Resolutions for the New Year

A couple of years ago, I wrote an article on New Year’s Resolutions.  It was focused on the steps one needs to take to make good commitments.  After all, that’s what it’s all about.  If I remember correctly, there were 7 steps involved.  I won’t repeat them here, but point you to my other website, where the article is archived .

Today, my thoughts are more on what to resolve for the year…  and how many resolutions to make.

To start off, I want to point you to a humorous newspaper article (published in the Syracuse Post-Standard and written by Jeff Kramer) on the subject that came out on the first of the year. Since that article might not remain available on the web, I want to just give you a sense of what it says.  “Since resolutions rarely work,” it begins, why not try “reverse psychology.”  “Just clear your head and repeat after me:” it continues.  Then it lists 40 or more resolutions such as these:

  • I will gain 35 pounds or more in 2007.
  • I will never push my heart rate above “resting.”
  • I will “go ballistic” each time someone cuts me off in traffic.
  • I will be impatient with anyone who delays me, regardless of their age or infirmity.
  • I will floss erratically, if at all. 
  • I will not “own” my behavior.
  • I will keep talking even when no one is listening.”

What I found interesting is that the obvious wrongness of all these humorous resolutions really hit home with me.  It’s one thing to know that your finances would probably benefit from a budget.  It’s another to hear the trajectory your life is taking when you say, “I will buy crap I don’t need on impulse. I will make no pretense of following a budget.”

I have come to believe that resolutions, made at the new year or any other time, would be more effective if they follow these 3 guidelines:

Less is More – don’t tackle everything at once.  Make it 3 or less. Two would be better.  One biggy would be best.  Imagine how succeeding on one big personal project – one that has been sitting on your list for years — would energize you.

Prioritize Emotionally, by which I mean honor your most valued urges, not your “shoulds.” Follow what will bring zest to your life, not what will make you a “better person.” Personally, I would prefer you do whatever you do zestfully; it makes we feel good just to see you fully alive and will be more likely to move me (and the world) forward in the process.

Plan for Success!  Assuming that you can do this by yourself when you haven’t been able to do it in the past is a ticket to the Land of Disappointment. Get help. Pay for it if you have to. And don’t do it alone. Form alliances. You got into this situation by yourself, but you don’t have to get out of it that way.

And a fourth guideline:

Celebrate Now: You are a fully alive human being.  You are already fully whole.  And… you have made plans to change, improve, give more, excel, or take another slice out of life.  Isn’t that worth doing?

Do you have a commitment you’d like to share?  Let me know… by email, or register and enter a comment.  And please feel free to pass this article along to someone who you think would appreciate reading it. 

May this year bring you many wonderfully fulfilling experiences.

Hopeless in Academe

Listening to many of my clients and friends in the academic world, I find myself wondering about the nature of the beast.  What is it about higher education that makes these institutions so incredibly difficult to work in?

I’m sure there is no one answer that will speak to it all. Rather, there must be many interlaced reasons, a discussion of which would fill volumes and entire websites with competing theories. Perhaps a simple list would serve… and I’m only going to list a few to make the point before I move on:

  • A highly competitive culture (some might say “cutthroat”)
  • Multiple competing expectations on faculty energy
  • Overarching fiscal pressures
  • Vagaries in granting tenure (i.e., factors independent of demonstrated capability)
  • Changes in student expectations and demands
  • Oh, that’s enough.

What I’ve observed is that there are identifiable faculty responses to these factors.  Taken in roughly the same order as the previous list, these might include:

  • Secretiveness, isolation, not revealing the truth about one's situation (“I'm just fine, thank you.” )
  • Cynicism, and a belief in the continuing and inevitable decline in this, the last bastion of ideas and critical thinking
  • Stress, hopelessness, pessimism, working to exhaustion
  • Diminished sense of purpose, excitement, and possibility in doing work.
  • Anger, loss of desire to go the extra mile to create interesting curricula or make needed revisions to coursework.

Not a pretty picture.  What to do?

From a coach’s perspective, the work that needs to be done starts with the individual. While there are many systemic changes that could be the focus of one’s attention (or rile), little positive change can be expected without starting at the locus of dissatisfaction, which resides in the affected individual.

Perhaps you are one of these people. Perhaps you know folks who are.  I ask you… 

What drew you to do this work?  Is there an ember of passion still glowing that can fanned into a blazing fire?  What did you love about your profession (teaching / research / leadership / your field)?  What do you still love about it?

If you step over the hopelessness, what dreams are yet to be fulfilled?  What possibilities can you see that would bring excitement to your day-to-day work life?

After the spark is discovered, my job is to fan the flames, to help you move forward until the inevitability of success is burning bright.

Then, of course, you can choose to change the system of not.

Alternatively, maybe it's just time to change careers. 

Resources: Check out The Center for Courage and Renewal for interesting articles about igniting that fire and also about a "movement approach" to educational reform. Click on "Related Articles."

I am always open to a conversation. Contribute a comment.  Or, if you would like to talk with me, just send me an email and we can set up a time.

The Bigger Me

I’m back from the International Coach Federation’s annual North American conference.  It was a great experience for me, and once again filled me with a sense of renewal and purpose.  Back home now, having waded through most of the mail and email that accumulated in my absence, I’d like to share with you just one bit of learning that I took away from the conference.

The ICF is an interesting organization.  Probably the most unusual aspect of it is that it continues to voice a belief that we, its members, are “midwives” helping birth a better, more human, more sustainable world, through our work, by having one important conversation after another.  And, it is believed that the kind of conversations we have with our clients are the kinds of conversations we all need to be having with each other elsewhere in our lives… in our workplaces, our families, our love-lives, our politics and governments, and yes, even our shopping malls. 

So it would not be unexpected to find that the keynotes also addressed these issues.  We heard from Dan Pink, author of A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the World, and Lynne Twist, author of The Soul of Money: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Life. 

I also participated in breakout sessions on including the spirit in our work, as well as looking at how me can move the conversation the coaching industry is having toward more consistently looking at “we,” rather than “me”… and in stepping into a “Bigger Game.”

For me, this about understanding our Purpose in life.  I capitalized Purpose on purpose, because this is not your ordinary purpose, but the one that speaks to how you are showing up, whether it’s an expression of the core of your being, or some you have adopted for convenience, out of default, for the big bucks, or maybe even for survival.

Many of my clients have lost touch with what their lives are about.  It’s easy to do, what with our unending lists of things to do each day.  Even without the distractions of email and the media, we fail to take the time to reflect on the bigger picture of our lives.

Some questions that speak to this include:

  • Who am I?
  • What do I (truly) want?
  • What is calling me?
  • Who am I being called forth to be?
  • Who am I becoming?
  • What is my Life Purpose?
  • What is it for me to show up fully?
  • What is my legacy?
  • What is my “bigger game?”
  • Do I have zest for my work?

I encourage you to reflect often on these or similar questions.  It is important for your life, your relationships, your organizations, and your world, that your “bigness” is visible.  (Yes, this is the up side of being full of yourself.)  And it is true in academe no less than anywhere else.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.


Wasting Time

How do I procrastinate?  Let me count the ways?  (Oooh.  That’s a lot!)  Here are some of mine and some of my clients'.  Are any of them true for you?

  1. checking email more than two times a day, when the incoming email you’re expecting is not time-critical;
  2. mindless computer games (hearts, solitaire);
  3. mindful computer games (City of Light, Orb);
  4. walking the cat;
  5. helping the club or civic organization run its event;
  6. creating the perfectly neat and tidy “Office Hours” schedule for the door;
  7. listing all your stuff in a database, in case you get dementia and can somehow still manage to use the database;
  8. reading humorous emails sent by concerned friends… or spam;
  9. editing your numerical lists, adding a semi-colon at the end of each item;
  10. frequent trips to the “water cooler”;surfing the web just to see what’s there that might be interesting;
  11. downloading free software, “just because it’s free” or “because I might need it sometime”;
  12. letting perfectionism keep you from starting, moving forward on, or completing a project with ease;
  13. having a perpetually disorganized workspace, to the point that important items (keys, papers, invoices, bills, money, children) go missing for too long… or delay your work for more than a minute each day;
  14. using any out-of-date system that can’t be fixed, is excessively quirky (other than Windows, of course), will not allow adequate backups or security, or is so old that no one still living even remembers what it was used for, let alone how it was used;
  15. avoiding asking for help when it would be clear to anyone else that help is needed;
  16. helping others do their work before you have done yours;
  17. fretting;
  18. doing any work for your personal life that has no place in your work life;
  19. “there’s so much to do, I can’t think of where to start (so I won’t)”;
  20. spending too long trying to come up with additional ideas to list for your readers.

What are your excuses for not moving on the tasks in front of you right now?

How will you feel at the end of the day, week, or month, when you look back and see how little you have accomplished?  Not good, right?

If procrastination is your game, I am here to tell you that you deserve a better future than what you will get if you let it continue to rule your life.  As my examples indicate, there are many ways that procrastination shows up.  Make an honest assessment of your situation.  If you’re wasting precious time, ask yourself:

  • What am I missing as a consequence of being a “victim” of procrastination?
  • Are those significant enough for me to commit to a change?  If so…
  • What will I do differently?
  • How will I assess whether my attempts at changing this are successful?
  • What resources do I need to make it happen, “No kidding!”?
  • What will keep me on track after the initial energy behind this decision wears off?
  • What will get me back on track after obvious setbacks?

Listen, if you’re serious about ridding yourself of this pesky devil, give me a call at 315-472-0504.  We can talk about whether coaching makes sense for you and answer any questions… without any obligation, of course. 

May you take this on with gusto! Your life, and the lives of those around you, depend on it.

Children Play. Do You?

I’ve been thinking about playing.  And playing about thinking. (Hah!) 

Most of what we do in our oh-so-adult lives is purposeful, agenda-driven, and really (sometimes even really, really) serious.

I won’t argue that, for the most part, the serious stuff truly does need to get done… some of it in a very timely fashion.  In fact, some of it is so urgent, it might even need to be done instead of reading these very words.  If that’s the case, please go do what you need to do.  But then come back and read this, because it’s important.  It’s about your health.

It’s about your life

It’s about your health, both physical and emotional.  It’s also about satisfaction, happiness, joy, glee, and living a life worth living.  Your life.

Read the rest of ‘Children Play. Do You?’ »

An Inconvenient Emotion

Sadness is filling me up.

A few weeks ago, I saw An Inconvenient Truth, the documentary made about former Vice President Al Gore and his slide show on global warming that he has personally presented more than 1000 times.

I have not been able to shake the feelings of sadness and dread.

It would be nice to have these feelings go away, but I know that, for me, it is good that my innards are still reverberating with the message.  Eventually, this will turn into action —  action beyond replacing nearly all the incandescent lightbulbs in our house with compact fluorescent ones, beyond buying all our electricity from wind generation, beyond riding my bike or walking whenever they will serve — all of which I and my family have done for years.

I don't know what it will be.  We'll have to see.  I don't want this experience to slowly fade away in my consciousness.  But I'm also trying to focus on possibility, hope, and joy… which is not always easy for me.

If you haven't, I would recommend that you see this movie. It will change your life… for the better.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.