Monthly Archives: March 2015

To move forward, Don’t ask Why, Ask What instead

I have been asking myself a lot of “why” questions recently as I have a couple of friends facing some tough times.  The first thought that comes to mind is “Why did it happen to her?”  “Why should someone who did nothing wrong have to suffer?”  The “why” question does not bring about any answer that helped me to further understand the situation or even to help me figure out the next steps.  It just presented more questions and with more questions, more confusion and less clarity.  All leading to no clear action plan to move forward.  All leading to a lot of inner reflections around my underlying beliefs but not in any concrete way to help the person move forward.

The “what” question on the other hand helped me to see the situation in a different light.  I started to ask myself “What can I do to practically help her?”  “What is my role as a friend?”.  The “what” question starts a chain of thoughts that opens up possibilities and alternatives.  That’s powerful as the need to know what to do is critical in our quest to move forward even if it’s a baby step forward.

Think about how you are currently starting a conversation whether its a review, feedback session or everyday conversation.  Do you start with “Why”?  If you were to turn your “why” to “what” what would that sound like?:

  • During a review instead of asking “Why did you do that?” to “What did you learn from taking that action?”
  • When faced with a mistake, instead of “Why did I make that silly mistake?” to “What can I do to stop making silly mistakes?”
  • During a feedback session, instead of asking “Why are you not able to lead the team?” to “What do you think needs to improve in managing your team?”

As with the examples above, the why question is important as it’s a reflective but it’s a cyclical question.  It has the power to help uncover our underlying beliefs.  Underlying beliefs that determines our thoughts and actions.  However, because of its cyclical nature, it brings about more questions and in the workplace context, there is not enough time or expertise to unpack.  The why question also will put people in a defensive position as its intrusive and judgemental.  In most situation, instead of starting with the why question, try out the what question.  Once we have established a non-threatening platform for the discussion, the why question can be powerful to unpack more insights.  I have personally experienced very different responses and the conversation usually leading to many options and actions.

What does a balance life look like to you?

I was reading an article this morning by Jared Lynch on the Sydney Morning Herald entitled “Work-life balance?  Take condoms , says Southern Cross Austereo radio boss.”  I thought it was interesting and funny and that got me thinking.  When did this term work-life balance start?  Why did anyone even come up with it?  What has happened since this term became a vital vocabulary?

Balance in anything is in the eye of the beholder.  To some it’s all about spending time at “work” and that’s because work is their life.  To others, it’s about a 50:50 split of your time (literally).  The key to what we perceive balance to be is how we define and feel is our balance point.  Trying to put everyone into the same category is near impossible especially in the workplace where the pressures of deadline, performance and competition are in full throttle.  Trying to make everyone around you “happy” with you is even harder as each has a different set of expectations.

Balance is about alignment with your purpose and priorities.  I believe that the challenge lies when we are not clear on what our purpose or priorities are.  If we aren’t sure what our purpose is, we can’t really define what our priorities will be and that leads to feeling unbalanced.  The people who feel that they are not having work-life balance are those that feel that they are not spending enough time with what they consider to be their true priorities.  It’s normal that mothers who work will always feel a sense of guilt that they are not spending enough time with their children because they know that’s their No. 1 priority.  However, the pressures of life, making money, making sure that everyone is fed and clean and the list goes on, will lead to a lack of alignment between priorities and realities.  What can you do?  Accept that’s life and move on or make changes that will help bring a greater degree of alignment.  What can you do?

  • Discover what you love to do, who you want to spend time with and what you are doing today.  Ask yourself:
    • When do you feel most satisfied?
    • What activities or tasks do you enjoy doing that you don’t even think about spending the time to do it?
    • What do you need to absolutely do?
    • Where are you currently spending time on?
    • How much time are you spending on activities you love, have to and optional or “waste of time” activities?
    • At the end of the day, what would you look back and be proud of or grateful for?
  • Define your definition of balance.  Once you have outline some of the above areas, then decide on how you want to allocate your time.  Time is the only commodity that all of us have in equal amounts.  You may decide that balance for you is majority work as that’s where your passion and love lies.  You may decide that balance is really about how you spend time between what you love to do vs. what you “have to do”.  Let’s face it, there are things that we just have to do e.g clean the house, attend long and boring meetings and play candy crush.
  • Be flexible and adjust along the way.  This is a journey and a process of figuring out what works for you.  Trying to compare or follow what someone else is doing almost never works.  Set your own course and know that it’s not going to be perfect.  Be prepared to make changes when you have to.

I do belong in the camp that believes that work-life balance is a myth.  To think that we can separate what we do (work) with what we do (life) is kind of funny.  To me, it’s all about how we want to live out our lives based on a sense of purpose which creates the priorities that we then live out in real-time.  Are you feeling like you are living a balance life?  If you are not, what changes do you need to make?

Bounce Back

Have you ever felt defeated?  Feel stuck in a rut?  Can’t seem to find the way through?  Don’t know what to do next?  What do you do to break through that situation?  What tools do you have in your arsenal to change perspective and see other possibilities?

I have always been impressed with professional athletes.   The discipline and hard work that they put into their game as well as their mental strength to keep on going.   The aspect that impresses me the most is how they bounce back after a lost or defeat.  Failure is part and parcel of life and it must be harder if losing is something that you have deal with week in and week out.  All of us face situations where we feel defeated, rejected and down right miserable.  That’s normal.  However, the difference between someone who is successful is their ability to bounce back.  Bounce back more matured, stronger and wiser.  So what’s the secret?

I think that there are 3 keys to bouncing back after a setback and they are:

  1. Self Belief :  Believing in your purpose (why you are doing what you are doing), talents/skills that you have and have developed to be able to perform the job and deep rooted belief that you are able to achieve the goals that you have set out.
  2. Discipline Mind:  Discipline is the most important requirement to being successful.  The discipline to continue to work hard and work smart to achieve your  goals.  The self discipline to work through the challenges and not give up.  The discipline to put structures in place to help you achieve a milestone.
  3. Optimism:  The great “jedi” mind power that basically looks at the bright side of things ALWAYS.  Seeing the improvements in any situation, learning from the mistakes and making the small minute changes and simply never letting a situation get you down for too long.

We all have some measure of the above attributes.  What can we do to move the needle forward?  Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What is my purpose?  Can you summarise your purpose in two words?  When what we do is aligned with our deep sense of purpose, our resolve is strongest.
  2. Take an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses, and successes and mistakes.  What can you takeaway from them?  What can you put into the “self belief” bucket that you can look at when you need a little motivation and push forward?
  3. Ask the question “What if …?”  The “What if?” question is powerful to set your mind into the realm of possibilities.  It starts a new creative thought process in your mind to help you break through situations where you feel stuck.  It gives you a powerful new option to think differently, out-of-the-box thinking and is an essence of optimism.  Having the ability to see the upside of situations.
  4. Just take the next step.  Put into action what you have planned.  Plans are only useful when executed.

The ability to bounce back is key to moving forward well.  The ability to shake off the bad and embrace the good.  Life is like a game of sports, we win some and we lose more but we are in it because we love the game, love the adrenalin rush of playing the game and love the impact that we can make.