7th article of the Series
At the start of this series of articles, I introduced the concept of Inner Life and Outer Life on opposite ends of the Balance of Life. I also stated that there are a total of eleven dimensions overall to balancing the Life Wheel in order to achieve harmony, joy and success in your life.
Both work life and home life exist on the same side of the scale – the Outer Life. They each have 4 dimensions in them. Since we already discussed the home life and its four dimensions last week, let’s focus on the 4 dimensions of the work life in this article.
The four dimensions of work life are People, Productivity, Execution (Actions/Tasks) – also known as KARMA to those familiar with the Bhagavad Geetha, and Leadership. Next week, we will discuss the Inner Life and its 3 dimensions (body, mind and spirit/soul).
Many people wonder why they do not have the success that they want in professional life. Most of the time, the reason will be right under their nose; they are just unable to see it. The first thing that someone who is not successful in work life should ask is, “Am I successful in my personal life and relationships?”
If the answer is no, then you now have your answer as to why you are not successful in professional life. You cannot have a successful career if you do not have adequate personal and social development.
The business world is not your entire life, as much as it may seem to be. Your career is but one aspect of your life that also includes friends, family, and personal needs and issues. The only way to have success in your career is by having success in personal and social development. A balance must be struck. True success cannot be had in one area of your life and not another. This is how personal development, social development, and business development are all linked together.
You work hard, but do you play hard? An employee review survey by a European HR Group found that 57% of Generation Y employees and 26% of Baby Boomers take off unplanned days from work to deal with stress. You may think that business owners would do the same but surveys indicate that they tend to work harder, rather than step away, as the stress builds.
Entrepreneurs are multi-dimensional, passionate individuals so living a whole life is more important to their health and well being than almost anything. They are risk takers, yet are too often tucked behind their desk – safely focusing on the tedious aspects of their business because they think that they can do it without anyone’s help.
It’s easy to get caught in this trap, but really, how productive can you be when you are missing your family and friends, yearning for another sky diving adventure, and neglecting your workout time? There is no shortage of studies showing that employee effectiveness rises when time off is taken on a regular basis, but entrepreneurs easily lose sight of this fact, working for months – even years – without time away from the business.
It’s a fact that productivity levels drop with lack of life balance. You need to recharge your batteries on a consistent basis. When you take time out your creativity, endurance, happiness and, most likely your profits, will all increase. Here are some simple ways to recharge.
1. Take frequent breaks in your day.
While it’s important to have two-hour chunks of focused time in your work schedule, it’s equally important to give your brain and body a rest. Schedule a short walk, do lunch away from the computer, and other pleasant activities into your day. You will find that you are able to complete tasks more quickly and efficiently as this habit becomes part of your daily routine.
2. Focus on what is important.
Ask yourself, “What is most important to me in life, other than a successful business?” Is it spending time with family and friends? Being in nature? Connecting with your spirituality? Now ask, “How much of my time do I spend in this area of my life?” Odds are you are spending the least amount of time in the most important life categories. As you increase time in these areas you will feel more complete, less guilty, and more focused. It may seem impossible to escape work after 8 hours, but give it a try and see how you feel the next day. Spend an extra couple of hours a week with the kids, your spouse, your friends or extended family. You may just find yourself able to complete things more effectively as your focus and clarity returns after some hours of leisure.
Perhaps you can’t afford a full-blown vacation right now; that’s okay (for the time being). How about getting away from your familiar surroundings without getting on an airplane? Is there a little town nearby that offers unique restaurants and shopping? Do you like amusement parks? How about a picnic or hiking the trails? A day at the beach, perhaps? Think of a one-day getaway that is low budget but enjoyable. You’ll be surprised at how this can renew your spirit!
4. Spend time working away from the office.
I am sitting in my favorite book shop, enjoying the presence of familiar faces and browsing some new releases. Stepping away from my work environment couple of times a week gives me an emotional boost. So many business owners are social, people-loving individuals, yet they isolate themselves for days at a time. One of the reasons you probably started your own business is because you value your freedom; enjoy it! Take your laptop outside, go to the library, think about joining a networking group or find another work-related weekly event.
If you are married or have a significant other, make sure you are spending quality time together. You chose one another for a reason, spend time enjoying it! Reignite the passion and appreciate the value in having a mate. Imagine if you were going through life right now without someone to lean on and love, do your best not to take it for granted.
Productivity is NOT a bad word that is to be scorned at. In fact, if we are not cognizant of our productivity, we often experience feeling less balanced. Having a sense that you have been productive can be extremely satisfying. However, what can be harmful to our sense of balance is our culture’s obsession with it and constant pressure we have placed on ourselves to get as many things DONE as possible in order to feel happy.
The problem with solely focusing on quantity is that even if we did get a lot done in a day, week, or year for that matter, too often it never really feels good enough. Have you ever felt like you just weren’t happy with all the things you got done even though it was quite a lot of things? The number of things you accomplish in a day, week, etc is only a piece of the puzzle.
We have allowed this focus on quantity to become connected with our happiness. Do you feel happy at the end of a day when you get 3 things done? Why? If you did not then, why not? A much larger part of the puzzle of productivity is the importance and meaning of the tasks you complete. We must understand the role of SIGNIFICANCE in our assessment of our productivity. Does it really matter what you are doing? Is it significant to your life, to your work, to the lives of those around you? A critical piece to feeling productive is awareness that you have used your time and energy on things that matter to YOU. You can also imagine a greater sense of happiness when you know you have made meaningful and worthwhile contributions.
When we do not include significance and importance of our accomplishments in our assessment of whether or not we have been productive, we set ourselves up for a sense of disappointment, unhappiness and we miss out. Our happiness and sense of life balance need not be so heavily weighted on productivity that we are in constant overwhelm and fall into the abyss of incessant dissatisfaction. Let us focus less on productivity from a purely quantitative perspective and value SIGNIFICANCE.
There is growing recognition amongst companies to the importance of people skills, understanding that they are essential for a highly focused successful business. Yet in terms of recruitment, the training, measurement and definition of skills required seems still to work on ‘older models’ that rely on more generic ‘soft skill’ descriptors such as: ability to work in a team; good with people; excellent customer service skills and people management skills.
When I hear people talking about soft skills I wonder exactly what they mean? Are soft skills those abilities – tacit or otherwise that allow an individual to communicate well with others? Do soft skills go further, encompassing empathy, inspiration, adaptability, conflict management and creativity? If this is the case they must, by default, also include multiple intelligences, values, culture and models of the world.
In this business world, are we investing in research, training, and identification of the newer ‘soft’ technologies that will increase our expertise and provide us with an even greater ability to understand client and candidate requirements? Would we service the industry more if we took responsibility for establishing forward thinking by providing our staff and candidates with much needed training and coaching in these very necessary skills?
It is this myriad of soft skills that underlie and over pin the more measurable ‘hard skills’. As we layer ‘softer’ abilities through the ‘hard’ skills we gain flexibility and adaptability, which in turn leads us to better communicate, test our understanding, lead, facilitate and manage. The holistic nature of both skills set the tone for success and ultimately shapes careers. Successful people encompass a mix of hard and soft skills.
It is important to develop a propensity for people skills, to study, practice these skills and spend time understanding requirements. As with many areas our investment will be directly proportional to our results. Soft skills are not soft because they are easy – they take time, patience, endurance and skill.
Leadership & Influencing Dimension
There is no right way, nor is there only one way to influence others. Everything, but everything, is a factor when influencing people.
And we are, all of us, influenced by people, places, events and situations at all times. Sometimes we are affected more or less by these things, but we are continually being influenced by what happens around us.
So what about the specifics in the workplace?
Your job requires you to influence people just about all of the time. It may take the form of gaining support, inspiring others, persuading other people to become your champions, engaging someone’s imagination, creating relationships. Whatever form it takes, being an excellent influencer makes your job easier.
An interesting point about people, who use their influencing skills well, is that other people like being around them. There is a kind of exciting buzz, or sense that things happen when they are about.
It’s because they don’t sit around wishing things were different while moaning there’s nothing they can do about it. They don’t sit around blaming others nor complaining about what needs fixing that will make things better. They see what needs doing and set about getting it done. Truly excellent influencing skills require a healthy combination of interpersonal, communication, presentation and assertiveness techniques.
It is about adapting and modifying your personal style when you become aware of the effect you are having on other people, while still being true to yourself. Behavior and attitude change are what’s important, NOT changing who you are or how you feel and think.
You may try to exert your influence through coercion and manipulation. You might even succeed in getting things done; but that isn’t really influencing. That’s forcing people to do what you want, often against their will. You would not succeed in winning support. Pushing, bullying, bludgeoning or haranguing DO NOT WORK! Like elephants, people will remember the experience.
Indeed, if you force someone to do something you want, without taking their point of view into consideration, then the impression that person is left with is how they will see you forever. You’re stuck with it, unless you deliberately change what you do in order to be seen differently. People are far more willing to come halfway (or more) if they feel acknowledged, understood and appreciated. They may even end up doing or agreeing to something they wouldn’t previously have done because they feel good about making the choice.
Influencing is about understanding yourself and the effect or impact you have on others. Though it can, on occasion, be one way, the primary relationship is two way, and it is about changing how others perceive you. In other words, the cliché, ‘perception is reality’, makes perfect sense in the context of influencing.
It doesn’t matter what’s going on internally for you – if it isn’t perceived by the other person, then it doesn’t exist, other than in your mind. You could be doing the most brilliant presentation you’ve ever created, but if you haven’t brought your ‘audience’ with you, the brilliance is wasted. And that’s about being able to see what’s going on for them, which will be different, however much you may have in common.
Influencing can sometimes be looked at as the ability to ‘finesse’, almost sleight of hand. The other person isn’t prodded into seeing your view of the world, but is persuaded, often unconsciously, into understanding it. Sometimes you can get so used to your own personal style or way of being or pattern of communicating, that you don’t think of how it is being received, and you don’t think of behaving in any other way. Influencing is about being able to move things forward, without pushing, forcing or telling others what to do.
Now what we know is that one of the most powerful forces that affect people’s behavior is the avoidance of humiliation. No one wants to embarrass themselves if they can help it. So changing your behavior entails a certain risk. But if that behavior change is deliberate, and you have made an effort to see the world from the other person’s point of view, then humiliation can be avoided on both sides.
Whatever the arena you work in influencing others is about having the confidence and willingness to use yourself to make things happen. Influencing people is also the ability to ‘work’ a dynamic, whether it’s a large group, one to one or over the phone. By ‘working’ the dynamic, I mean using everything at your disposal, both verbal and non-verbal communication, to create the impact you want, rather than letting things just happen.
I have always been intrigued by how easily some people can get others to do what they ask for – be it a tiny favor or an entirely out-of-the-way request. There must be some secret, some basic principles that come into play.
Robert Cialdin, in his book Influence: Science and Practice provided six simple “weapons of influence” that can be evoked to get people to do your bidding:
1) The Law of Reciprocity:
This states that we are obliged to give something back to the person who has given us something first. Marketers make use of this law all the time when they give out “free” samples of their products. They know that there are a good number of people who would buy, just to return the favor.
The law of reciprocity came about mainly as a form of survival mechanism. Human beings had to rely on social exchange to build trust and a community – “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. We’ll both look out for each other”. However, throughout the years, manipulators have learnt to abuse this law. There was a religious group that went about handing strangers flowers and then asking them for a “small donation”. More often than not, the victims are forced to part away with some cash so that they do not break the powerful law of reciprocity.
2) Commitment and Consistency:
Generally, when people commit to an opinion or action, they will usually be consistent and honor the commitment. During World War 2, the Chinese made use of this principle to condition American Prisoners of War (POWs) to view communism as an acceptable form of politics by seemingly harmlessly getting them to write pro-communist opinions and share them verbally with other POWs.
The commitment and consistency principle has been widely used in politics as when voters are asked about their opinions of the candidates before an election. It’s not unusual to find the votes highly consistent with the pre-election commitments. It’s also not difficult to see how pre-framing with a bias towards a particular candidate can work in his favor.
3) Social Proof:
Have you heard of “Monkey Sees, Monkey Does”? What about the herd mentality? Well, essentially they are all the same thing. In social situations, people may be unable to figure out the right mode of behavior. They will thus tend to “follow the crowd”.
Savvy marketers make use of positive experiences of satisfied customers (aka testimonials) to induce prospects to buy their products. You will also see social proof in action in a bar where a man is surrounded by attractive women. Other women will automatically think that he is a high status man and involuntarily feel attracted to him.
Have you ever noticed that you tend to be easily influenced by people you like? And likability is affected by such characteristics as physical attractiveness, familiarity and similarity. That’s good news, isn’t it?
You can always attend grooming and social etiquette classes to look better and become more attractive to others. The techniques of mirroring, pacing and building rapport in NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) help create a sense of familiarity and similarity which accounts for their remarkable effectiveness in getting strangers to open up to you.
I’m sure you have seen advertisements where an actor dressed in a white coat tells you that a certain product is recommended by doctors or dentists from around the world. Even though you know that he may just be an actor, you are very likely to believe him just because he’s dressed like a doctor/dentist. That is because we tend to respect and listen to authority figures.
The principle of scarcity targets people’s innate fear of loss. Great marketers make full use of scarcity to drive sales all the time. There are at least 2 types of scarcity – Time scarcity and Quantity scarcity.
“Limited Time Offer”, “One Time Offer”, “Sale Ends Today!” and “Offer valid only until midnight” are all examples of time scarcity. They are very effective for getting procrastinators to take action immediately or risk missing the offer.
Quantity scarcity works pretty much in the same way. If you like a shirt or a dress but you are not really sure, you tend to think to yourself, “I can always come back next time”. However, if you find out that it’s the only one left in the store, I can safely bet that you would buy it on the spot!
Execution (Actions/Tasks) Dimension
You may have noticed that when one area of your life is out of harmony or balance that it impacts every other area as well. When you are devoting too much time (and only you know what is too much) to your career, every other aspect of your life is impacted. Every aspect of your life is intricately entwined with every other area. If you choose to devote no time to your personal growth, you will lack skill, understanding or wisdom that could contribute positively to some other aspect of your life. By the same token, if you spend time regularly relaxing or meditating, it could help you find the patience or calmness that you will bring to your career or family issues.
How do you manage family commitments while enhancing your career and dealing with all this increased clutter? Well, most people are aware of their tendency to overload on work or information but simply don’t know what to do to get their life back to a healthy balance. Being successful isn’t only about your career and your possessions, it’s about waking up every day and feeling good about the person you are and the life that you have created.
Many people are searching for ways to achieve positive and lasting change both in and out of work. The reality is many people are now living out someone else’s life dreams without leaving the comfort of their own living room. Why renovate your house or makeover your garden, when you can fantasize and watch someone else does it on TV for you? Most people spend more time watching TV than taking time to create positive changes in their lives.
Life is not a rehearsal so why not step up and make a difference?
Individual uplift comes with the right value systems that we incorporate within ourselves, enabling us to relate positively with the rest of the world.
To remain active is one of the basic values a person must inculcate within himself. Activity generates energy within us. It is the insignia of life. Those who give in to inertia vegetate and ultimately lead themselves to destruction. Having initiated action one must give it a proper direction. Activity without purpose is unproductive. One must set an ideal in life and the higher the ideal, the greater the energy generated. Actions dedicated to higher ideals are satisfying, entertaining and rewarding.
But actions undertaken with selfish motives become monotonous and cause fatigue. Look forward to Monday mornings instead of Friday evenings. Human dignity is hinged on pursuing noble ideals in life. Such a life becomes purposeful and meaningful.
Objectivity is an important quality that must go along with activity. It is the capacity to remain impersonal and detached in whatever one does and not allowing oneself to be mixed up with the results of action. True happiness does not lie in results achieved or not achieved but in performance of actions that ought to be done. ”Why have motives?” when action itself is most enriching, rewarding and ennobling. ‘Your life is enriched by the accomplishment of right action rather than the outward success or failure’. Having set a pattern of life one ought to perform actions surrendering to the plan of nature. Action burdened by the craving of fruits loses its effectiveness. A batsman obsessed with hitting a home run is likely to make a series of mistakes that prevent him from realizing his goal. The right approach is to concentrate on the action and dismiss the thought of the fruit from the mind. Then actions lead to success and ensure peace of mind.
Objectivity is maintained by the supervision of the intellect over the mind. Actions can emanate from the intellect or the mind or a combination of both. The mind functions on mere emotions, likes and dislikes; such impulsive action can spell disaster for the individual. When our intellect chooses action, it is based on reason and judgment, even as emotions support it. Such actions help us in achieving our ideals in life.
Self-control is another important value. Our senses gravitate towards sensing the objects for fulfillment all the time. Unregulated, the senses overtake and destroy our discrimination, taking us away from our set objectives. Sense pleasures are fleeting and temporary. Indiscriminate contact leads to diminishing value in terms of happiness while making us dependent upon the external objects. Self-control is neither denial nor unintelligent contact with the world. It is being a master rather than a slave to the senses.
Gratitude stands out as the foremost of individual qualities. From the moment one is born one is indebted to the world. We are given food and drink, air and light, temperature and right pressure. A sense of gratitude must be cultivated. The more we develop the attitude of giving the more we gain in life both in terms of happiness and prosperity. The way to gain something is to give it away.
This is evident in nature as well. Light consists of seven colors. When an object is bathed in light it absorbs certain colors and reflects back the others. The object actually gains the color of that which it gives away. A blue object appears so because it absorbs all colors, giving back the blue. So also in life, we are parted from that which we cling to and gain that towards which we maintain a spirit of dispassion. A value-conscious person maintains an inner cheer. His actions are dynamic and beneficial to all.
Next week, let’s take a look at the Inner Life and discuss how one can balance the three dimensions that comprise the inner life as a means to harmonizing their life and achieving inner peace spiritually.
In the meantime, I welcome you to share your Self-awareness story in the comments section below on this blog and I promise to read your story.
Dr Surya M Ganduri, PhD. PMP. is the Founder & President of eMBC, Inc., an international firm specializing in strategic and executive leadership development processes that Help People Succeed in an Evolving World. Dr Surya has over 28 years of business experience in management consulting, leadership development, executive coaching, process improvements, organizational development and youth leadership. For more information visit www.eMBCinc.com or contact eMBC, Inc., directly at (630) 445-1321.