Post a copy of your goals, your vision, your ideal day, your life line, or your treasure map someplace where you can review it daily or weekly. Creating a visual reminder of the big picture you seek sets it in your mind and generates internal motivation and pictures to energize and inspire you. Sometimes we get so caught up in the day to day issues, inconveniences, and irritants of living, that we forget the big picture. Sometimes we need that big picture to help pull us through some of that yucky stuff we have to wade through to get to the other side.
I have made a habit of doing an annual mission statement and personal vision for my ideal life as well as writing down 100 things that I want in my life. I have been doing this for 20 years and find it quite interesting to see what was on my first list. Some things on your list may be easy to acquire or accomplish and other things may take you many years to achieve. It’s always good to have intermediate milestones to whet your appetite for more success.
Research has shown that our energy is enhanced when we are actively working on achieving a goal. I keep my treasure maps in my walk-in closet. I have also had them in my garage and inside my medicine cabinet door. One study concluded that 39% of the people who use your bathroom will look inside your medicine cabinet, so I decided to give them a show with my treasure map.
Reaffirming our mission on a continual basis gives us strength and energy to handle our challenges. The benefits of visualizing what we desire have been proven time and again. Seeing a picture of yourself in a positive state in the future sends a signal to your brain and your body to prepare for this end state and you subconsciously start behaving in ways to make it true.
Physical energy accounts for only 30% of our total energy while 70% of our energy comes from our emotional energy. Emotion is energy in motion. Get yours in motion through positive visualization. I have found that creating Treasure Maps – posters of pictures and words that you have cut and pasted from magazines that represent what you want in your life are like magical magnets to what you visualize for your life. The act of physically creating the poster and being on the lookout for images to add whenever you skim through a publication keeps your visions on the top of your mind and you are more likely to act in a manner that is congruent to achieving your vision if you see it clearly each day. Get your scissors, glue, and poster board ready.
We are all works in progress. Learn by other’s mistakes and experiences and copy some of the traits, behaviors, and attitudes of those who are successful in an area that interests you. Take notice of what worked for them and adapt it to your own lifestyle and throw out what doesn’t work for you. Listen to their lessons to save yourself undue energy drainage doing something the wrong way. Seek those who do it right and follow their example. Learn how they got where and what they are today and why they do the things they do. Follow the lead of others who have paved the way for us, and then branch out on your own and blaze the way for others to follow your lead.
Find somebody who is willing to give you a leg up on life and ask for their guidance and assistance. By taking a shortcut on the learning curve, you free up your energies by not spinning your wheels to learn something the long way. Who do you know that you could take to lunch and learn about their business or their style? Stephen Covey’s bestselling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is just one shortcut to learning about such traits to copy. In it he shares the seven traits that are worth copying in your own life.
Copy the traits of those who have lived much longer than you. One of the factors worth copying is to take yourself more lightly. Lighten up and lighten your emotional load for increased energy and enjoyment. The New England Centenarian Study followed over 150 people age 100 or more and found every person tested low for levels of neuroticism or sadness. These feelings can disturb heart-beats, reduce immune functioning, and accelerate the aging process. Having the ability to easily shed emotional stress, remain calm and collected during crises, take charge, and easily adapt to changes in their environment and life situations were key ingredients to their longevity.
Letting go of issues and situations that are out of your control, in the past, or can’t be changed, allows your energy to be put towards a more positive use. Dwelling on things out of your hands pulls you down into the depths. Stewing over past circumstances, or decisions you have already made keep you grounded in the past and keep your energy grounded as well. Lightening up your outlook and letting go of your heavy loads will set your energy free. Copy this valuable trait of those who have lived to tell about it and you may well live a long life too.
Cut out the extraneous stuff and go directly to the heart of what matters most. Being direct with other people, with clarity of intention add going for what you want without excessive distractions enhances your chances of success with less effort. Cut out bad habits, superfluous stuff, obligations, and behaviors that aren’t working for you. We tend to behave in ways that get us what we want. Figuring out the payoff for our actions will help us cut through the crap that gets in the way.
Our motivations behind our behaviors are generally about validating our self worth and the image that we have of ourselves. What kinds of images are you fostering and validating by your behavior? Are you being as direct and forthright with your thoughts, words, and actions, or are you losing precious energy beating around the bush and piling it on. Cutting through the miscommunication and misunderstandings of the symptoms and going directly to the root cause of an issue saves us undue wear and tear on our relationship with ourselves and others.
Being decisive saves energy. Cutting through to a direct decision without wasting emotional and mental energy stewing about it will preserve your nerves and will alleviate the emotional drain of second-guessing yourself. Be firm in your conviction and ability to make good decisions and leave out all the other waffling once you’ve made up your mind. Take a deep look to see if you can cut through some crap in your communication, your decision making, or your relationships to release some pent up energy.
Attitude Equals Profits: Take Your Vacation Days to Improve Your Attitude and Improve Company Income
Attitude equals profits: satisfied workers drive company results according to the Forum for People Performance Management and Measurement who found a direct link between employee satisfaction and a company’s fiscal performance. I say, “Duh! – what have we been saying from anecdotal evidence and other research all these years!” It’s time to take your vacation days to improve your attitude. If you won’t take time off for yourself, then do it for your colleagues or for the bottom line of your organization.
At any rate, key findings of the study included:
1. High employee satisfaction is often the result of strong internal communications efforts throughout the organization.
2. Another satisfaction driver: internal competition among work teams to implement organizational goals.
3. Satisfaction leads to a status called “employee engagement.” Organizations with engaged employees have customers who use their products more.
4. Employee attitudes affect those of customers.
5. It is less expensive to foster employee satisfaction than it is to acquire new customers.
6. Organizational culture is the single greatest driver of employee satisfaction levels.
Here are some additional reasons to take your hard-earned and well-deserved vacation days:
- According to a recent survey of 1400 US workers, by www.Careerbuilder.com, more than one-third of workers will be taking work with them on vacation by either carting along their laptop, checking emails, or being in voice mail contact. 16% said their supervisors expected them to check in during their holiday and 19% said they would check in voluntarily. Of these workers, 61% said they would check their voice mail and email daily.
- In the same survey, 40% said a vacation of 3-5 days is enough to feel refreshed, 17% said they would take a shorter vacation or no time off this year, while 44% plan to take more than 5 days.
- Not surprisingly, half of the workers said they feel stressed at the office and 22% of these workers indicate some stress while taking time off because they have to check in. They also indicated that vacations were the #1 event they have postponed in order to progress in their careers.
Winning and keeping the bright stars of today requires and understanding of the shift in values and changing expectations to today’s workforce. Some of the key elements in attracting and retaining your top talent are:
* Offering a flexible way to work that allows for personal and professional work/life balance. Time spent on the job in a year has increased by 163 hours in the last 20 years, which equates to about one month per year, while our leisure time has declined by about 30%. More and more entry-level professionals are willing to give up salary in exchange for less work hours to help balance their lives. Some research indicates that it is possible to cut turnover by 50% by introducing such programs as: eldercare programs, flextime, alternate work schedules, dependent care leave, counseling, childcare subsidies, commuter subsidies.
* Tie your organizational mission to a deeper meaning so workers can gain a deeper sense of cause and meaningful work. Many employees want to make a difference more than anything – it comes up near the top of many motivational surveys. Create a sense of community among workers by giving them time to be a part of something other than their job position.
* Allow for socializing, learning, volunteering, chairing teams, and setting up your environment to compel integration of all workers and allow for interaction and brainstorming. One high-tech engineering firm in Virginia hosts Technology Tuesdays with free lunch and learn sessions on the latest gadgets or techno stuff. They also offer cookies and milk on Wednesday afternoons so employees can take a break and gather around for a quick break. One financial services company allows workers a certain number of hours off per quarter to volunteer for their favorite community cause.
* Offer personal and professional development at all levels. Allow employees to choose the training they think would benefit them and the company most. Give access to training catalogs and let them choose or work it out with their budgets so they get to decide what to cut if something else is important enough to attend. When people feel valued, they stick around. That goes with customers, employees, and personal relationships. When we don’t feel valued, understood, and listened to – we walk.
Seek inspiring words from great speakers, mentors, trainers, celebrities, sports figures, business gurus, books, or other role models that you admire. Glean wisdom from them on how they acquired their spark, their position, their wealth, their notoriety, or their circumstance. Be a student of life and constantly be aware of the process of continuous improvement.
We are also role models for all those around us – we are part of their environment, so watch your words and actions which affect the energy of others. Who do you admire? What can you learn from them and how can you learn more? What things do you want in your life and who already has those things or is doing the things that you want to do? Find out how they did it to help you figure out your path. There is more than one way to success and by gaining different perspectives and then figuring out the unique way those perspectives fit your life, you are well on your way to becoming a quotable role model for others who will heed your words of wisdom.
I catch myself stating the phrase “You learn something new every day”. Instead of letting serendipity invigorate you by chance, take the reins and seek out adult education classes, recreation courses, meaningful conversations with inspiring people, fascinating books, or interesting Internet websites. Besides having fun and learning a new skill, you will meet the nicest people.
Discovery and knowledge keeps you young, interested, and interesting. Continuous improvement keeps you vibrant, vital, and tuned into the world as well as into yourself. Once your mind is stretched, it will never be the same. What have you learned today? It really is never too late to teach an old dog new tricks. Life long learning also implies that we learn our life lessons from the compilation of our experiences so we don’t waste our precious energy spinning our wheels and repeating life lessons over and over before we get it.
Once we recognize certain recurring themes in our lives as our life lessons, then we can spend our energy solving the issue and move on to other things instead of spending our energy on the same thing over and over again. Why not be a fast learner and save some of your emotional energy for new lessons down the road. What are the recurring circumstances in your life? What are the arguments, discussions, or power struggles that keep creeping up in your life? Are you learning from these so you can free up your energy to be put to better uses? Try seeking out some aha moments in the near future.
Sometimes our personal or professional lives spiral out of kilter, or the demands on us at work or at home are overwhelming, or there just isn’t a good fit for us anymore. At those times when the heat is turned up and we are moving at the speed of light just to keep up, or just get by without going crazy, here are some tips to understand burnout and how to deal with it.
We move through four basic stages of burnout:
- Physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion (emotional takes up most of the space on the exhaustion scale)
- Shame and doubt about yourself, your decisions, or that you aren’t enough or a good fit
- Cynicism and callousness about your situation, sometimes anger or similar energy
- Failure, helplessness, and crises mode when we feel our situation is getting the best of us and we can’t concentrate, nor move forward like we used to
Once we recognize we are either rusting out or burning out, we need to take steps to rectify the situation before it cripples us. It starts by recognizing the stress you’re under, why it’s happening, and listening to your body if it starts to break down such as more accidents, more sickness or allergic reactions, more joint and muscle pain, and general lethargy or depression. Taking action while we still feel strong and capable of dealing with the situation will stop the burnout faster than if we wait until we are incapacitated by our mental, emotional, or physical state. Moving forward while we are still in a position of power to do so is much more likely to start the inertia than if we wait until we are in a weaker state where we may not have the courage, stamina, or resourceful thinking to gain momentum out of the burnout phase.
If you find yourself burning out, here are some steps to ward off the fire:
* Enlist the support of family, friends, and colleagues, especially if they have been in that situation before
* Practice the art of self-care – be adamant about creating time for yourself to clear your mind, be good to yourself, take care of your body, and replenish it with good food, exercise, rest, and things you love.
* Get very clear about what it is you’re about, what is your purpose, your ideal day, your vision for your ideal life. If you were brave, what would you do or change or create in your life that isn’t there now? What type of work or living situation would you want if you were being truly authentic to yourself?
* Take some time off to refocus your energies and remove yourself from the stressful situation to get a better perspective.
* Research similar fields or other jobs in your organization or industry if you like the work, but need something to best fit your skills, style, and personality.
* Become more self-aware of your work style, communication style, and personality style and seek a career that best uses your strengths. (I offer the Strength Deployment Inventory ® for those who want to learn more about their motivations behind their behaviors, and their communication and conflict management style.)
* Entertain the thought of retraining, going back to school, or starting your own business doing what you love. Test drive a new venture part time to see where your energy goes.
* Recognize that burnout carries a sense of loss of control or an abandonment of a goal you once had. Sometimes it turns into a sense of hopelessness if it goes on for too long. Avoid burnout by recognize the first signs of restlessness, stress, overwhelm, and agitation. Look at your situation and assess if it is a short-term project or a long-term situation before taking action and keeping cool instead of fuming and fanning the flames of burnout.
It seems that stressful times are the times when our self-care is lacking. It is precisely at these times when we need to be vigilant about eating right, getting enough rest, exercising, laughing, connecting, and making good choices to help us through the stress unscathed. When our resistance is low, we are no longer in the driver’s seat and we lack the energy to take charge. If we let ourselves run down by not guarding our personal energy, then we won’t have the energy to take care of others, our work, or ourselves. And so starts a downward spiral of negative energy that is ever harder to break.
Even when our minds won’t recognize that we need a break, our bodies will take over and put us flat on our backs for as long as it needs to heal itself and recharge. The lesson is to take care of yourself first, or else you won’t be able to take care of anybody or anything else.
We need to plan time for creative renewal on a regular basis and particularly during times of intense focus or stress. Good old rest and relaxation are still vitally important to the mental and physical well being of fighting soldiers. Being emotionally drained affects our performance as much as being physically exhausted. We can be very physically fit and get enough rest and still be emotionally exhausted. Taking time out to decompress is vitally important for our vitality.
Sleep and restful downtime increases your concentration and gives you the stamina you need to fight off sickness or other enemies. Adjust your bedtime rituals to allow for restful, uninterrupted sleep. Avoid exercising, caffeine, or lots of liquids just before bedtime and set a regular time schedule and habits to signal your body that it is time to slow down. Just ask any rotating shift worker how productive or alert they feel in-between rounds.
It’s not easy to conjure up enthusiasm for sex when you’re stressed out, but not having sex can actually lead to a higher anxiety level and it can become a stressor if it is unavailable or unsatisfactory. Building a healthy, intimate relationship with your partner can lead to other types of stress releases and emotional support as well as the physical release. Take the time to refresh and renew yourself regularly to avoid the perils and pitfalls of being overcome by stress.