Why do we want more?

I was in a discussion with some friends recently and the topic was about not having enough.  Not enough money to send the kids to private school, not enough time to rest, not enough time to read and the list goes on.  Bear in mind, that by all standards, we all have enough and in some cases, more than enough and yet there is a sense that it is not enough.  Why is that?  What drives us to want more?  What makes us think or believe that by having more of something, we will be better or that we would be happier?  Why can’t be we contend with what we have?

We came up with a few conclusions:

1.  Conditioned to believe that More is good.  This starts very young.  Toddlers already know that they want more.  It’s a natural survival instinct in a way to want more so that we are not starved.  What child does not want more toys even though he already has baskets full of toys.  Something bigger, flashier and shinier is always better.

2.   Comparison.  We live in a society where we compare with those around us.  In order to “win” that comparison, there is an underlying belief that having something that the other person does not have will make us better compared with someone else.  For example, when people around us have a bigger or nicer car, the “desire” to be like them drives us to want that too even though the current car works beautifully.

3.  Underlying belief that enough is NOT good enough.  There is a strong sense in all of us that what we have is never enough.  It is not good enough.  I have enough gadgets in my house and yet I am looking at new and more advance ones.  Why?  I can’t fit them all into my humble abode.  I have a relatively new golf set and yet at the back of my mind, I am wondering if I bought a new wedge, maybe my short game with be better.  The reality is that in most cases, enough is good enough.

4.  Entitlement.  We sometimes feel that we are entitled to more than what we have.  Most children today feel that they are entitled to a phone and not just any phone, a smartphone and not just any smartphone but an iPhone or a Samsung.  We feel entitled for the promotion because of the amount of hours and hard work that we put in.  What we don’t know if how much more the other person put in to get to where they are.

So what’s the solution?

1.  More in not always good for you.  Eating more food is not good for you.  Drinking more alcohol is certainly not good for you.  Working too many hours is not good for you.  Too much stress is not good for your health.  The conclusion is that too much of anything is just not good for you.  Questions that you can ask yourself:  Why do I want more of something?  What would happen if I don’t have it?  What would happen if I did get it?  What is truly of value to me?

2.  Balance is what we should be striving for.  Everything is moderation, how much we work, time we spend with our families, healthy living and so on.  To achieve that the key questions to answer are:  What is my balance?  How much is good for me?  Am I spending the appropriate amount of time on what I enjoy?  Am I growing as an individual?  What is driving me to want more?  Is it a need or a want?  Can I spend my time or money in a more useful way?

3.  Be happy with self.  Just be contended with who you are and what you have and don’t have.  This will take away the need to compare and even if people compare you with someone else, you won’t be unsettled by it.  This does not mean that you will not strive to be better or to improve in any way.  This just means that you are comfortable and confident about you.  Questions to ask:  What makes me happy?  What is my purpose?  Am I living in alignment with that purpose?  What drives me or motivates me?

I was reading a recent study that concluded that running more does not mean that you will live longer.  In fact running less may help you to live longer.  Now of course that study has been made light off due to the sample size but it goes to show, more does not mean better.

Opportunities Everywhere: What do I focus on?

I had a session with a client this morning and she was just exploding with excitement as she was faced with so many different opportunities and was getting pulled in many directions as a result of that.  It’s a great problem to have in a way, and yet can also be daunting and confusing if we are not clear on what it is that is aligned with our purpose or something that is meaningful.  We may uncover a hidden talent, new opportunity to start your own business or a new role or promotion and so on.  Some might seem to be very different from what you are currently doing.  And yet seems exciting.  So what are you going to do?

What can you do to help you focus and decide?

  1. Go back to what you want to achieve or accomplish or purpose.  Does the opportunity align with what you want to do?  Does it extend what you are currently doing?  Does it help you to learn a skill that will help you in achieving your goals?
  2. Time vs. Impact.  How much time will it take from you?  Will it impact what you are currently doing?  How does it impact what I am currently doing?  What are the trade-offs that I need to make if I were to take it on?  What is the impact if I did not take it on?  What is the impact if I did take it on?
  3. Talk to your “advisers”.  I am sure that you will have a group of people that you would consider as your trusted advisers.  Get advise or just talk it out with someone.  It is always beneficial to express your thoughts or emotions and in most cases you will achieve clarity.  When we hear our thoughts out loud, it helps to bring a certain amount of awareness.  This can help you with clarity and choices or next steps to be taken.
  4.  Decide and move forward.  Make that decision and move forward.  Don’t let a decision “hang” around as it will just cause further confusion later on.  Letting go and moving forward with the decision is an important step.  If you have decided to take on the opportunity then take it on.  If you have decided to not do it, then let it go and focus on what you have and see what other opportunities will present itself later on.

Confusion will only drain your energy while focus will increase your energy and excitement level which will lead to impact.

Farmer or Hunter?

Have you been asked this question before?  Are you like a farmer or a hunter?  A farmer is one where you will take the time to plough the land, sow the seeds, fertilise and wait for the plant to grow and then harvest it.  A hunter on the other hand is one where you will track a target, size up the target and then seize upon it.  As an example, these 2 metaphors have been used to describe people in sales and marketing roles.

What are the similarities of a farmer and a hunter?

  • A clear desired outcome.  Both know what they want to achieve at the end of the process.
  • Have a strategy and action plan in place and execute it.   In order to achieve their goals, both need to have a strategy on how to make it happen.
  • Have to be skilled and competent in what they are doing.  Need to have the know-how to be successful.
  • Need to be patient and persevere as they wait for the harvest.

What are the differences of a farmer and a hunter?

  • Mindset and perspective.  A farmer looks forward to a big harvest while a hunter’s target is very specific.
  • Approach in getting to the end result.  A farmer needs to prepare the land first before sowing the seeds in order to achieve a good harvest while a hunter needs to identify the target and then track it until its time to close the deal.
  • Time frame.  One might take longer than the other hence having the right expectations of time frame is critical.
  • Personalities.  Clearly there is a need for different personalities and attributes in each role that gives it an edge.  Myers-Briggs profiling have indicated that some profiles are better suited for certain roles.

I feel that sometimes we focus far too much on the differences that we do not appreciate the similarities and therefore face unnecessary conflicts as a result.  To put this into a workplace perspective, it is very common that there are conflicts between the sales and marketing teams.  Most of the time, these conflicts are just because of differences that I have mentioned above – perspectives and approaches along with time frame of when things happen.  If we focus instead on the similarities e.g. a common goal, trust in the other’s skills in performing their role and agree on the time line of execution, these potential conflicts can be minimised.

So which one are you?  Each with their strengths and rewards.  Each with their unique traits and characteristics that will make them successful in their roles.  The questions are:

Do you know which one you are? How would you continue to develop either one of these approaches?  How can you be a better farmer or hunter?  Can you be both a farmer and a hunter?  How can both the farmer and hunter work together for the good of the group.  After all, we don’t just want to eat meat or vegetables all the time, right?

Team Work: Does it exist outside of sports?

I was watching a lot of team sports recently e.g football and even cricket.  It made me realise that team work is such a natural part of those sports.  Every player plays with a common goal, knows their role in the team and executes it to the best of their abilities.  Then there are sports like golf or tennis where you only see the player as an individual contributor out on the course or court but you know that behind the scenes there is a group behind them.  The behind the scenes group works together to help the player become the best and even get all the limelight.  Perfect example of how a team works whether to promote one person or as a team.

I immediately asked myself, “Why does team work or collaboration not work like that in the workplace?”.   “Maybe it just doesn’t happen in a workplace where rivalry and competition means to tear people down vs. to motivate for better performance.”.  I have been fortunate enough to work in teams where there was great synergy and team spirit.  I have also worked in an environment where it’s all about “me”.  I believe that every one in the workplace wants to work in a great team where everyone is just working together and achieving great results as a team.  Why does it not happen all the time?  Why is it one of those “lucky” or “chance” moments?

Reflecting on what I had experienced, I have come to 2 simple conclusions.

1.  Common Goal.  A lot has been said about having a common goal.  But what is it really?  Is having 5 goals a “common” goal?  Is it just having 1 goal a common goal?  Too many goals even if its common will certainly confuse things as the question becomes which one do we prioritise and when do we prioritise which goal.  One goal might sound too simplistic but it is powerful.  As an example, I am sure that when a sports team is in a match, there is only one goal, that is to win the match.  It doesn’t matter who scores the goal so long as someone does.  In the same way, for a team to be successful, there needs to be a simple, clear goal that everyone is able to articulate at any time and it does not matter who is the “star” so long as the team wins.  In order for that to happen, I believe that the next critical element is trust.

2.  Trust.  Trust in the person in your team to do the job.  Without trust, there is no team.  It is just a group of individuals doing whatever they see fit.  How does trust come about?  Trust in the person’s abilities and skills hence each must have a certain ability or skills set that is valued by the team.  When there is trust in the person on your left and your right to perform in a certain way and consistently deliver results, the team synergy will just flow and gets better over time.  However, since no one is perfect and each with their unique strengths and weaknesses, recognising that and having the right expectations sets the stage for basic trust.  As they say Trust is earned and that’s certainly true in the workplace.  Therefore if a new team is formed, I believe that the first building blocks of trust is to be open and honest about what we can and cannot deliver.  Over promising and under delivering are never good traits to building trust.

I am optimistic that there can be great team work in the workplace.  I have simplified the issues, challenges and what we can do to build great teams with the above 2 elements.  I do believe that it’s a start.

What do you think are other elements that will help in team work?  What are your experiences and learnings from working with teams?  How can we build great team work?

Looking Out the Window

When was the last time you looked out the window and just appreciated the beauty that’s out there.  Looking out my window, I see the trees, leaves and the sun light streaming in.  A gentle breeze does just enough to sway the leaves with a bird chirping by the sidelines.  Time to just pause and reflect and maybe these moments only happens to me when I wake up at 6 am.  And being a beautiful summer’s day, decided to go for an early run around the neighbourhood.  It was a nice relaxing run which I am trying to get into form again after a few weeks of lay-off due to a very stubborn cough.  Nevertheless, cough or no cough, I think that the fresh air does me some amount of good.

I realised that even at my slow leisurely pace, I don’t notice a lot of things.  I don’t notice or even realise the world around me.  I am so focus on me, that my filters don’t even process anything that does not have my name or interest in.  Realising that, I changed my filters and started to see things differently.  I noticed my neighbour’s peach tree which was filled with ripening peaches, the sound of a mother getting her kids ready for school and some work man starting work by the road side.  I also started to be more organised in my mind.  Organising what I wanted to do today, who I needed to call and touch base with, what I wanted to write and even what I wanted to eat for lunch.  Clearly food is high up there on my priority list.  Got back feeling refreshed instead or tired and all ready to get the day started.  Maybe that’s what exercise does to your body but for me, it gave me the opportunity to appreciate, reflect and organise.  It is the time that you spend by yourself that I think counts.  Time to shut out the noise around you and use that solitude to refresh and gain a new perspective.

Do you set aside time to just be by yourself and pause and reflect?  What’s your method of renewing yourself?  What do you do to keep up your energy level?  Do you look out your window and just feel grateful for those around you and what you have?

Try it and see what happens.