Thursday, December 18, 2014

Are You Too Tired

Are you too tired? I think we should be asking this question a lot more often than we do. We tend to say "this is too important for me to rest." What we should be saying is "this is too important to tackle when I am this tired."

The science of fatigue and sleep deprivation is pretty straight forward. In essence, being overtired is like being drunk: you feel clever but you're really not clever. You can't learn when you're overtired, which means you can't adapt to change. You really shouldn't be making decisions or negotiating them or doing anything that demands your best thinking. You will never have your best thinking when you are sleep deprived.

I am at the beach this week because I have been too tired. I stretch. I accomplish great things. People think I'm the Energizer bunny.  And I am, when I remember that even batteries need regular recharging. I am here because I have too much to do over the next few months to do it in a fog. I need my best stuff and recently it has taken formidable focus and determination just to keep the bus moving. 
Are You Too Tired?
There will be times you know you are too tired. Stop. Sleep for one whole day. If possible, get outside. If outside is Canada in winter, sit by a window in the sun or watch a movie just for its beautiful setting (and take some vitamin D). Practice your own version of mindfulness, which means allowing yourself to forget the past and the future and only carry this one moment at a time. 

Practice because you deserve to feel and think and do your best. Don't cheat. You know what I mean because we all do it: we get a quick hit of peace so that we can overwork again. This is better than lots of options, but it is ultimately not satisfying unless sometimes you really notice what you are feeling and decide your life will be a better life if you feel better.

What does it mean to you to be too tired to think?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Warning: Difficult holiday ahead

The hardest part of the holidays is the expectation that they are supposed to be easy and fun.

The very word "holiday" suggests a lovely break from work, a time when the world is a happy place full of lovely people, good food, and fun things to do.

Occasionally, happiness happens. There are nice surprises when we are looking the other way. They are truly lovely breaks, moments to celebrate and remember that the world can be a really great place. 

Most of the time, happiness develops slowly and with effort. We make choices and notice results and make an effort, and sometimes we notice that we're making progress and it feels good. Holidays are happy when we think about what has made us happy and do more of that.

It snowed today. People worry that we won't have snow for Christmas and they complain bitterly when it snows before Christmas.  Some of them are frustrated and unhappy because weather changes their plans. It's quite inconvenient.

This is true for me too. But I will take a breath, get the work done, and get on with doing what is important to me. And this year, I will be a tiny bit better at choosing to make happy happen.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

How to let go of failures and move forward

Someone asked me this week, "how do you teach a kid to let go of a failure and move on."

You can't get there from here. As long as you are thinking about failure, you are holding onto it. Even if the voice in your head is chanting "Let it go."

We're not built that way. Our brains are built to let go of things we are not accessing, not giving any attention. As soon as we give something our attention, we make it easier to access. You make your fears and your failures stronger when you give them your attention. Even if you're telling yourself "just let it go."

"Let it go" is impossible advice. It's like telling kids to "sit still and listen." Many kids listen by moving. They can't listen if they sit still and they can't sit still if they are listening.

One of the secrets to leadership is to give people instructions they can follow. In this case, the instruction is not to "let go." It's "build." Ask "how will I teach someone to recycle parts of a failure to build something new?"

The way to move forward is to catch a glimpse of what you want to build. Then you begin to reassemble the pieces available to you. Some of them will be building blocks that were created or freed up by a failure. You won't learn from those building blocks if you continue to see them as part of a failure. You'll learn when you start to see them as the components for building something you want.

I don't like failure any better than anyone else and I am still learning to encounter it as a step on the way to getting what I want. Over the years, however, I have come to suspect that failure is a much better teacher than success.  When I trust myself and God (call it the universe if you're more comfortable with that) to be making choices that will get me where I am supposed to go (substitute want to go if you're more comfortable with that), then every choice is a choice that can move me forward. The trick is to move my eyes around until I see the opening it has created.

Of course you have to let go if you want to move forward and build. But you don't have to think about it. You have to think about the next step and put your eyes on what you want to hold.