Live A Life Of No Regrets

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You have your dreams, goals that you want to achieve in this life. You are living flat-out, working hard to make it happen. If things are going well, you can be on top of the world. If your goal is still out of reach you may be optimistic, but not yet fulfilled.

But what if tomorrow everything was taken away from you? What if you lost your health, or a loved one, or your business? What if you lost your house or job?

The sense of loss would be devastating.

You would feel grief, anger, and depression. You would find it difficult to focus. Nothing could make you happy, nothing would be good enough. You might think, “What is the point, anyway?”

Your feelings are valid, and very real.

Here are a few lessons that I have learned from my life that help me to get through the hard times.

1. Realize that this moment is a gift.

Every moment that we have will soon be gone. There is no permanence to anything. While you are in the moment, realize what a gift it is.

If your life is going well, don’t forget that you could lose it all tomorrow. Savor what you have at that moment. If you have a big house, pool, tennis court, boat, airplane, or fancy cars, enjoy them to the fullest. They are yours today, but only for awhile.

If you have more modest possessions, enjoy them just as much as the person who has a mansion. A camping trip or night in a quaint bed-and-breakfast can be just as enjoyable as a luxury vacation to a five-star hotel or mansion overlooking the water.

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” — Marcus Aurelius

Everything that you have is on loan. Even the people that you love. Understand that they can be gone at any moment, and treasure them while they are here. Delight in the beauty and joy around you. Realize that your life is perfect at the moment, even with pain and sadness.

2. Appreciate all your successes, no matter how small

When we are caught up in big-hairy-audacious goals, the small successes we have along the way may seem of little consequence. It can be easy to think “I will be happy once I achieve my big goal.”

Know that life is impermanent. It is important to celebrate even small successes. Build a bank of memories, so that if you have warning when the end is near, you can look back and know that your life was well spent.

Each day, allow yourself to be content with your life. You are living the life that is unique to you. Your experiences are unlike anyone else’s, because they are filtered through your understanding.

Don’t allow yourself to be unhappy because you have not yet achieved a particular goal.

3. Make human connections

Your goals are important, but in times of crisis it is the people that you have around you that matter the most.

Spend time with people you care about. Your family may be your primary focus, but friends are also important.

“The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.” — Epictetus

Choose your friends carefully. Ask yourself the question – “If this was my last day, is this a person I would want to spend it with?”

You create strong bonds by spending time and sharing emotions with other people. Allow yourself time to get to know a person. As trust builds, you will find it easier to be open and share your thoughts.

When you laugh and enjoy life with people you are close to, you can feel an uplift of your spirits, an excitement, a bubbling upwelling of happiness in your stomach.

4. Make a difference

I think that the biggest regret for many people, when they reach the end of their lives, is about how much they left undone. They want to leave something behind, some part of themselves that can persist. Something that makes a difference.

You have your own unique gifts that you want to share with the world. Perhaps you want to create a new product, or service, or a book, or a piece of art. Or build a business, grow a family, create a home. Or touch others lives through teaching or helping them to grow.

Whatever your dream, it is your contribution to the world. That is how you make a difference.  Perhaps you will discover a new concept or create a new product. Perhaps you will live on through the actions and achievements of those you have influenced.

Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and Steve Jobs all left behind a legacy of what they had created. Our lives are different today, because of what they created in their time.

Look for your special gifts, for how you influence the world. Take the gift of each day as one more opportunity for you to make your difference in the world.

5. Be prepared

Life is fleeting. Nothing is permanent. Everything will change.

Set your goals, and achieve them. But always realize that everything can be taken away from you tomorrow.

Think to the future, make sure that your loved ones are taken care of, so that you won’t have any regrets. But live life to the fullest, because you only get to live now.

Have faith in your ability to adapt. Don’t be too attached to what is now, even while enjoying it to the fullest.

Be prepared for the changes that life throws at you. Never expect things to last.

How To Influence People In The Workplace

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In the workplace it is common to use a professional tone when addressing others. For example, if you need other people’s input to complete your project, you might send out an email with your schedule, and the words “Please plan accordingly.” Great. Very professional.

The problem is that words like that don’t do much to influence other people. They don’t motivate others to do what is necessary to help your project. And when others aren’t motivated, their own projects will take top priority, leaving yours to get buried and be left undone.

Think about how you react to requests from others. When you get an anonymous request from another department that doesn’t tie in with your current short term goals, you are likely to push it to the bottom of the stack.

But if a person that you know well walks up to your desk to ask you a favor, it is hard to resist. You may grumble that you are busy, but more likely than not you will make an effort to get the task done.

Here are some tips to break down the wall of professionalism in the workplace and enable more collaboration.

Connect With Others

Instead of sending a cold, impersonal email with the message “Please plan accordingly”, a better approach is to make a personal connection with other people. Sure, send out the email with your schedule. But follow it up with a visit to your co-worker’s desk, or a phone call if they work remotely. Chat for a moment, establish a connection, then ask if they can work your needs into their tight schedule.

You may think that you don’t have the time to take these extra steps. But it is better to take the time now than to let your project slip because you neglected the personal touch.

Build Rapport

Your co-workers are human beings and need to be treated as such. You might get away with anonymous dictates like “Please plan accordingly” when people have no choice but to do what you say. But for people who have a choice, even it if is only to prioritize other tasks over yours, you are better off with a more human approach.

Think about it. You are more likely to do a favor for a friend than for an anonymous stranger making a cold request. If someone cares enough to visit you at your desk you will automatically feel closer to them.

You should work to build rapport when you don’t need special consideration from others. Stop to chat for a moment at the coffee station. When passing people in the hall, have a friendly word.

Your goal should be to personally know every person that you need to work with, and even others that you don’t. The more people that you have a personal connection with, the better off you will be when you need something.

Write Persuasively

Double check your emails. Are you using an overly pompous and cold “professional” tone? Is there some way you could warm it up and make it more personal? Better yet, is this a conversation or point that could be more easily made by walking over to the person’s desk, or chatting in passing in the hallway?

In your emails try not to use cold, anonymous statements like “This needs to be done”. Instead, say something more personal, like “I need this from you.”

Know Your Customer

Pay attention when receiving requests from others. This can be a great chance to build rapport. Perhaps you can walk over and go over the details of what they have requested, to make sure you truly understand what is wanted.

Make sure that you deliver by their requested deadline, and perhaps have a quick follow up chat. Stick your head in their office door and tell them “I just sent you the report you requested.” then smile and go on your way.

Make Time For Others

Busy professional people often think they don’t have time to make connections. They think that taking an extra half-hour to have lunch with a co-worker, or fifteen minutes to take a coffee break together, can’t be worked into their busy schedule.

But by building relationships with key people now, you will save time in the future. When you need to ask that person for something in a crunch, you won’t need to take so much time to establish the relationship then. They will understand what you need, and feel personally invested in making it happen.

Ask other people to go to lunch with you, even if it is just to the company cafeteria. Don’t sit at your desk everyday gulping a sandwich because you are “too busy”. Understand the importance of the human connection, and make time. Even if you only have lunch or coffee with someone else once a month that is twelve more connections each year that you wouldn’t have made otherwise.

Praise Where You Can, But Be Authentic

It is good and helpful to call out things that you admire about other people, but do it in moderation. When overdone, it will sound insincere.

You might start a conversation with some small talk like “I liked the point you made in the meeting today.” But only say that if you really believe it. Don’t just pay compliments gratuitously.

People feel happier and more disposed to help you when they feel like you appreciate them

Remember Never To Criticize Publicly

This shouldn’t need saying, but if you have something to say that could be construed as critical, don’t walk over to the desk of a person sitting in an open area, like in a cubicle, and say it there. Instead, invite the person to a meeting behind closed doors.  Nothing critical should be said in public.

Remember the saying “Praise publicly but criticize privately.”

As you tailor your communications to be more personal, you will see people start to react more favorably. You will be surprised at how far these little personal touches will take you.

 

Putting In The Work

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To achieve your goals there is no way around it. You have to put in the work.

There may be some strokes of brilliance along the way that catapult you toward your dreams, but most days it’s a simple matter of putting in the work.

Some days that is easy. Your goal for the day happens to be exactly what you want to work on, and everything flows.

But other days aren’t so easy. You find it hard to get started. You get distracted easily. You may have a task to do that is outside your comfort zone.

Here are three tips to help you cope with these common pitfalls.

Getting Started

For simply getting started, nothing beats a good routine. Every day I sit down at my desk.  I open my daily work journal and write down the one or two of the most important goals for that day.

I open my highest priority item to work on. I decide on my first small task, and write it down in my journal. I take the first step toward the task, then the next, and the next.

Sometimes you may have a reluctance to actually take the first action. In times like that it can help to discipline yourself to work on the task for only five or ten minutes. That is often enough to break up the log jam and allow yourself to flow.

Combatting Distractions

There is no doubt about it, we live in a world full of distractions. Your cell phone, email, and interesting articles on the web all compete for your time.

If you work at home you may have other distractions from children, pets, or household tasks that need to be done.

The first trick to combatting distractions is simply to get started. If you get started and get in the flow it often takes something jarring like the phone ringing to break you out of your concentration.

If you do find your self wandering — perhaps you needed to research something on the internet, then got lured into reading other non-related things — you need to pull yourself back.

Here is where I find it useful to have written down my small task in my work journal. Often if I get distracted I lose my train of thought, and have difficulty picking up where I left off. My work journal reminds me what I was trying to achieve.

Another tip is to only check your email after you have finished a task. That will be a natural time to take a break. When you come back from the break, follow the steps on getting started again, and hopefully you will be in the flow again in no time.

Outside Your Comfort Zone

For many people a large part of their work takes them outside their comfort zone. This can be especially true for solo entrepreneurs, who have to do everything themselves.

A creative person like an author, artist, or software developer usually finds the actual creation of their product to be the easy part. They have the skills and mindset necessary to do the type of work required to create their product.

The difficulty comes when having to promote the product to other people.

It can help to think about the creation process as giving birth to something new. Once it has been created, you have to launch it into the world.

As a good creative parent you need to expose your work to many people, in order to find the ones that it will click with and resonate with.

Many of the people you expose it to won’t be a good fit. But you mustn’t give up, until you help your work find its place in the world.

When outside your comfort zone it can often be useful to distance yourself from the emotions. Pretend you are doing the work for somebody else.

You can also put on a different persona. Many people at work act very differently than they do at home with their close friends or family.

Treat your own work the same way. It can be Software Susan who writes the code, but Business Susan has to get out there and promote the work.

The only way to achieve your dreams is to put in the work. Often, the biggest challenge keeping you from success is the need to do things outside your comfort zone.

Play with these tips and see if they help. If you have additional tips to share, please write them in the comments.

3 Ways To Take Control Of Your Life

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Do you have an important task that you need to face, yet find yourself putting it off time after time? Do you lay it out meaning to get to it, but then let it get buried under other urgent tasks? Is there something that you’ve been meaning to get to, yet the years go by and it is still undone?

What makes some tasks so hard to face? Tasks like filing income taxes, paying bills, facing a troublesome client, or dealing with bureaucracy can be very difficult for many people to confront. We have a variety of ways in which we avoid the tasks we dread.

Sometimes we let other urgent issues push the important one aside. Sometimes we suddenly find we “must” do a chore like scrubbing behind the toilets, rather than working on income taxes. Sometimes the important task is not urgent, so it is easy to let it slide to the back burner.

Generally the task that is put off is in some way worrisome or stressful.  The outcome can be unknown – How much will I owe the IRS? How nasty will the difficult client be? If I face the bureaucracy will I be in more trouble than I am in now? Will I discover some hidden dreadful consequence if I face the task?

These fears are enough to prevent most of us from starting on the dreaded task. We postpone until the fear of missing a deadline becomes greater than the fear of doing the task, then wade in with dread.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can learn to face up to difficult situations, and take control of your life. You can get a handle on things so that you have a well ordered, stress-free life. You can conquer procrastination.

Here are three steps for taking control of your life.

1. Realize that today is the day.

Each day you have a chance to make a difference to your life and goals. Each day you can make either a positive contribution, or let the day slide by. On any given day it may not seem like a big deal if you don’t accomplish anything. But the days add up.

Your life will become the sum total of how each of your days is spent. If you sit back and watch TV, eat foods you shouldn’t, miss a workout, and don’t tend to your bills or taxes or whatever worries you, that day will go by as all days do, and the next day you will still have the same problems. But if you approach each day realizing that here is a chance to make a difference, that what you do today will impact the days to come, and if you act on that feeling, then what you do today will take you forward.

A day squandered can never be reclaimed. But a day well spent is an investment in the future.

2.  Take action.

When something is stressful or frightening, the best thing to do is to take calculated action. If you face your fears and act boldly the fears will gradually cease to exist. Fear breeds on inactivity and avoidance. The longer you wait to take that first step, the more difficult it becomes.

Inertia is an extremely strong force. Until you start moving it is very difficult to move. If you can take any action at all toward your goal, it is easier to keep going from there. So, choose action.

Start easy. Write out a script of what you want to say to the difficult client. But don’t let yourself stop there. Pick up the phone. Dial the client. Say what you need to say. Continue until the task is done.

Take the first step toward doing your taxes. Gather your forms.  Open TurboTax. Enter the first numbers. Make a goal for the day that is challenging but doable. Don’t stop until your reach your goal.

Deal with bureaucracy. Fill out the form, make the call, face up to the issue.

Pay your bills. Pick up one envelope, open it, deal with the contents.

By taking action, no matter how small, you are taking a step in the right direction. And once you are moving it is easier to take the next action.

Always choose action.

3.  Put important tasks first.

There will always be the everyday tasks that need to be done. The dishes need to be washed, food has to be prepared, the car needs to be cleaned. You can easily fill a day with these necessary but mundane tasks.

Make sure that each day you work on an important task.  Look at what needs doing, and whether it will matter in the long run. Ten years from now, will it really matter if I did the dishes today? Probably not. But will it matter if I never got to that task that I have been dreading?  Yes.

Choose an important task and put that first on your list of To-Dos for the day.  Make sure that the important tasks are given high priority. Don’t let them get hidden by mundane daily tasks.

Do the important task as early in the day as possible, while your willpower is still strong. Make an appointment with yourself as to when you will do the task – “At 10:30 I will make that important phone call”. When 10:30 rolls around, take action.

Apply these three steps to handle the difficult items in your life, and you will be amazed at how easily you can get things under control.

What will you do today that will make a real difference?

5 Ways to Combat the Loneliness of Solo Entrepreneurship

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When you break free from the corporate world to start your own company, the exciting world of entrepreneurship beckons. You may imagine a fast-paced lifestyle, as you, the tycoon, makes important business deals. Or you may imagine a cozy luxurious life of sitting at home, doing work that you are passionate about.

One thing you may not have imagined is the loneliness. Working alone, without the built-in support network you can find at most jogs, can lead you toward depression. If you are not careful, this unplanned problem may derail you on your path to independence.

Here are five tips for managing the isolation and loneliness of solo entrepreneurship.

  1. Make time for exercise

Exercise has been shown to help combat depression, and improve mental alertness. Harvard Health reports that walking fast for 35 minutes five times per week can improve your mood, as well as your health.

As a solo entrepreneur, particularly if you work at home, you can decide what time of day is best to take a break and go out to exercise. You may have the luxury to take a break mid-morning to go jogging, then shower off afterward before returning to work. Enjoy this perk, that you couldn’t get in the corporate environment!

2.  Create or join a mastermind alliance

In his book Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill describes a mastermind alliance as a group of people work together in harmony to encourage and hold each other accountable. You can borrow the education, experience, influence, and capital of the other people in your group, and thus accomplish much more in a year than you could do otherwise.

Your mastermind group can be informal, just some of your friends with whom you discuss your plans and goals. Or the group can be created formally and meet on a regular schedule. There are many articles on the internet for how to form a mastermind group.

Being part of a mastermind group can help you to avoid the sense of isolation you get when you are the only person who cares about your goals.

3.  Join clubs

There are clubs available on a multitude of subjects, and meetup.com is a great resource for finding these clubs.

Join clubs of people like yourself who are working to get their company started. Join clubs with people who have knowledge that you lack, for example you might join a marketing club if that is not your area of expertise. And join clubs simply to be exposed to more people, for example a hiking or dance group, or a Toastmasters club.

These clubs tend to meet evenings and weekends, which is when most people are free, so that may leave some long, lonely weeks for you if you don’t have other activities planned.

4.  Get out of the house

Sometimes all that is needed is to be around other people. If your work can be mobile, try working at a coffee shop for a change. Or take a break and visit a museum or a park and spend a little time people watching.

When you go on errands for your business, take your time and enjoy the people around you. Strike up a short conversation with the person standing next to you. Become friendly with the shopkeepers. Being connected with other people is a basic human need, and should not be ignored.

5. Use the internet

In the late afternoon, take a break to watch a video on a topic that you need to learn for your business. The sound of the human voice, even for just ten minutes, can really help to break the spell of aloneness.

Get involved in on-line communities. Read blogs related to your business. Read the comments of other viewers; that can help you feel connected. Post your own comments. Getting a response can give you a real thrill of connectedness.

Don’t ignore your loneliness or try to tough it out. Use these steps to regain your sense of connectedness.

Let me know in the comments of other tips that have worked for you.