Complete 2017 in a meaningful way

As we enter the holiday season and end of 2017 it seems appropriate and timely to write something about “completing the year.”

Completing a chapter, initiative or task effectively can be just as powerful and exciting as starting or executing it effectively. However, it seems as if most people tend to focus more on the starting and executing part. We underestimate the power and value of completing things effectively, not merely finishing or ending them.

The dictionary defines finishing as Bringing a task or activity to an end‘. It defines Completing as ‘Making something whole or perfect’.

You don’t have to do anything for something to end. It is the nature of life. Things begin, go through their evolution and end. A year, a project or a lifetime, it’s all the same. But, in order to complete things – or more accurately to feel complete with activities or situations you need to apply a deliberate and mindful focus and awareness.

How do you complete things?

If you review the year’s events without the distinction completion in mind, you are likely to focus on the cold facts of what actually happened. You will ask yourself questions such as: “What did I do?” “What didn’t I do?” and “What results did I achieve?” While you may find intellectual satisfaction in taking stock of this year’s events in the most factual, objective and accurate way, this information won’t empower or uplift your spirit and soul.

In contrast, if you look at 2017 through the lens of completion you will be compelled to push your thinking and reflection beyond the cold facts of what happened to a deeper level. You will be compelled to own what happened and what didn’t happen in a more meaningful way.

You will ask yourself questions such as “What did I accomplish?” “What did I learn?” “Where and how did I grow?” and “How am I better, stronger and more prepared for the future?” This type of taking stock will deepen your connection with your higher purpose and vision and it will make you feel more satisfied and complete.

The notions of success and failure are interpretations, not facts. You can feel victorious and successful even when you haven’t met your goals. And, you can feel disappointed and unfulfilled when you did meet your goals. The feeling of success or failure is often determined by the notion of completion.

Completing the past will enable you to put things into a more powerful perspective. It will help you put the past behind you, and this will leave you feeling freer, stronger and more empowered and excited to focus on the future from a clean slate.

However, if you leave things incomplete, past incompletions could haunt you and cloud your thoughts, plans, and aspirations for the future. Furthermore, you could become more hesitant because of past failures and/or blindly confident because of past successes. In both cases, you would be reacting to your past and that won’t be effective or satisfying.

The good news is that you can bring completion to your past at any moment, no matter how good or bad things were. You just need to take stock, draw empowering conclusions from past events and then declare the past complete. It requires taking a stand, and, it takes courage. But, you can do it!

How to complete 2017 in a practical and meaningful way:

As you are ending 2017, reflect on your year. First, make the list of the facts – what happened, what you did and didn’t do and accomplish. It’s useful to start there. But don’t end there.

Ask yourself:

  1. What did I accomplish?
  2. What did I learn?
  3. Where and how did I grow and improve in the areas I care about?
  4. How did I forward my bigger personal and professional vision and purpose?
  5. What am I most grateful for?
  6. Who do I want to recognize and thank? (Make sure you tell them.)

Once you declare 2017 complete, you will feel a sense of satisfaction, peace, and fulfillment. In that space, you can powerfully start creating your next year to be your best year ever.

In conclusion, on a personal note  – thank you for following my blogs during 2017. I hope at least some of them were useful to you. I will be taking some time off myself and will post my next blog in the week of January 8th, 2018.

Wishing you and your family a Happy Holiday Season and Happy New Year!


Success through Rigor, Clarity and Responsibility

I received a few reactions to last week’s blog about not expecting what you haven’t been explicitly promised. Explicitly being the key word here. One of the comments said: “How do you deal with situations where someone promises you something, you expect it and it doesn’t happen?

The dynamic of people requesting and promising is often not as clear-cut and straightforward as people think, expect and describe it to be. In fact, it is rife with pitfalls, misunderstandings, and upsets. I have learned from experience that when disappointed people describe breakdowns as: “They promised and didn’t deliver!” there is almost always more to the story than that.

I want to share a few basic tips that may help you navigate this area more effectively:

1. Be committed to rigor and clarity. It will prevent misunderstanding:

I have seen so many times, in situations of conflict or dispute, person A insisting that person B promised to do or deliver something and simply not doing so, while person B denies that they ever made the promise in the first place.

Both sides feel resentful. Each side believes their version of the story represents the facts and truth. However, in many cases when both parties stepped back, looked under the hood and tried to view the situation objectively they realized that not bad faith or bad intent caused their heartache, but rather the lack of rigor and clarity in their initial interaction.

When requesting or promising there are three potential places where things could go wrong:

  1. What you are asking or what you are promising is not clear enough and not understood and agreed to in the same way by both sides. Often, instead of spelling it out people assume the other person knows exactly what they are asking or promising. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen that approach leading to misunderstanding and disappointment.
  1. The time frame of the promise is not clear. For example, a manager asks for a promotion, more resources or more budget for a strategic project, and his or her superior commends the effort and promises to make it happen “Sometime in the near future”. The manager leaves the exchange feeling excited and confident they will get what they have requested in the next thirty to sixty days and when it happens after six months he or she feel resentful that the promise was not met. Again, I have seen these types of misunderstandings many times.
  1. The level of sincerity and intent of the promise is not explicit. When you make a request and someone responses with “I’ll do my best” or “I don’t see any reason why not” don’t make the mistake of taking that as a promise. A promise is clear, explicit and unconditional. This doesn’t mean that a promise is a guarantee and therefore will always be fulfilled. However, when someone says: “I promise,” “You can count on me” or “You have my word” that represents a much stronger, sincerer and more committed intention to do what they said. People often avoid this level of clarity because it is uncomfortable and they fear it could lead to the realization that they may not get what they want.

2, Check-in, follow up and support the promise while it is being delivered:

When someone promises you something and they are in the process of working on it, your job is not over. You want to stay engaged and involved throughout the duration of the delivery cycle as a committed and vested partner in order to keep the promise alive. This interaction will look different depending on the nature of the promise and person you are dealing with. Sometimes it may mean checking in on a frequent basis. At other times, it may mean looking the person in the eye at the onset to get a sense of confidence that they really mean it, got it and will follow through.

Again, people avoid this type of interaction because it is disruptive and uncomfortable. They fear it could lead to the realization that they may not get what they want.

3. Manage undelivered promises with integrity:

No matter how sincere the promise, it is never a guarantee. Things happen and people who promise sometimes fail to deliver or change their mind. If you understand and accept that simple fact, you will be in a much better place to deal with promises.

The good news is that for the most part, people know ahead of the deadline when they are not going to deliver what they had promised. But unfortunately, people seem to have no problem not doing what they said, they typically just have a problem being upfront about it ahead of time.

The deficit in courage to acknowledge and take responsibility for promises that are not going to be delivered often goes both ways – to the one promising and the one being promised to.

Have you ever been in a situation in which someone promised you something, you had a feeling they may not come through, and still you avoided confronting them about it?

Regardless of position and role; whether you are the boss, a peer or a subordinate – if you are not going to deliver on your promise, letting others find out at the last minute and be surprised is not acceptable. It undermines trust, credibility, team confidence, team strength, and success.

If you can’t deliver what you promised, communicate in a timely and responsible manner. Then the two of you – together – can figure out alternative solutions and routes to rectify the situation or take a different course.

People want to fulfill their commitments and succeed, but they also can handle the truth, even if it is unpleasant. By interacting with rigor, clarity, courage, and responsibility you are giving respect, enabling success and fostering personal growth.

Stop expecting what you haven’t been promised

Having hopes, dreams, and expectations is a good thing, for the most part. However, sometimes having expectations can be a source of disappointment and frustration.

We have expectations in most areas of our life. At work, we expect our boss and colleagues to treat us a certain way. And we expect that things that are not working well in the work environment will get addressed and fixed in a timely manner.  In our personal relationships, we expect our partners to treat us lovingly, and with respect and generosity.

In fact, if you self-reflect I am sure you’ll see that most of the time in most key areas you have clear images and standards about how things should be and what they should look like.

Sometimes we explicitly express our expectations to others. However, more often than not we either describe them in diplomatic ways or drop hints or simply not say them at all.

When our expectations aren’t met, we tend to get upset, disappointed, frustrated. resentful, and angry. We also tend to complain and criticize those who didn’t do what we expected.

If we are honest with ourselves, we may realize that in many cases – perhaps in most cases – our disappointments are not based on the fact that someone explicitly promised something to us and didn’t deliver, but rather on our own personal expectations, standards, hopes and wants.

We often complain about things that we have no legitimate claim over because no one promised us those things. If someone did promise something to us and they didn’t live up to their promise and deliver, we would have the right to complain, but absent that premise, regardless of how strongly we feel that “they should have done it”, our expectations remain just that…

I was coaching two senior executives in a successful technology company. They were the heads of the two biggest sales divisions in the company. These two sales divisions had to collaborate on daily bases in order to pursue, close and execute deals. However, they also needed to abide by clear role definitions, in order to avoid stepping on each other’s toes in the marketplace. Striking that balance often proved challenging. The two executives had very different management styles and temperaments, which often caused them to clash when they had to deal with the inevitable challenges, disputes, and disagreements between the two divisions. Needless to say, their level of personal trust and communication wasn’t high.

They had many complaints about each other, which they often voiced even with their subordinates – about lack of honesty, courtesy, respect, transparency, and collaboration.

One of the executives kept complaining about the fact that his colleague was not including him in new opportunities and leads in a transparent way. But, the other insisted he was doing his best to do so. When I asked if they have created clear and explicit expectations about how to work together, and if they had made specific promises to each other on what they could be counted on for, the frustrated executive said “No” and added

“This is basic stuff. My colleague should know how to communicate and how to include me”

– as if there is some universal truth about how to work together effectively.

Once the executives learned to make specific requests for what they needed from each other, rather than merely expect the other to behave according to their standards, things started to work much smoother.

The good news is that there are effective and empowering ways to turn unfulfilled expectations and illegitimate complaints to effective and accountable actions and results. Here are some practical suggestions:

  • Every time you are frustrated, disappointed or upset about unfulfilled expectations in any area, ask yourself:
  • “Are these my expectations OR did someone actually promise these to me?”
  • If someone actually promised you something, don’t complain. Instead, hold them to account. You have the right and responsibility to do so.
  • If you want an expectation to be fulfilled in a certain area, look for someone who can promise what you want and explicitly request it.

It can be very energizing to have dreams, hopes, and desires as long as you don’t get trapped in the vicious cycle of unfulfilled expectations. You can start by simply abiding by the simple commonsense rule:

Stop complaining, being disappointed or upset about unfulfilled expectations that nobody explicitly promised you.

Are you living in the moment…?

I work with a lot of ambitious and driven professionals who set big goals for themselves and pursue these goals with extreme passion, commitment, and relentlessness. I pride myself on being the same.

For highly driven people the line between work life and personal time are often nonexistent. They think about work-related matters at home, attend to emails and text at all times of the day and night, and they have no issue creating, planning and managing personal endeavors while at work.

I have had many friends excuse themselves during dinner to take a call or respond to email about a business deal or transaction. At first, this seemed rude and antisocial behavior to me. However, over the years I have learned to accept and tolerate it. Personally, I try to avoid this behavior while entertaining or socializing with friends. However, I could do better at home and I believe I am, thanks to my wonderful wife who is on our entire family’s case about “Close all devices while the family is together!”.

If you are ambitious and driven, you know it comes with other characteristics, such as

  • You focus on the outcomes much more than the destination.
  • You don’t seem to ever be satisfied until you achieve your goals.
  • You spend very little time (if any at all) acknowledging, enjoying and celebrating your achievements. In fact, the minute you have achieved a goal you are immediately on to the next one.
  • You tend to be more highly-strung and not as good at “chilling”, “relaxing” as my teen kids sometimes put it, and simply enjoying the moment.

Generally, highly ambitious and driven people seem to be on a bold mission 24/7 and even when we achieve great milestones, progress, and achievements along the way, and others recognize us for it, we still often seem to feel like “We are not quite there yet”. We fall into the trap of feeling that only when we realize our goals and other achievements “we will really make it, and then be able to truly relax and enjoy life to its fullest”.

I have personally experienced this, and I have seen others become overwhelmed by the pursuit of their goals. It’s like, we create these goals to empower ourselves and them along the journey we sometimes forget that we are the ones who set them in the first place and put us in this dynamic.

Consider this quote from Fr. Alfred D’souza, which I thoroughly love and resonate with, which eloquently conveys this:

“For a long time, it had seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be got through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last, it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life”.

The entire “retirement” concept is predicated on this paradigm – we work extremely hard throughout our life, often sacrificing and neglecting key areas like family, marriage, health and recreation, typically in order to achieve financial goals that would allow us to get to that stage in our life when we can retire and then “Truly start doing what we love to do” I have heard this strategy from so many people.

In addition, ambitious and driven people so often equate their material achievements and success with their identity and self-worth. As a result, they get caught in the hamster wheel of jealousy and competitiveness, and even when they reach certain milestones they don’t take the time to appreciate and celebrate what they have accomplished. Instead, they move right into the next goal and the rat race continues.

And, let’s be honest, the popularity of social media doesn’t help at all! In fact, it only makes things worse. Instead of only seeing our neighbor’s new car, we are now connected with thousands of “friends” online and seeing how others live their lives. No wonder we often feel like the grass is greener on the other side.

Throughout our prime years, as we are working our butts off, we feel like “when we get the next promotion…. close the next deal…. make the next million…buy the house or car of our dream or get our children through college or “married…. “THEN life will truly be great”.  But then when we reach old age we often talk about our life as “The good old days”.

So, if throughout our life we feel that “someday” we will start living and then at the prime of our life we feel like “the good old days are behind us”– When is our time to live and enjoy, and be happy???

We all know the answer – “NOW!”. But, it’s not enough to understand this. You need to translate it into real practices, routines, and priorities.

In a future blog, I’ll share my thoughts about “How to not forget the Now” and not forget to live in the moment!