readily understand how other people think and feel that much more.
There is a measure of grace and compassion that grows within you as you practice your own vulnerability. Really.
Vulnerability as Active
Though vulnerability is labeled a noun, I see it as a verb. I do believe that being vulnerable is about being active. Taking action in our own lives, entering into situations that stretch us, and creating contexts where we can grow.
Again, though I see vulnerability as active, we create those actions and can choose when and how often we practice our own vulnerability.
The notion that vulnerability is about weakness in any area is an outdated concept, both psychologically and sociologically.
What is known psychologically is that the brain is very plastic, flexible. Meaning, that throughout life we have the ability to create new brain patterns, which are simply manifestations of new habits. Seriously.
Yes, you can change your brain patterns by creating new habits. Yep. In fact, you can argue, as would I, that creating new habits is a practice in vulnerability.
In fact, we could say that vulnerability, the act of being vulnerable in situations we know little about so we can learn and grow, is creating a new brain pattern.
Yep. And, as you continue to take those vulnerable actions, that brain pattern, or groove in the brain becomes deeper.
Which is why as you practice being vulnerable it becomes easier, or, rather, you become more comfortable doing something that is, and can be quite uncomfortable.
And, sociologically, we know that as we practice vulnerability with others, we gain a new understanding of who they are as human beings. Which from a sociological perspective is very important.
The more we understand each other, the better we communicate and relate to each other; both of which are very important sociological concepts.
Alright. Well, that was so much fun, I might create a series out of the topic of vulnerability. We will see.
Please remember, being vulnerable and practicing vulnerability is about growth, understanding, and being in action in life. And, guess what? Like everything in life you create, you also create when you want to be and or how often you practice vulnerability. And?
No matter what you choose that’s just fine. You are whole and complete just as you are.
Practicing vulnerability is not about changing who we are; being vulnerable and practicing vulnerability is about experiencing life in all of it’s pains and pleasures. Because in the end, both pain and pleasure are about being alive.
I often write about paradoxes, well, because life is full of them. Really. And, as we recognize a paradox, we are poised to reconcile what is seemingly unknown into something that is known. Yep.
And, how does that aid leaders? Well, first, I consider leadership something that lives inside of everyone. Yep.
Leadership is something we can all do; and, in fact, leadership is something that most of us already do. Really. In some way in our life, we lead. Even if the leading you do is just for you; you are still leading.
And, we also know that in leadership the self is where it all starts. Yep. Also tue. Leadership goes out from you to everyone and everything else. It’s just how it works.
Leaders also need to know that most things are unknown, and that we know far less than is knowable. Important.
Therefore, inside of a paradox, there is an opportunity to turn something unknown into known, which is helpful for yourself, yep, and for everyone you are leading.
Now, before we go further, let’s define leadership, so we are all on the same page. Okay? Good. Here we go.
Pronunciation /ˈlēdərˌSHip/ /ˈlidərˌʃɪp/
The action of leading a group of people or an organization.
Ah, much better. Here is what we have so far. A leader is someone that goes with someone, or shows someone something by going in front of or beside them. Very good.
Alright, so what are these three paradoxes? Right. Let’s get right into our discussion, shall we? Good. Here we go.
1. The Real and The Ideal
As a leader it is important to know the current reality. Meaning to know your strengths and weaknesses, and that of the teams. Super important. Yet, that’s not all. Nope.
You must also communicate that reality, and do so often. One of the most important functions in leadership is setting the pace and the reality. A reality that will include both strengths and weaknesses. It has to.
We all have areas to develop, as do teams, and when we own them, guess what?
We have now created a context that welcomes development, one that is open and growth-oriented. Fun.
Now, once you know and have communicated the current reality, it is time to begin to balance the real (current state or reality) with the ideal (future state or reality). Very important.
And, how this is done is predicated on knowing that everything we do today informs tomorrow, and that tomorrow is simply a mirror of today. Yep. Say more? Of course. Here we go.
2. Today and Tomorrow
Alright, so when we cast a vision for our life or our team, we are setting down in language that which we want to accomplish in a certain amount of time. Might be a week, a month, a year, or several years. Depends.
What matters is that we tie that vision, those specific goals, to objectives and priorities that we can set our sights on and work towards each day. Yep.
When we connect our daily actions to our long-term goals, we are actively creating tomorrow today. Wait, what? Yes. It’s true.
When we take actions today that are connected to goals we have in the future, we are creating our future from this very moment. Therefore, when we take action today, tomorrow ends up being a mirror of today. Meaning?
We are actively actualizing tomorrow’s goals today. One action at a time. Fun. And, truth.
The concept of creating your future from today is a very powerful concept for leaders, teams, and, well, everyone. And, what happens when we create a context full of this type of possibility?
Well, we lead, yes, and so do those around us. It works that way.
3. Lead and Follow
Right, so leadership as we’ve defined it has to do with going out in front, paving the way, if you will, with a vision that ties back to objectives and priorities that you, and your team, if you have one, work on each day. Yep.
And, when you are out in front like that, sometimes, you will have to pull back a bit, as the team moves closer to you. Yep. Or, if they are moving quickly, you may have to go out in front even further. Depends. And, guess what?
Sometimes, your team will move right on past you. Yep. Can and does happen. It is a beautiful thing to see really. And, when that happens?
No problem here, you, like they would, catch back up. Simple. The point?
That leadership is a complex, and yet very simple, set of relationships you have. First with yourself. Always with yourself first. And, then with everyone else around you.
Relationships are leadership. And, leadership is about having high-quality relationships. Yep. Bottom line? Sure.
Leaders lead and follow, both. They are, in fact, one and the same. Not separate at all. One.
Alright, so there are three leadership paradoxes that, when we have an awareness of how they function, create a context where we are connecting the unknown of tomorrow, or 5 years from now, to today. Meaning?
That we are creating the known from the unknown. In this very moment, in fact. And, well, that’s fun, and powerful.
For me, it then follows to ask the question, is high sensitivity binary, as in you have it or you don’t? Or, rather, is high sensitivity a spectrum of experiences? Hm. Good questions. Let’s take a look, shall we?
Alright, so let’s first define binary and spectrum. Ready? Good. Here we go.
There we go. Again, for the purpose of this conversation, you can think about a complete or wide range of related sensitivities, as a spectrum of sensitivity. Make sense? Good.
Now, why is this important? Good question.
Sensitivity as a Spectrum
Because if we think about sensitivity as binary, we limit the experience of being a sensitive human being; and, we also limit our own experience of what it means to be sensitive.
As we discussed in the previous post on sensitivity, being sensitive is not a problem or an issue, it is, rather a gift. And, being able to own that gift, and really internalize it as such is an important and empowering experience.
And, at the same time, it is equally important for everyone to have access to the possibility that they are also sensitive. Why?
Because understanding our sensitivities, whatever they might be, is such an important aspect of being a human being. Truly, truly, this is so.
People that are highly sensitive often turn to substance abuse and other forms of self-abuse in order to dull their sensitivity. And? It is extremely damaging.
Yes, of course, for the person with sensitivity, and also, for those around them. Both. Yet, it need not be that way. Truly.
Are You a Highly Sensitive Person?
Here are a couple of questions you can ask yourself to see if you too might be a highly sensitive person. Ready? Good. Here we go.
Are you sensitive to light?
How about being sensitive to cold or heat?
Maybe you are sensitive to noise?
Are you easily overwhelmed?
Do you feel your own emotions more?
How about feeling other people’s emotions more?
Now, you can use these questions, if you choose, to start an investigation into your own sensitivity. Yep. Oh, me?
Yes, to every question listed above, and more. I typically score between 17 and 19 on the highly sensitive person questionnaire, which I recommend everyone take. Everyone. Seriously. Why?
Sensitivity As a Gift
Because finding out that I was a highly sensitive person was pivotal in my life. A gift, as was previously stated.
Therefore, I want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to explore their sensitivity, free from bias and judgment. Yep, that’s about it.
Further, I believe that everyone is highly sensitive in some way. Really. I do.
Remember, sensitivity is a spectrum, not binary. Meaning, that it is quite possible that everyone in some way is highly sensitive to something. Yep. Possible. And?
Removing the Stigma of Being Sensitive
Well, removing stigma about sensitivity, especially in the United States, is super important. Especially for young boys. Really.
Young boys are often raised to dissociate themselves from their sensitivity, yet, that is so very unhealthy. It is unhealthy for them as a developing child and youth, and is also unhealthy, as we’ve discussed, for them later in life.
What is healthy?
Proper education about sensitivity. For instance, positive reinforcement and education about what sensitivity means; and, knowledge about how to cope with emotions. All. Important.
Bottom line? Sure. Here we go.
We all have sensitivities. We have to. Why? Because we are all human, and all humans have senses. And, these senses are, at times, maybe all the time, sensitive. And?
That is perfectly okay. More, as we’ve discussed, it is a gift.
Embracing our sensitivity creates more possibility. More possibilities about ourselves and our lives, and more possibilities for those around us.
When we model acceptance of our sensitivity, we remove the stigma about sensitivity and create spaces that are more inclusive and loving.
And, I for one, think that acceptance, inclusivity, and love are needed in this world. Nay, they are very much needed in this world. Today, yep, and, well, tomorrow too. And, for all time.
Meditation is and has been an experience that, well, quite frankly, has transformed my life. How? Yep. Here are three ways.
Increased focus – the focus you develop in meditation, focusing on the breath, or some other object, carries out to every area of your life.
Developed patience – sitting for any duration of time, free of people and distractions, can be difficult, thus, doing so, greatly develops your ability to be patient. Both with yourself, and, of course, with others.
Greater presence – when you sit in deep concentration, you also get to know your own mind much better. Meaning, that you can see your mind as your awareness grows. And, with a more expansive awareness comes an ability to shift your attention from yesterday and tomorrow to today.
When we intentionally create quiet time for ourselves, to be with ourselves, away from all people and distractions, we are able to breathe, reflect, and just be.
It takes time and assistance to develop a meditation practice. I mean to really develop a practice that is sustainable.
Meaning, learning from someone that has been schooled in the art of meditation is helpful. I still see someone regularly about my meditation practice, and, well, as I’ve written before, about all of life.
Remember, it takes time to develop a meditation practice. Example? Sure, here you go.
My initial meditation practice, what I then called breathing, was only once or twice a day for 2 to 5 minutes at a time. I could literally only sit still for that long. Yep. Today? Well, today, my meditation practice is much longer.
It just takes a dedication to practice. Practice daily, get some coaching, and it will come. Really, it will.
Someone once told me, we are what we put into our bodies. I know, I know. A very common saying, and you’re right. Yet, it is also very true.
I spent a lot of years putting very unhealthy things into my body, yet have learned the truth of the aforementioned statement.
It’s really about energy and clarity. When you eat more whole foods and put less refined sugars into your body, you do have more energy, and equally more clarity.
What does that look like? Well, there are countless iterations of healthy diets. Really. What does mine look like today? Sure. It’s pretty simple.
Fruits and veggies
Beans, nuts, and some grains
That’s basically it. Now, there are other things I do eat, for instance, I removed dairy from my diet about a year ago, so I now eat a dairyless oatmeal yogurt product. However, the core of my diet is listed above.
Now, also know that diets iterate. For instance, though at the moment, I’m not eating eggs, for example, eggs have been in and out of my diet several times in the past three years. Yep.
Well, when you combine eating healthier with meditation, guess what? Your ability to be present also increases. And, there is another benefit. What, you ask? Yep.
Clarity. With a healthier diet and regular quiet time for ourselves comes more clarity. Fun.
This is a fun one, as there are two ways I think about exercise today. Ready? Here we go.
Cardio and exercising to exercise – sounds funny, maybe? Well, what I mean is exercise, such as running, jogging, or hiking, lifting weights, if you like, and biking.
Contemplative exercise – yep, really. What I mean here is taking a walk, by yourself, no headphones, phones, or other distractions, and just walk. Just like that. Contemplation time, just for you.
Both are important. Why?
Well, being active, and in motion, is good for the body and mind. It gets all of your muscles and joints moving, and gets your heart rate up.
And, spending time with yourself on a walk, for instance, is very healthy for your mind, and yes, your body too.
We all need time by ourselves, to contemplate, to just be present to all that’s around us, free of the myriad of distractions that typically hold our attention. Very helpful.
Okay, this is a very important one for me today, and, well, it is also important for you, and for everyone.
When we spend time inquiring into why we feel the way we do, we gain insight on what’s happening with ourselves, yes, true, and we also gain a better sense of our own humanity, and our shared humanity. Truth.
When we ignore our emotions, regardless of the type, guess what? They just sit under the surface, and sort of fester, if you will.
They don’t just go away, especially those emotions we would associate with “negative” experiences, thoughts, or feelings, such as sadness, worry, or anxiety. Yep.
Spending time writing out how we feel daily, if possible, has been a helpful practice for me. When we do this, we can ask ourselves questions, such as, why did that incident or situation, bother me?
We can then trace it back to where the originally thought, experience, or feeling originated. Takes practice, yet is a super helpful and therapeutic experience. And?
As we work through our emotions, we become lighter. Really. We end up carrying less emotionalness inside of us. And? Yep, we also become more present. True.
Alright, so we’ve covered 4 areas that contribute to our overall well-being, and presence. That was fun.
Here are some closing thoughts to round out our discussion.
Meditate, or create quiet time for ourselves
Watch what we eat, reducing our intake of refined sugars and increasing our intake of whole foods
Get exercise, including contemplation time
Work on our inner-selves and our emotional well-being, well?
We understand ourselves much better. And?
When we understand ourselves better, guess what? We know when we are present, and when we are not; and, when we catch ourselves being distracted, we can let go of that distraction, regardless of what it is, and refocus on the present moment.
After all, it is really only the present moment that we ever have. Yesterday and tomorrow do not exist. Really. And guess what?
The more present you become to yourself, the more present you become to everyone and everything. It works that way; and is presently beautiful that way.
A 3-Minute Reflection on Being Alive and Experiencing Aliveness
It’s interesting to title a post as a reflection series, as every post and/or article that I write is a reflection. Really. All of them. A reflection of myself and the world. Yep. And?
Well, I wanted a place to create a similar dialogue, conversation, and discussion with you in a shorter format. Yes, yes, it’s true. I do tend to write, and write, and sometimes, even write more. My challenge, then? Good question.
My challenge in this series will be to connect with you similarly , yet to do so in under 3-minutes. The next question? Yep, that’s it. Can he do it?
Don’t know. Yet, I do know that I’ll have fun finding out. Ready? Alright, here we go.
A 3-Minute Reflection on Alive and Aliveness
What does being alive really mean? I mean, really? Have you ever pondered what it means to be alive, to know your alive, to really feel alive, and the resulting aliveness, if you will? Hm.
As you reflect upon those questions, let’s take a look at what I see.
When I was growing up, being alive simply meant not being dead. Really. You were alive, that’s all. You breathed in and out, and you did this or that, whatever this or that was, and you lived your life. Yep.
Yet, as I’ve aged, and developed, I’ve come to think about being alive differently. Being alive, or experiencing aliveness, is different from simply accepting, passively, that you are alive, as in my aforementioned example.
Aliveness, for me, is an active activity. Yep, I did just use active and activity back to back.
Right, so being alive is about feeling, loving, working, being, and doing, and doing so intentionally. Creating our intention to live the fullest life possible, whatever that looks like to you, or me, or anyone for that matter.
There is an important distinction here. Let’s spell it out more clearly.
Passively alive – reality happens to me.
Active aliveness – I create my reality.
A very important distinction. Why?
Because when we believe that reality happens to us, our locus of control, stay with me, is pointed outward; whereas, when we believe that we create our reality, or locus of control is pointed inward. Very important distinction.
Locus of control? Yep, here we go.
People with internal locus of control tend to expect reinforcements (1) to be the consequences of their own efforts or behavior, whereas people with external locus of control expect them to be the consequences of chance, luck, fate, or the actions of powerful others.
Basically, locus of control is how we think about the world, and our place in it. Do we believe that we create our life, or is the creation of our life in the hands of someone else.
Now, there are two more important distinctions here. Ready? Here we go.
Locus of control is not a binary – meaning that how people view their reality, and the creation of it, lives on a continuum.
Locus of control is psychological and also philosophical – we will look at the former in this post, and, maybe, the latter in a later one.
Now, when we believe that we create our reality, that our actions cause change in the world, change for us, and change for others; we have an internal locus of control. And?
And, if we regularly act on this internal locus of control, creating the life we want to live, one action at a time, we will experience more aliveness.
More feeling, more joy, more of, well, everything; and, this moreness in this example, if you will, does also include sadness. Why?
Because we are living more, doing more, creating more, risking more, loving more. Well, doing everything more, so it does follow that we will experience more joy, and also more sadness. It works that way.
Yet, we need not think about experiencing more sadness as a problem or an issue. It’s not. It is beautiful, because we are creating and living out our own authentic life. Fun.
Remembering that we are the creators of our experience, and, thus, our life.
We create our life, feel our life, and live our life via our intention. An intention about the aliveness we want to experience, which we create in every moment of every day. Now, and, now, and now. Just like that.
Why Care, Compassion, and Accountability Are Engaging
I’m always reflecting upon service. It’s always been a big part of my life. I started out in the “service industry” at 16, and never, really, ever looked back.
What I’ve been reflecting upon even more recently, is just how important service is in, well, everything we do. It’s not just about the work we do, in the professional sense.
It’s more about all of the work we do. All of it. And, it starts with each of us, and how we take care of and, in effect, serve ourselves. Really.
I was telling a colleague of mine today, as they prepared to train a group of local leadership, that in order to hold other people accountable, we must first hold ourselves accountable. It’s how it works.
Something this colleague knows very well indeed.
And, as was aforementioned, service is no exception to this rule. In order to serve others, we must first learn to serve ourselves.
We are all looking for places to serve. Places where we can make a difference, where we can be a part of something larger than ourselves. A paradox? Yep.
Because in order to be a part of something larger than yourself, you must first be in touch with yourself, know yourself, treat yourself with love and kindness, and hold yourself accountable to a standard.
A standard that is engaged with and committed to creating and effecting change. Changing that which we know, the status quo, with something, well, quite different.
Within this possibility, there are innumerable opportunities to serve. Fun.
The basic tenant of servant leadership is that service is paramount to leadership as a philosophy and a practice. Both.
That to lead, we must lead from a perspective that fully understands that nothing happens without the entire team; and, that, it is because of each team members contribution to the team that movement and traction are even possible.
Servant leadership upends the traditional leadership hierarchy, putting the needs of front-line workers first. Important.
And, as we’ve already discussed, servant leadership is, both conceptually and practically, a leadership style that works for all aspects of life.
When we take care of ourselves and lead from within, we can then take care of others and lead from without. If not, well, true leadership of any kind is impossible.
Sometimes there is confusion about servant leadership.
Meaning that people sometimes connect servant leadership to a laissez faire type context. And, servant leadership both conceptually and practically is far from that type of context.
In fact, a servant leadership context will often be full of standards and expectations that are higher than other leadership contexts. Yep. Common. Why?
Well, inside of serving, as was aforementioned, is the need to create change. Creating new possibilities, new ways of communicating, new ways of, well, doing most things.
When you create a context that is committed to changing the status quo, no matter how small or large that change is, there have to be higher standards and expectations.
And, in some cases, the highest standard must be demanded. Why?
Because there is so much more to accomplish. That’s it really. More work, more movement, more traction, more change. Amazing.
And, where there is change and innovation of this magnitude, there must be great care, compassion, and accountability, both for the self, the team, and the organization. And, yep, for the nation, and the world too.
What is engagement, really? When you think about that word, what do you see, or think about? Hm.
For me, I think about contexts that are brimming with challenges and difficulties, yep, and celebrations. Why?
Because when you are truly engaged with yourself, and the people around you, you will experience both. You have to.
Being engaged, is living a full life, and the giving out of that life to everyone around you. It is extremely fun and rewarding and, yep, also difficult.
All service, regardless of the context, professional or personal, requires determination, persistence, and resilience. Oh, and great care. Yep.
When you are engaged, you care. Simple. Oftentimes, people get confused and think that when things are difficult that there is a problem. A paradox? Yep.
When things are difficult, you are engaged, you are doing, and you are creating. No problem here.
When are there problems?
Well, if you subscribe to notions of problems, then the only time there are real problems is when there is disengagement. Where things are easy, moving simply, no speed bumps. Why?
Because, if there are no issues, nothing to overcome, then, nothing is really happening. Yep.
Now, that’s not really a problem either. Not really.
It’s only a problem if you are looking to be engaged. I always know when I am most engaged at work or in my life. How?
Because there is always, and I mean always, something to celebrate, and something to overcome. A challenge, always.
These engaging contexts also require, as was aforementioned, great care. Really. Why?
Because when you are fully engaged, and are working through issues that arise, care about all things and everyone, yourself, and all those around you, is always there.
And, that is because you are going through something.
You are developing, iterating, and, yep, in some cases, even transforming. Beautiful.
Because a servant leadership context is a highly engaging one, where people will bring their all every day, compassion is also required.
Compassion for yourself, for how very, very hard it is sometimes, and for those around you. Sometimes, people will decide it’s just too much, and that is okay.
There was a time when I desperately wanted everyone to stay. And, I would coach people endlessly to this end. No pun intended.
Yet, a servant leadership context is not what everyone is looking for, and that is also okay. Knowing this releases you and everyone else from an obligation that truly doesn’t exist.
And, practicing compassion is what that looks like. Understanding that people will leave. And, guess what?
It’s better for them to do so.
Better to find a context that suits them more, feels better to them, and will in the long run be much more beneficial for them. Important.
One of the most paradoxical aspects of servant leadership is in the area of accountability. And, there was a time where accountability within a servant leadership paradigm also confused me.
The bottom line?
Accountability matters. People actually want to be held accountable to a higher standard. Knowing that their work and service, whatever it is, is making a change in the world.
Again, no matter how small or large that change is, matters much less, than that people get to participate in something that, yes, inspires them, and, even more importantly, actively creates change in the world. Fun.
It is a ton of work. Yep. Yet, who ever said that life was supposed to be easy?
I know. That is such a cliche, and yet it does work here.
Think about any change, nay, think about some of the largest institutional and cultural changes of all time. Now, answer this question.
Were they easy?
Nope, not a single one. They are not supposed to be. Therefore, having a high standard and instituting accountability is not only needed, it is also positively reinforcing the servant leadership context that has been created. How?
Because serving yourself, setting the highest standard for yourself that you can, means that you will also set that same standard for the people around you. And?
They will rise to meet it, just as you are.
For more on Servant Leadership check out these resources.
Okay, honesty and morality, such as right and wrong and good and bad. Hm. I’m not the biggest fan of right and wrong and good and bad. Why?
Because, good and bad and right and wrong, like happiness and sadness go together. Meaning?
That you cannot have goodness without badness, nor can you have rightness without having wrongness. Striving, then, for such concepts, such as being right and good, is folly, and can cause pain and suffering.
We are all going to be both bad and good, and wrong and right sometimes. Inevitable. Hm.
Let’s try something different.
How about we think about integrity as whole and complete. Here is the next part of the definition from Oxford.
Well, a state of being whole and complete, or undivided, increases the workability inside of the concept of integrity.
It takes away the judgment that can be found, and cast in the previous portion of the definition focused on good and bad, and right and wrong. Yep.
Therefore, if we think about integrity as being whole and complete, and a matter of that which is said, or our word, integrity stays within us; an, internal concept, if you will.
Here you go.
“We distinguish integrity as a phenomenon of the objective state or condition of an object, system, person, group, or organizational entity, and define integrity as: a state or condition of being whole, complete, unbroken, unimpaired, sound, perfect condition.” Werner Erhard
When we start the conversation about integrity as an understanding that we are all just as we are supposed to be, today, right now, just so. We start from a place of understanding, not judgment. Important.
Further, adding our word as the highest state of integrity, there is always workability. How? Simple. Communication.
Meaning, that if we are going to be out of integrity, we simply communicate this fact. Sounds simple, yes?
Well, many people struggle with this concept. Really. Think about how many times someone said they were going to do something, and they didn’t.
And, then think about how often they communicated to you they weren’t going to do it. Yep. Happens all the time. To me, to you, to everyone.
And, this is not a judgment. It just is. We are still whole and complete, regardless. We all are. Having integrity within this conversation means creating an intention to do as you say, and when you can’t or choose not to, to communicate about it. That’s all.
Why does this conception of integrity work?
Here are three reasons why.
1. Release Right and Wrong
When we know that we are whole and complete, just as we are, right now, in this moment, we can release notions of right and wrong. Integrity in this conception is not about being right or being wrong.
It’s about being our word, and when we are unable to do something we said we would, we simply communicate about it. That’s it.
Releasing right and wrong from our notions of integrity decreases stress and anxiety about trying to live up to an ideal that no human can really live up to, and need not try.
2. Let Go of Good and Bad and Right and Wrong
Being whole and complete also means that we can let go of ideas we have about being good and right, or being bad and wrong.
Integrity in this conversation has nothing to do with ideas of good and bad, or right and wrong, which is helpful. As was aforementioned, we are all “good and right” and “bad and wrong” sometimes.
Letting go of being good and bad, and right and wrong also reduces stress we might feel about trying to be something other than we are right now; and, may also reduce stress-associated anxiety that we may feel striving for conceptions of integrity that are impossible to fulfill.
3. Accept the Reality of Integrity
We are all out of integrity sometimes. Everyone says they’ll do something, and then is unable to follow through for some reason. Remember, integrity is not about being perfect, nor is it about being right and being good.
It’s about doing what we say, and then if we are unable, communicating about it.
Understanding and practicing integrity this way also reduces stress and anxiety people have about trying to live up to a perfect ideal of integrity that does not actually exist.
You are already a perfect human being, just as you are. Really. The iteration of you that you are today is exactly who you are supposed to be. How do I know that? Well, because that is the iteration you are today.
It is not the iteration that will exist tomorrow, nor in the next moment. It works that way.
You are whole and complete just as you are. And, your word is all the integrity you need. Chasing after other conceptions of integrity, such as being right and good is a never ending merry-go-round that will only ever leave you dizzy, stressed, and anxious.