If YOU don’t prioritise your life, someone else will!

15 04 2014

Just read this fantastic article on LinkedIn, written by Greg McKeown, speaker and author of, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. Greg has some amazing and very practical insights into how we can make our lives simpler, and achieve more balance in the day to day.

This article focuses on the importance on saying NO when you need to. A vital skill that I am convinced can add hours to our weeks, days to our years and years to our lives! For people pleasers like myself, one of the most powerful points is this: when faced with a decision where you don’t want to let someone down by saying no, separate the decision from the relationship. Sometimes these seem so interconnected, we forget there are two different questions we need to answer. By deliberately dividing these questions, we can make a more conscious choice. Answer the question, “What is the right decision?” and then “How can I communicate this as kindly as possible?”

Enjoy!

Quinton

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Image“A ‘no’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.” So said Mahatma Gandhi, and we all know how his conviction played out on the world stage. But what is less well known is how this same discipline played out privately with his own grandson, Arun Gandhi.

Arun grew up in South Africa. When he was a young boy, he was beaten up twice: once for being too white and once for being too black. Still angry, Arun was sent to spend time with his grandfather. In an interview with Arun, he told me that his grandfather was in demand from many important people, yet he still prioritized his grandson, spending an hour a day for 18 months just listening to Arun. It proved to be a turning point in Arun’s life.

I had the opportunity to apply Gandhi’s example of prioritization to my own life, hours before one of my daughters was born. I felt pressure to go to a client meeting the next day. But on this occasion, I knew what to do. It was clearly a time to be there for my wife and child. So, when asked to attend the meeting, I said with all the conviction I could muster…

“Yes.”

To my shame, while my wife lay in the hospital with my hours-old baby, I went to the meeting. Afterward, my manager said, “The client will respect you for making the decision to be here.” But the look on the clients’ faces mirrored how I felt. What was I doing there?! I had not lived true to Gandhi’s saying. I had said “yes” to please.

As it turned out, exactly nothing came of the client meeting. And even if the client had respected my choice, and key business opportunities had resulted, I would still have struck a fool’s bargain. My wife supported me and trusted me to make the right choice under the circumstances, and I had opted to deprioritize her and my child.

Why did I do it? I have two confessions:

First, I allowed social awkwardness to trump making the right decision. I wasn’t forced to attend the meeting. Instead, I was so anxious to please that even awkward silent pauses on the phone were too much for me. In order to stop the social pain, I said “yes” when I knew the answer should be “no.”

Second, I believed that “I had to make this work.” Logically, I knew I had a choice, but emotionally, I felt that I had no choice. That one corrupted assumption psychologically removed many of the actual choices available to me.

What can you do to avoid the mistake of saying “yes” when you know the answer should be “no”?

First, separate the decision from the relationship. Sometimes these seem so interconnected, we forget there are two different questions we need to answer. By deliberately dividing these questions, we can make a more conscious choice. Answer the question, “What is the right decision?” and then “How can I communicate this as kindly as possible?”

Second, watch your language. Every time we say, “I have to take this call” or “I have to send this piece of work off” or “I have to go to this client meeting,” we are assuming that previous commitments are nonnegotiable. Every time you use the phrase “I have to” over the next week, stop and replace it with “I choose to.” It can feel a little odd at first — and in some cases it can even be gut-wrenching (if we are choosing the wrong priority). But ultimately, using this language reminds us that we are making choices, which enables us to make a different choice.

Third, avoid working for or with people who don’t respect your priorities. It may sound simplistic, but this is a truly liberating rule! There are people who share your values and as a result make it natural to live your priorities. It may take a while to find an employment situation like this, but you can set your course to that destination immediately.

Saying “yes” when we should be saying “no” can seem like a small thing in the moment. But over time, such compromises can create a life of regrets. Indeed, an Australian nurse named Bronnie Ware, who cared for people in the last 12 weeks of their lives, recorded the most often-discussed regrets. At the top of the list: “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

I have a vision of people everywhere having the courage to live a life true to themselves instead of the life others expect of them.

To harness the courage we need to get on the right path, it pays to reflect on how short life really is, and what we want to accomplish in the little time we have left. As poet Mary Oliver wrote: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I challenge you to be wiser than I was on the day of my daughter’s birth. I have great confidence in the good that can come from such a decision.

Years from now when you are on your death bed you may still have regrets. But seeking the way of the Essentialist is unlikely to be one of them. What would you trade then to be back here now for one chance—this chance—to be true to yourself? On that day what will you hope you decided to do on this one?

 

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You 2.0: On Becoming the Best Version of Yourself

25 10 2011

What would you look like, if you were operating at the top of your game?

  What if the best possible version of you, turned up in the circumstances you are currently in?

What would that ‘best you’ do differently?

The best changes in our life do not come about by happenstance, or luck. They are imposed on our environment from the inside out – they happen when something CHANGES on the inside of us and blasts its way out from our hearts into the world outside. And they are changes that can only be made by us, when we reach that moment when we decide things are going to be different.

Think about some of the most important areas of your life.

Health & Fitness – if a world class athlete (rugby player, Olympic swimmer, bodybuilder) awoke in your body, it is guaranteed that in 6 weeks time your physique would be unrecognisable. Why can’t you do the same thing? Ask yourself, what would that athlete be doing (and MAKING time for) that you aren’t doing now?

 

Business & Career – if Richard Branson or 26 year old Mark Zuckerberg awoke in your body, what do you think your level of success, reputation and impact would be within 1-2 months? Ask yourself what would they be doing differently, and start thinking of how you can DO those things.

 

 

 

 Relationships – how would the BEST version of you operate in your relational sphere? How would that ‘you’ connect to, relate to, and treat your loved ones, friends and family, and even those new people who you want to build relationships with? How would those relationships improve (and how much would your levels of satisfaction and happiness grow) in 1-2 months?

 

  Self-investment – world class people, those who change the planet, are almost without fail, people who invest in themselves. They take (and usually MAKE) the time to reflect, consider their lives and work out what’s going well, what could be improved on, evaluate where they are in relation to where they would like to be, and how they could get closer to that ever-changing goal! The process of growth cannot happen without change, and the best growth comes from change that is self-initiated. Encourage yourself as much as you can by using the resources you have access to – books, CDs and seminars or one or two people you find inspiring to be around.

We all want to be better people. But rather than allowing that vague sense of  ‘you’re doing it wrong’ niggle at you “like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad” (to quote Morpheus from The Matrix), stop ignoring it, and start to pay attention to it and ENGAGE with it. Change can be a scary thing, but if you are willing to consider yourself and where you are at honestly, you will open up the way to move forward. And the world that opens up to those courageous enough to embrace change, is AMAZING.

As a wise man once said, the difference between who you ARE and who you WANT to be, is what you DO.
–          Quinton