Gain and Pain

dreamstime_xs_35911205, croppedYou have probably heard the concept that we have two basic choices.  We can choose long-term gain for short-term pain or we can choose short-term gain for long-term pain.

Most of the decisions I have made in my life were long-term gain for short-term pain.  In college I regularly choose to study instead of party.  In my careers I regularly chose to work long, hard hours and to do my best rather than slacking.  I have usually chosen to do what was right or responsible rather than what I felt like doing at the time.

These decisions have paid off for me.  I consider myself to have a happy, successful life, both professionally and personally.

What I realized the other day, though, was that I am at a point in my life where I can ease up.  I can do more of what I want because I want to.  I’ve reached the long-term gain and I don’t really need to worry so much about the short-term pain.  I’m glad I’ve made this realization now, where I can enjoy it fully.

If you are like me, and have consistently made the long-term gain decisions, I suggest that you stop and access where you are in life.  Could you do a little more of the short-term gain items?  With where you are now, is there much long-term pain to worry about?

Planning Backwards

dreamstime_xs_54563294Although we usually think of planning as starting at the beginning and finishing at the end, it can be beneficial to start with the end and continue backwards to the beginning.

Most of us probably do this frequently in small ways.  For example, to determine when we need to get up in the morning to get to work on time, we might plan something like this:

  • I start work at 8:00, so…
  • I need to arrive at work at 7:45 to park the car, punch in, etc. to be on the job by 8:00.
  • It takes 45 minutes to drive to work, so I need to leave home at 7:00.
  • It takes 90 minutes to get ready and take care of the pets, so I need to get up at 5:30.
  • However, it’s snowing, the roads will probably be bad in the morning, so I need to allow an extra 30 minutes to drive to work. I need to set the alarm for 5:00.

This process can also be beneficial for our large dreams and goals, especially if they are very specific.

For example, if someone wanted to design motorcycles for a specific company, good information to obtain could be:

  • Is this an entry level position? If not, what entry level position can lead to the desired position?  What advancement is necessary within the company?
  • What experience is required to be hired by the company? How can it be obtained?
  • What education/degree is required? Where do most of these graduates attend college?
  • What needs to be done to be accepted into that college and that degree program?
  • What needs to be done to be able to attend that college? (For example, would it require moving? Financial assistance?)

The plan, of course, would include the details on how to make this work.  Additional questions might include the following.  Would an internship meet the experience requirement and could that be completed during college?  If the person is in high school, what classes could she take and what grades would she need to be accepted to the college?  If she is already in the workforce, can some of her work experience assist her in being accepted to the college?  Are there classes she needs to take before she will be accepted either into that college or into that program?  What financial assistance is available?  What support, if any, will she need from family?

The next time you need to plan something, try planning backwards and see if it helps you develop a better, more detailed plan.

Did You Do Better?

dreamstime_xs_83897954When we tell ourselves that we did something well, that’s positive.  Maybe we did well in an interview, in a discussion, or in confronting an employer, employee, or customer.  Maybe we did well in something that benefits our health, such as exercising.  Maybe we handled a difficult situation with a friend or family member with respect.  When we give ourselves credit for doing something well, that helps our self-esteem and helps us to do well again.

Sometimes, though, we do not do well.  We handle a situation poorly.  Unfortunately, when this happens we sometimes focus too much on how poorly we did.  We then sometimes extend that into other areas.  If we are bad at “A” then we must be bad at “B,” for example.  This, of course, hurts our self-esteem and makes it more difficult to do well next time.

When we do not handle a situation well, or do not do as well as we could at something, it’s important to recognize it and learn what we can from it.  But it doesn’t do us any good to beat ourselves up over it.

A question that helps me is, “Did I do better than I normally do?”  If the answer is “yes” then I know that at least I am improving and can do even better the next time.  It encourages me to keep trying rather than giving up.  As long as I am progressing, there is a good chance that eventually I will do well in that situation.

Often it is not a matter of doing “good” or “bad” but doing “better.”

If You Made the Rules, You Can Change the Rules

dreamstime_xs_37880536I recently realized that there are many things that I do that I don’t care to do anymore.  These are mostly little things like getting Christmas gifts for my brothers, sisters-in-law, nieces, and nephews and getting birthday gifts and cards and holiday cards for my nieces and nephews throughout the year.

When the family was smaller, this was fun.  I enjoyed it.  Over the years, though, as my extended family has continued to grow, and as my husband’s sons have married and had children, it has become less fun and a little overwhelming.

At first I felt guilty about not wanting to do these things anymore.  Then I realized that I was the one that told myself that this is what I needed to do to be a good sister or aunt.  There are no laws stating that I must do this.  These are things that most people do not do anyway.  No one has ever even told me that they expect me to do these things.

I made the rules on what I “needed” to do.  Which means that I can change the rules.  And I have.  And everyone has been very supportive.

I am using this concept for other aspects of the holidays as well.  Who made the rule that I must send out holiday letters?  I did.  I’m not doing it this year, and I may not send out cards next year.  With social media, I’m not sure it’s necessary to send cards to stay in touch.

Who made the rule that the house must be decorated so completely?  I did.  We had already decided to limit the decorating because we have a 6-month old kitten that believes everything, breakable or not, is his toy.  If I want to decorate more next year, fine.  If not, that’s fine, too.  No one else really cares.  (My husband cares about having a tree, but the rest is fluff.)

Who made the rule that I must cook big holiday dinners for both sides of the family?  I did.  This year we are doing appetizers for my husband’s side and everyone is bringing something.  They really seem to be looking forward to it.  I’m not sure what we’ll do for my side, but I already know it will be more convenience and less scratch.

I write and speak on encouraging women to think about what they do, why they do it, and do they want to change.  This is another way to think about the same concept.  Who made the rules that you must do something?  If you did, you can change them if you want.

This is something that you can use for little things, as discussed here, or for big things.  Who made your rules on what success means?  If you did (and you did) then you can change them if they are not right for you.

Best Decision

hAll we can do is make the best decision we can with the information we have at the time.

Of course, we need to do the research so that we have adequate information.  We will never have all the information available, but we can gather what we realistically need.

Once that is done, we make the best decision we can.  That is all we can do.

It does not do us any good to second-guess ourselves afterwards.  Hindsight is always 20/20.  Rather than wasting time and energy on beating ourselves up for a making a “bad” decision, we can learn what we can from it and move forward.

If we made the best decision that we could with the information we had at the time, that is all anyone can do.

Self-Limiting Belief Systems

dreamstime_xs_30823517We all have belief systems.  We all have beliefs on how the world is and who we are.  Some of these can be beneficial.

For example, a belief system that I have had since I was a child was that if I wanted something, I needed to work for it.  If I wanted “A’s” in school, I needed to study and do the assignments well.  If I wanted nicer clothes than what my parents could afford, or more books, I needed to earn the money to buy them.  As an adult, this belief system continued.  I needed to complete college, to work hard to get promotions, to get raises, to earn money to buy the things I wanted.  I needed to save money, to invest money, so I could take care of myself in the future.  My husband shares this belief system and together we have been very successful.

Sometimes, though, we have self-limiting belief systems that can get in our way of being successful (however we define success).  “I’m not good enough” or “I don’t deserve it” limits our ability to achieve what we want.  Too often, these self-limiting belief systems do not even have a basis in reality.  We believe them because we have been telling ourselves these things for years.  This is something that probably most of us need to address, at least at some point in our lives.

I am beginning to realize, though, that belief systems that worked well for us in the past may become self-limiting as our lives change.

The reason I say this is that my husband and I are at the point where we can retire.  We may semi-retire first as there are still things professionally that we want to do.  However, we want to have time to do things we want, like travel, while we are still healthy enough to be able to do them and enjoy doing them.

The belief system that I have always had, to work hard to earn money, is hindering the new belief system that I am developing on what semi-retirement means to me.  I can slow down now, I can do things I want to do, rather than what I have always had to do.  This is a new concept for me, and is a difficult adjustment—not unpleasant, but difficult.

For example, a friend and colleague recently asked if I would be interested in being a delegate for a professional association.  One of her selling points was “It would look great on a resume.”  Initially I agreed that, yes, it would look good on a resume.  Then I thought a little more.  I no longer need to build a resume.  The question now isn’t whether this will benefit me professionally, will it make money for me, but do I want to do it?  Do I want to take time away from what is most important to me professionally (write books) to do this?  Do I want to take time from personal pursuits (travel) to do this?  The answer was a very easy “No.”

We do not change our belief systems overnight.  It takes time.  It takes effort.  I know I will be working on my change for some time.  And that’s fine.  The important thing is that I am consciously working on it.

Do you have self-limiting belief systems?  Any that have always been limiting and need to be addressed?  Any that may have served you well in the past, but now, not so much?

Gems or Gravel?

Gems or Gravel? (Video Link)

dreamstime_xs_45482889When people give you advice, it is important to sift through the gravel to find the gems.

I learned this several years ago when I belonged to an association. The members were very friendly, helpful, and full of advice. I took in everything everyone told me and tried to apply it all. It did not work.

I realized that although everything they gave me were “gems” to them, because these things had worked for them, not everything was right for my situation. Of the advice I received, some could be considered precious gems and worthwhile to implement quickly. Some advice was more in the line of semi-precious gems, advice that was worthwhile to implement at some point, but not a priority at the time. And some advice, for my situation, was gravel and best discarded.

I spent quite a bit of time and money trying to implement everything. With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, I realized that it would have been better had I analyzed every piece of advice first to see if, for me, it was a gem or gravel.

When people offer advice, be careful not to use the gravel. Do not discard everything without analyzing it first, however, because there probably will be some gems in there somewhere.

Adapt

Adapt (Video Link)

dreamstime_xs_39505553I have read that the ability of a species to survive is dependent upon its ability to adapt. I think this is true. I think it is also true that our ability to succeed is in part dependent upon our ability to adapt.

The only constant is change. As things change, we need to be able to adapt.

We do this in very simple ways without even thinking about it. If the weather turns cold, we dress warmer. (Well, most of us do. I still do not understand flip-flops in the snow.)

Most of the time, though, adapting to change is not this easy. A new job, a new position, a new supervisor, a new owner, a new corporate culture all creates change and requires us to adapt to the new situation. We need to adapt to remain successful. The way we used to do things may not be acceptable anymore.

Frequently changes in our professional life are the result of changes in the economy and the world in general. We need to adapt to these changes.

We need to adapt in our personal lives as well. Changes occur. Our parents get older and require more assistance. Our children get older and require less assistance. Our lifestyles change and we need to adapt.

Change is often good and adapting can be fun. However, even when we do not want to adapt to a new situation, it is usually best if we do. The only other alternative is to leave the situation. We need to embrace the changes and adapt, rather than bemoaning the past.

“Why” vs. “What”

“Why” vs. “What” (Video Link)

studentI think that why we do things is almost always more important than what we do.

For example, if someone says something to us at work that we do not agree with, we can say something or we can say nothing. Either can be good or bad. The difference is why. If we say something because we want to clarify the issue, that is a good reason. If we say something to embarrass or humiliate the person, that is poor reason. If we do not say anything because it is not that important, that is fine. If we do not say anything because we want to avoid conflict at all costs, that can be a poor reason and may cause other problems later.

Before we do something, it can be very beneficial to ask ourselves, “Why would I do this?” An important follow-up question is, “And why else?” Asking this several times can help us determine the complete answer.

After that it is easy. Are those good answers? If yes, then continue. If not, then think again about what to do and why.

Reflect on the Old Year

hMany people make New Year’s resolutions.  Many of those who make resolutions do not achieve them.

I think one reason is that many of us do not reflect on the old year.  What did we do?  Why did we do it?  Did our decisions and actions achieve the results we wanted?  If not, what could we have done differently?

If you truly want to achieve your goals for 2015, I suggest you first think very strongly and clearly about 2014.  Use that knowledge to develop goals and plans for 2015.

May you achieve everything you want in 2015!