As 2017 will soon be here, I find myself reflecting on 2016, and what has changed in my life. For this past year, I’ve been in the CTI Leadership program, and I find myself looking at life, love and time very differently than I did a year ago. Much of it is hard to put into words, so I will focus on the one thought which seems to be smacking me up the side of the head lately.
Simply put … tomorrow is not guaranteed. Yet how do I live my life? I have often find myself living as if I have an infinite amount of time. I found myself caught in this old habit a couple of weeks ago, and thankfully a dear friend called me on it and helped me to see what I was doing. Being able to see it, made it possible to choose a different path.
The signs are everywhere when I choose to listen
There are lots of signs sending me this message which I’m choosing to pay close attention to. I have several people in my life who are dealing with serious diseases. One, in particular, was hard hitting for me, as he’s a close friend on a similar journey as me. I know him as a guy who is fit and full of life with everything going for him to take his life to new heights. Then about two months ago he was diagnosed with bone cancer. I miss him and hold him in my heart as he takes on this disease.
One of my leaders in the CTI Leadership journey has the terminal lung disease Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. Despite knowing his time is limited, he has been living his life and providing us with a beautiful example of what it means to live on purpose. Despite a strong desire to join us at the fourth retreat in January, unfortunately, the disease has progressed, and he will not be there. I will miss him and will be holding him in my heart as he continues his journey with this disease.
When I look around me, I see too many examples of organizations who treat their employees as if time is infinite. They ask people to work an increasing number of hours, to sacrifice their personal time for the sake of meeting deliverables, and even to give up their vacation time. Even if the people do get their two weeks, I know of examples where people are criticized and made to feel guilty for taking two weeks vacation as a block of time.
Give them your life
I’ve worked with too many organizations where there is an unwritten expectation people will work 50, 60 or even more hours every week. In many cases, they don’t get compensated for their extra time; it’s just an expectation for the privilege of having a job. These companies behave as if you have time for life later, when you retire, and then you’ll be able to live your life as you want.
I’m not a physician. However, I’ve observed way too many people who seem to be getting sick in such environments. Take myself, for example; I was once caught up in such a situation. It was just a given I was going to be working in the evenings, and still at work the next day for my first meeting at 8 am. Often I’d find my calendar double and triple booked as if I could clone myself and be in multiple rooms at the same time.
I have a family history of hypertension, and it was during this part of my life my blood pressure started to climb. Then when I quit this job, there was an almost immediate drop in my blood pressure. My family doctor told me “I knew that place was bad for you!” I have a friend who also blames her cancer on the stressful work environment of the same company.
It’s your choice
Now let’s turn that around, where so many people seem to accept these types of situations. Where they genuinely are OK with working like this, and spending their life answering emails, creating PowerPoint slides, and churning out Excel Spreadsheets full of numbers. They frequently talk about family time as sitting in front of the TV, and they have their laptop on their lap as they work on something.
One of the most obvious signs of a problem is when people tell me they can’t possibly take a vacation as they will simply be too far behind when they get back. These same people will often look tired and stressed and complain about never having any fun in their life as they’re just simply too busy working.
This is why I believe people yearn to retire. They want to escape this life as if they’re putting off living their life fully for the sake of a career. Here’s a simple fact for you; tomorrow is not guaranteed.
I will live today
I know some of you will be thinking this is a horrible way to think as I used to be there. Let’s face it; our mortality is one of the toughest things for us to confront in life. So you might be thinking I’m basing my life decisions on a scarcity mindset, and I would certainly understand your perspective. The reality is you are statistically twice as likely to die between the ages of 35-55, then you are to live beyond the age of 75. So why not live today? Why not live today with such abundance that you could not possibly imagine life being better than it is right now?
I am choosing to live an abundant life knowing with every day I have been given the special gift of another day to make a difference in the world. I am choosing to not compromise who I am and to strive to make a difference in someone’s life today. I don’t know how to stop the Syrian war or change the fact Trump is going to be the President of the United States. However, what I do know is I can make a difference to people all around me. If by being me and living my life fully on purpose, I can make someone’s day a little brighter than I know I’ve lived today.
Leading for Change
Great leaders know their job is to help the people all around them be the best they can be. Leading others is not about the things you get them to do or produce. At the core of great people, are people who are living their life fully. That doesn’t mean working 60 or 70 hour weeks or conforming to your view of what they should be. Great leaders know a job does not define who a person is, nor the things they are obligated to do. Great leaders know it’s who the person is being, and how they choose to live their life which makes them whole.
If you’re a leader, and you all are, then start to look at what behaviours you’re expecting from the people you lead. If you want great results, then what can you do to allow them to live their life, and at the same time make a difference in their work? Take the time to get to know what would make their life awesome, and how they can be living an awesome life while working on your team. What I know with certainty is someone is living a fully awesome life, they will do awesome stuff at work!
Don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t mean everything will be sunshine and lollipops every day. However, if even on the most challenging days at work people can live their life with meaning, they will amaze you with what can be done. I know this with certainty as I see it in my own life and work.
“I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it” — Groucho Marx