Sunday, July 24, 2011

Basking in Appreciation for the Mundane

Life is imperfect and inconsistent. 

Wonderful at times.  Really flippin' awful at other times.  And then, there are all the moments in between.

Yesterday morning, I went grocery shopping as I typically do first thing on Saturdays.  Other than the discovery that the store was once again stocking my beloved Kombucha drink, nothing particularly special happened on the trip.  And yet as I drove away, a huge wave of gratitude washed over me.  An incredible awareness and appreciation for something which perhaps I had at other times perceived as mundane or maybe even annoying.   

It was a good reminder to really love those "in between" moments.   The simple things.  Like the ability to walk freely into a store, pluck a seemingly unlimited supply of nourishment from its shelves, have enough money to pay for everything including "treats," get in a nice car and drive safely home to my happy and healthy family.

How incredible is that?!

Lest you think my head is completely nestled in the clouds (or someplace else), there was a point in my 20's when I had to reconcile the chaos of my childhood with my ability to have my own happy, peaceful life.   I worked hard to overcome the feeling that any periods of normalcy were simply the "tick tick tick tick" of the roller coaster going up a steep slope before the inevitable, scream-filled plummet which was sure to follow.

Over the years I have found great solace in being truly thankful, even to the point of appreciating past adversity for the strength, resourcefulness and resiliency it has gifted to me.

So, my #1 tip for finding internal life balance at any moment can be described in one word: GRATITUDE.

If there is ever a time where you feel "stuck" through anxiety, boredom, complacency or depression, I guarantee that basking in gratitude will pull you right up from your boot straps. 

Highs and lows are fleeting.  Here's wishing you some truly amazing "in between" moments.

Carpe diem,

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Life is NOT a Teeter-Totter

Given the influx of new readers (thanks again all!), I thought it might be helpful to repost a quick review of my life balance perspective.  

A lot of people make an immediate mental leap from "life balance" to "work/life balance."   In fact, there is an entire industry focused on work/life balance worth billions of dollars.   

Still, calling it "work/life" balance somehow says that work and life are on the same playing field, vying for position.  It implies what I call teeter-totter (aka "seesaw") energy.  It assumes that when one side goes up, the other goes down and vice versa.  There is a perpetual give and take... with parallel neutrality being the ideal scenario.

Personally I think this is neither realistic nor desirable.

First of all, I'm not sure I want my life to be "neutral."  I want it to be exciting and ambitious.  I want it to include hard work and I'm sure every boss I've ever had is happy I feel this way.

Furthermore, "work/life" balance is simply a misnomer.  Yes, work is a part of life.  But so is family, education, community and taking care of yourself so you can handle it all.

Life is a juggling act, not a teeter-totter ride.  Work is just one ball in the mix.

Here's the real secret:  Life balance is not about keeping all those balls in the air in perfect rhythm at all times.  Of course we try.  It's important to have strategies around the "DO" in the BE -- DO -- HAVE model I've described before.  That's why resources like The Get-It-Done Guy are so very valuable.

Still, the world is an unpredictable place and let's face it, we're human. Sometimes those balls are going to drop through some misstep of our own or with the help of others.  We may even lose a ball for a while.  Sometimes it feels like we are juggling bowling balls. They may turn into a little evil monster heads and try to eat our face.  Like I said before, stuff happens.

The thing to remember is that true life balance is internal. 

What's most important is the balance within you -- your physical, mental, emotional, spiritual self.  When those things are in harmony, the objects of external life can explode into flaming stink bombs and you'll be just fine. 

More than that, a balanced internal foundation means you'll be strong enough to cope, problem solve, persist and overcome anything that comes your way.

Including evil monster heads.


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Saturday, July 2, 2011

Customer Delight

Speaking of competitive reality television....

There is a common type of "challenge" whether the theme of the reality show is cooking or interior design or dating. It revolves around creating something for someone else based on understanding that "customer's" expectations, needs, tastes, etc.

Recently, a judge on one of the shows -- I think it was Vern Yip but don't quote me on that -- made a comment which really got me thinking.   He wasn't complimenting the winner so much as explaining why the runner-up didn't win, despite the fact that he done a great job executing exactly what the "customer" had asked.

"Sometimes it's not about just giving someone what they imagine as the perfect thing. It's about going to that place where you give them something even better than anything they could have dreamed."

As you know, I enjoy relating principles which work in a successful business as well as in a successful personal life. (Thus the birth of Personal Strategic Management.)

This got me thinking about all of the training I've received over the years around Quality, TQM, Customer Delight and so forth. Throughout my professional life, I've made it a priority to build relationships and perform to a level of service that significantly exceeded what my clients had ever expected. My goal has been to go far beyond "satisfied customers."

In my previous career, this is what helped me (and my amazing team of like-minded professionals) grow a strategic accounts business from $3M to $38M in less than four years.

So, I know it's a practice which leads to professional success.

But what about in life? In my last post, I said that we are our own customers. So now I'm wondering: How well am I doing for myself and my own "customer satisfaction"?

What are my service level expectations? Am I capable of exceeding those to my own delight? Gosh - am I even meeting my basic needs, let alone anything above that?

How would you answer that question?

This question about not only meeting, but exceeding expectations, applies throughout the extended layers of our lives.  Family. Friends. Work. Local community. Globally.  

As you ask yourself and others "How can I help you today?" how great it would be to go even one step further towards creating delight.

Call me a hopeless optimist, but I believe it is possible to live a life which is even better than our wildest dreams.

Carpe diem!
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