I'm pleased to share with you several time-tested ways of understanding ourselves and relating to others that, taken collectively, can serve as a wonderful foundation for achieving a solid balance of peacefulness and productivity – or what we may call sustainable happiness, success or fulfillment – in our lives.
Our Starting Point: Self-Awareness
Imagine a big eye in the air, hovering about 5 feet above and looking down at a stick person. This is meant to indicate you taking a look at you; in other words, self-awareness.
As an initial starting point for improving your own combination of peacefulness and productivity, the invitation is to make a long-term commitment to become a more powerful, a more competent observer of yourself. Declare yourself to be a beginner in the area of self-observation and self-awareness, and begin practicing and flexing the “big eye” muscle!
This ability to observe ourselves in action is absolutely critical, especially if we want to bring about new results in our lives. This focus on strengthening our capacity to see ourselves (and what we’re up to) is supported by the following 6 Basic Claims or Ground Rules for Success. Keep these “in the background” as you’re doing what you’re doing, alone or interacting with others, working, playing, communicating… and see what happens at work, at home and everywhere in between!
1. You cannot change another human being. Who has tried? (Think about spouses, employees, colleagues, kids…!.) While we certainly do influence one another, at a basic level you cannot change me. I can change me. But I can’t change what I don’t see. You can’t change what you don’t notice. First, we have to notice. Then and only then do we get to be conscious – purposeful – about choosing something different.
2. We are not hermits. We are always and already connected to other human beings, in a wide range of domains in our lives. We can be connected in such a way that we produce the results we want… or be connected in such a way that we don’t… but we can’t punt! We already live in an ongoing web of commitments. Because of this, the ways that we make and manage commitments (promises) is crucial – at home and at work. The way that we “dance” with others matters. And it matters a lot. So to some extent, everyone is in the relationship business. (As Brene Brown says, ‘We are hard-wired for connection.’ And those connections dramatically impact the quality of our journey, no matter what type of journey we may find ourselves on!)
3. If you always do what you always did, you always get what you always got. It’s not magic, it’s cause and effect. If you want to produce a result you have not historically produced, you must take an action you have not historically taken. And a great many powerful actions available to us – especially in the domains of relationships, leadership, management, workplace culture, employee engagement – are not actions primarily driven by our physicality, muscle strength or hand-eye coordination. Rather, these actions are in the form of new listening and new speaking, new internal and external conversations, new ways of relating to and engaging with other human beings… and they do indeed produce concrete new organizational, relationship and well-being results!
4. We are always at choice. And we are where we are because of the choices we have made. We always have choices, and we are always choosing – every moment of our lives. Virtually every moment of every day, in one way or another. Becoming a more powerful observer of our choices – and taking responsibility for them – is key. Many of us who are parents, at one point or another, have likely said our version of this to our kids: “Pay attention to your choices… because your life is basically going to go where it’s going to go, as a results of the choices that you make.”
I am privileged to say that my work involves sharing new distinctions, tools and ways of seeing things that = new choices, new alternatives, new possibilities for us to bring about dramatically different results in our lives.
5. How we “see things” matters. And it matters a lot. Is it possible that Sophia and I can see something very differently… but that difference has nothing to do with our retinas? Of course – “not seeing something the same way” is a metaphor, it’s not a retinal or biological difference. But something crucial is at stake here. How many of us know at least 1 person in our lives… and the way that person “sees” a problem or situation is itself a part of the problem?! Virtually all of us.
We claim that none of us sees things “like they are” – we are all interpreting, no exceptions, no matter what. So a powerful question is: Is the way that you see things working for you? Are the internal stories you have built, the internal conversations you have invented, serving you well? Moving you in the direction of your declared goals? Because if not, we each have the power to author new ones, ones that can shift our perspective as well as our mood… and provide better options and new choices as we take action and produce results for ourselves in the world. But none of this makes any sense if we think we are always and already seeing things “objectively”, like “they really are!”
(Refer back to #4: Now we can see that how we see things… is a choice!)
6. Change is permanent, so get used to it. First point: because change is ongoing, this means that ongoing, lifelong learning is absolutely critical. How have you oriented yourself toward learning? Are you competent at declaring yourself a beginner, allowing others to teach you, practicing and developing, accepting feedback from those more competent than you, etc?
This claim about ongoing change also means that the way we think about change, orient ourselves around change, manage change, purposefully induce change... all have a dramatic impact on a wide variety of our organizational and individual results.
So no matter what initiative you may be beginning, no matter what issue you may be working to solve, no matter what sort of situation you may be navigating… the invitation is to see how any or all of these Ground Rules may serve you in moving forward in the most productive manner possible!
I wish you well on all fronts, I look forward to hearing from any of you at any time… and remember: Never Stop Learning!