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Welcome to the April 2010 issue of Alignment Solutions! Because of the widespread interest in allocating resources and setting priorities, those topics are the subject of our upcoming e-book. From Confusion to Clarity: How to Prioritize Scarce Resources will be available without charge by the end of April. Watch for it on our web site!

Does the idea of getting paid to do things you love and enjoying a high quality of life appeal to you? Is the thought of working in or leading a highly engaged, productive, and committed workforce attractive? If so, you should check out our 2010 teleseminar series called Personal Renaissance. Watch for details and a preview call at the end of May!

This month’s theme is “change your perspective, transform your life.” Given the fallout from the recent state of the economy (e.g., furloughs, pay cuts, layoffs), it’s easy for people to feel overwhelmed and to believe that their lives are out of control. When that happens, people and organizations both suffer debilitating consequences. The reality, though, is that we have more control than we may realize. Further, although it takes effort to gain or re-gain that control because of long-standing beliefs and habits, there is no financial cost to replacing them with healthier alternatives.

The Feature Article, “What Quality of Life Do YOU Choose?,” explains how changing our perspectives can transform the quality of our lives. The fact is, taking charge of the quality of one’s life experiences is totally within each individual’s control. Leaders who take the initiative to step up and offer an antidote to victimhood will realize huge returns for themselves, their employees, and their organizations.

In “Begin to Take Control of the Quality of Your Life,” the Business Solutions section offers a no-cost first step to helping people begin to assert control over their situations, whatever they may be.

In the Personal Solutions section, “How to Release Things You Cannot Control” suggests four concrete ways that people can stop engaging in unproductive emotions and activities such as worrying about things they can’t control.

I invite you to visit my web site at www.BusinessAlignmentStrategies.com and my blog at www.OptimizeBusinessResults.com to find other articles and resources that may be of value to you and your colleagues. I welcome your feedback!

 

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What Quality of Life Do YOU Choose?

Do you ever feel like your life is out of control? Do you feel that others have more influence over what happens to you than you do? The bad news is that to some extent it’s probably true that external forces are affecting your life. The good news is that you have more control than you might imagine. In fact, making a few changes in your perspective enables you to recognize and focus on what you CAN control, thereby increasing the quality of your life significantly.

Although we often are subject to forces outside of ourselves, the fact is that we ALWAYS have a choice about how we experience any given situation. WE get to choose whether we treat challenges as insurmountable obstacles or as opportunities. Whether we seek the negatives in a situation or the positives is our decision. It’s a fact: whether we search for positive aspects or negative ones, we will find them.

There is a great deal of uncertainty in workplaces across the U.S. today. Though there are signs the economy is on the rebound, employees continue to find themselves faced with the possibility or the reality of layoffs, furloughs, and cuts in pay and benefits. When one’s livelihood is threatened, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and hopeless, as if things are spiraling out of control. This is exactly the time that leaders must step up and offer an antidote. One of the most significant things they can do for themselves and for employees is to show how to break this spiral - or to prevent it in the first place. It doesn’t cost anything, and the payoff is tremendous for everyone involved. Changing how you experience any given situation is as simple and as complex as changing your perspective.

Here’s what I mean by that statement. YOU are the only person who can choose the quality of your life. You alone are the source of your experiences. No one else has that responsibility - or the ability to make that decision for you. It’s not something that others do to or for you; it’s a personal choice you make, consciously or unconsciously. You get to choose whether you experience a given situation as a victim wallowing in self-pity or as a healthy individual who can act with purpose. For those who may be skeptical about this assertion or think it can’t possibly work given the dire straits in which they find themselves, I invite them to read Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Dr. Frankl was a psychiatrist who survived three years in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. Briefly, he realized that although his captors could do whatever they wanted to him physically, he alone retained control over his mind. He was able to survive by choosing how he perceived his day-to-day experiences. Although his circumstances did not change, the way he viewed them literally made the difference between life and death for him.

When it comes to taking charge of the quality of your life experiences, it’s entirely up to you. You cannot delegate or abdicate this responsibility. Yet we often have years or perhaps decades of practice in being victims because we didn’t know we had an alternative. For suggestions about how to begin to break free of these unproductive habits or ingrained patterns, please see our articles Begin to Take Control of the Quality of Your Life and How to Release Things You Cannot Control. Putting their suggestions into practice will help you answer the question posed in the title of this article: what quality of life do you choose?

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Begin to Take Control of the Quality of Your Life

Whatever our circumstances, we always have control over at least one thing: how we perceive our own condition. Human beings have the ability to choose how we experience our lives, regardless of the specific situation. Yet many people don’t realize this important truth. Others who do recognize it don’t know how to exercise this control.

Often in work settings, people feel as though they have little or no influence over their situations. As a result, they may experience helplessness, despair, being overwhelmed, or frustration. If these feelings become ingrained, employees cannot possibly be engaged, motivated, or productive workers, and organizations cannot optimize their business results. Thus it’s in the best interests of all concerned for organizational leaders to step up and show that there are alternatives to what amounts to victimhood.

Recently I was talking with employees whose organization had relied on salary cuts, furloughs, and layoffs to help it remain viable during tough economic times. Many of these individuals expressed feelings such as fear, anxiety, worry, and concern - in short, they felt like their lives were out of control. To help them begin to see that they can make healthy choices and thereby re-gain a sense of personal control, I suggested that they identify and distinguish clearly between the things they can control and those they cannot. Here is one way to do this visually:

  1. Draw a big rectangle on a piece of paper.
  2. On the inside of the rectangle, write all the things you have control over (e.g., how you view your situation, who you associate with, the language you use, the choices you make, the degree of self-care you exercise).
  3. On the outside of the rectangle, write all the things over which you have no control (e.g., the economy, layoffs, furloughs). Be realistic!

Now think of the rectangle as a playing field, such as a soccer or football field. The players can only control what happens on the field; they cannot do anything about what’s going on outside its boundaries. To be successful, they must focus exclusively on what’s going on inside the field. The same thing is true of you: although you are aware of the outside forces, you cannot afford to let them disturb your concentration. Recognize that you cannot do anything about them, at least at this moment, and release them. Focus only on what’s on your field, namely the things that you can control. Then make healthy decisions about how you will deal with them so you can move forward productively.

I realize that suggesting that you release the things you cannot control may be easier said than done. After all, most people have had years of practice worrying about things they cannot possibly influence. For ideas about how to overcome those unhealthy habits, you may want to read our article How to Release Things You Cannot Control. For other suggestions, contact us!

 

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How to Release Things You Cannot Control

It’s one thing to advise people to release things they cannot control; it’s another to actually do it. Changing our perspectives sounds simple; making that shift often is a more complex undertaking. Recently someone asked me an interesting question: how do you stop engaging in long-standing yet unproductive emotions and activities such as worrying or to fretting over things you can’t control? Here are four concrete suggestions:

  1. Distinguish clearly between the things in your life that you can control, and the things you cannot influence. (For a description of how you might do this, please see our article Begin to Take Control of the Quality of Your Life.) Completing this simple exercise enables you literally to see what things you need to release because you cannot control them. Having this visual will help you raise your awareness of those things, which means you will be able to make conscious choices about what to focus on - i.e., the people and things you can influence.
  2. Enlist the help of one or more partners who agree to help you recognize when you are holding on to those “uncontrollables.” This further raises awareness of unproductive behaviors and helps you re-focus on and choose healthy behaviors. You can do the same for your partners.
  3. Recognize that it may take time to ease into a new way of thinking that allows you to release the things you can’t control. It’s not necessarily easy to stop worrying or being anxious or feeling like a victim. If that’s the case, try this technique. A friend who is a cancer survivor has a wonderful way of coping with her occasional lapses into victimhood: she has a pity party for herself. She sets a timer for between five and thirty minutes, depending on how badly she’s feeling, and for that period of time, she focuses intently on how very sorry she feels for herself. Once the timer goes off, the party is over and she moves on.
  4. Be kind to yourself. Set realistic expectations, and do your best to meet or exceed them. Forgive yourself when you don’t, and keep moving forward.

Each one of us has the ability to take charge of the quality of our life experiences; whether we do so is entirely up to us. We get to choose between experiencing life as a victim or as a healthy individual. Which will it be? Let us know!

 

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Date of Publication: April 2010
Pat@BusinessAlignmentStrategies.com
www.BusinessAlignmentStrategies.com | 562.985.0333
Copyright 2010 - All rights reserved, Pat Lynch