Do you have time for commitment?

My wife and I spent the weekend with our dear friends B and R. B and R are a bit older than we are. They are both successful professionals. Their kids are older, they’ve moved out, one married. In fact, B and R are expecting their first grandchild this year. They are empty nesters, both in great physical and mental shape. So, they are set up to have a great time for the rest of their lives.

As we were on our morning walk, I asked B, “So, what do you do for exercise?” and he said “Nothing.” When he saw my surprised look he continued and said in a guilty voice, “I know. I have to find the time in order to make the commitment.” After a little pause I responded with, “No, you have to make the commitment in order to find the time.”

I totally understand how B feels. I talk to so many successful people who want to do things in other areas of their life and they feel that “they don’t have the time for that commitment.”

Time is an interesting phenomenon. Every hour of the day is equal in length on the clock, however our experience of an hour could be quite different depending on the circumstances. Not for naught people say: “time flies when you are having fun” or “time moves at a snails pace when you are not enjoying what you are doing”.

I live in Canada, and every year around January my wife turns to me and says with a sigh, “This winter is so long. Seems like it will never end.” And, around mid-to-end of July she says in panic: “I can’t believe how fast the summer is passing by. I wish I could slow it down!”

I have noticed that on the day before the weekend or a vacation, when I feel like “I must get everything done in order to have the peace of mind on the weekend or vacation”, I seem to be much more productive and have more time to spare too.

If you Google “people are most productive when they are happy in their lives” you’ll find a host of articles and surveys that provide more insight into this topic.

Perhaps if my friend B, who wants to be fit and in great physical shape, made his commitment to his well-being a top priority, and then scheduled his exercise routine accordingly, his other activities would adjust themselves to his new schedule. B is a very focused and successful man. He would continue to be successful even if he had a few less hours in the week to work.

People always find or make time when they commit to things that are important to them.

Do you love your life?

In one of my earlier blogs “Living Courageously Through Journaling” I wrote about the benefits of journaling. This is a practice and discipline that I have adopted and taken on periodically over the last 25 years. I pick it up especially in times of transition, change, decisions or simply when I want to clear my mind and reflect on recent events.

One of the things I have been regularly writing about is what I feel most grateful and fortunate about in my life. In fact, every day when I write I start with: “I feel most grateful for” and then I let my writing flow from there. And, I list at least 10 things I genuinely feel fortunate and blessed about. Sometimes many more. I don’t limit, restrict or target the areas; anything goes. I include things about “who I am”, “what I do”, “who’s in my life” and “what I have”. And, what I love about doing this is that I can’t lie or pretend. I only write things I really feel grateful about.

I have found this exercise to be very energizing, empowering and enlightening.

Coming up with 10 things or more every day has really been easy for me because I love my life. But, if someone doesn’t love their life, or if they don’t love important aspects of their life, for example their work, health, marriage or finances, could they also easily come up with 10 things every day that they feel genuinely grateful for? It seems that it would be harder.

So, my question to you is:

Could you list at least 10 things you genuinely feel grateful, fortunate and blessed for every day?

If your answer is yes, you probably love your life. If you are finding it hard to come up with 10 things every day, you are either too resigned or there are some things you need to change in your life.

To test yourself I recommend you take this practice on for 30 days – every day at the beginning or end of the day write at the top of your page: “I feel most grateful for:” and then list at least 10 things you feel grateful, fortunate and blessed for.

If this is hard for you in the beginning, it will become easier as you practice this.

Raising kids or raising parents?

I recently had lunch with a client and during our conversation he shared with me some personal challenges he and his wife have been going through with their oldest child.

As a father of three, I could relate to his anguish as my wife and I went through our share of challenges with some of our kids, too. Because my kids are older now so I could give him some perspective and advice from our journey.

This weekend is Father’s day so I thought it would be appropriate to dedicate this blog to this topic.

I shared with him that about 10 years ago, when our older kids were teenagers, my wife and I had a few sessions with a parenting coach. She helped us a great deal by giving us a set of principles from the Adlerian method ( for managing our relationship with our kids, which I have never forgotten since. She said:

“If you want your relationship with your kids to works always make sure that:

  1. They experience unconditional love,
  2. There is mutual respect in the relationship,
  3. You have faith in your kids and the relationship with them.”

For me these meant:

  1. No matter what they do, how they behave and how we feel about them, always make sure they know that we love them unconditionally.
  2. Respect them and respect our selves. Make sure we never disrespect them, but also that we don’t do things that disrespect us and will cause us to feel resentful later.  And,
  3. No matter how bad things may seem – how miss-behaved or off-track our kids may seem at certain periods, always have faith that they and our relationship with them will eventually turn out well.

Over the last 10 years I have had the opportunity to confront, adopt and apply each of these principles many times. And, that made me a better parent and father.

The first principle seemed very basic but still required awareness and focus.

Many times when my kids did something wrong like come home late or lie about something I would reprimand them. I am a very passionate person; even when I don’t intend to raise my voice, I raise my voice. In fact my entire family is passionate, so in our family we do everything – the good and bad – very passionately and loudly. So, the first principle made me more conscious of not coming across too harsh so they always understood and believed that I loved them unconditionally.

The second principle was more challenging, especially the latter part. I found the part about ‘always respecting my kids’ straightforward. But, the part about ‘respecting our selves’ took my wife and I a bit of time to fully internalize. Perhaps because of our upbringing, we have the tendency to always want to give everything to our kids and never deny them. So we would sometime go-along with things like kids parties at our house, doing car-pools both ways and buying things our kids didn’t really need because others had them, without truly agreeing. The second principle taught us to say no to things that didn’t work for us. This actually strengthened our relationship with our kids because when we respected our own boundaries, they started to respect them as well.

The third principle was the hardest for me to internalize. I understood the concept but living it was challenging. When my oldest daughter was struggling in high school, overweight and with a low self-esteem, ‘having faith’ seemed counter-intuitive. At the time my skeptical thoughts were: “this may work for others, but not for us”. But, this principle does work and I have experienced it personally. To make a long story short – 2 years after high-school my daughter came to us and initiated going to college. 3 years after that she started to workout with a trainer and lost 95 lbs. She’s kept her weight off for the last 1.5 years and is now in the best physical and mental shape of her life. And, our relationship has never been better.

I have shared these principles with so many friends and clients over the years and most people resonated with these immediately. In fact, some found them as relevant, insightful and transformational as we did. It seems that everyone who has kids deals with these type of issues in some way at some point along the way.

When my first daughter was born 26 years ago it changed my life for obvious reasons. I know I am a good father, but like with other things in my life I have had to work at it and reinvent myself along the way, which made me a better person.

For me raising kids has always been more about raising parents.

Empower yourself to have more courageous conversations

In last week’s blog I stated that most people in most organizations avoid having the courageous conversations. They want things to change, they want more empowerment, responsibility, involvement and authority, but when push-comes-to-shove they often have diplomatic, watered-down or politically correct conversations.

In private conversations with leaders, managers, and employees in many organizations, most acknowledge that they are not as courageous as they need or want to be.

So, in this post I want to suggest some steps that could empower people and teams to go to the next level in this area:

First step – Fess up – In order to change their behavior, people need to first own up to their current behaviors and dynamics – in this case to their avoidance of courageous conversations. In so many cases, change doesn’t happen because people are either blind to their shortcomings or they are in denial and don’t admit them.

Second step – Embrace your alternate options – Have you heard the saying: “The truth will set you free?” When most people fess up to their shortcomings, gaps or lack of ownership, authenticity and/or courage, they feel relieved. And from that space, they can start thinking about, “So now what?”How else COULD I act and/or behave?” and “What else COULD I do?” For many people, this new space of possibilities is energizing. However, some people prefer to avoid responsibility; they can’t seem to get beyond blaming others and being victims of their circumstances. One very effective way to take ownership is to consider the “benefits” and “cost” of avoiding responsibility for having the courageous conversations. I have elaborated on this several times in previous blogs.

Third step – Make a choice and take a stand – When people own up to their alternate options, they can make real choices – choices about how they will think and behave differently, and what they will, in fact, do differently. Steps one and two are about completing the past. Step three is about creating the future. Making a choice is, in essence, taking a stand; promising a new course of action, launching a new beginning, and propelling oneself to a new trajectory.

Fourth step – Act and behave in accordance with your stand – Authentic choices lead to new actions and behaviors. People can reinvent themselves by following steps one through three and then beginning to act and behave consistent with their stand. In many cases, when the new actions are radically different from the past ones, people feel somewhat awkward, inadequate, and out of their comfort zone. I often refer to this as being “beginners.” They may even need to “fake it till they make it,” at first. However, if they are willing to stay the course and correct themselves when they stumble, fall or screw up, sooner than later the new actions and behaviors will start to become part of their new DNA.

The technology leaders from last week’s blog managed to generate meaningful breakthroughs in elevating the quality and effectiveness of their teamwork and communication by using these steps and increasing their authentic and courageous conversations. They did it together as a team so this made it easier for each of them to step up.

Today, they look forward to their meetings because at least 90% of their time is focused on the essential topics. People feel they can truly affect change. They had that mandate before, but now they feel they have “each other’s permission” and the environment to effectively do so. As a result, the team members feel much more comfortable to engage in whatever conversations that are necessary to reach alignment and make decisions fast. They also started to hold each other to account for commitments and deliverables much more courageously.