BossWoman ENews |
Combining prosperous work lives and balanced personal lives
My goal is to bring you news, insights, and information about leading a balanced and prosperous life.
In this issue, you'll find:
- Happy New Year
- BossWoman coaching
- Up and coming workshops
1. Happy New Year
This familiar greeting as we transition to a new calendar year
may seem like a mere social ritual. Yet a deep wish and
longing lie beneath it namely, that we yearn to have a happy
life and wish the same for others. This time of year, you will
be reading lots of sidebar articles in print and online
publications about New Year’s resolutions. I have written in
previous newsletters (Jan. 2002) about why making resolutions
doesn’t work but this year I want to give some reflections on
what you might do to take a different approach to the New Year
what constitutes a “happy new year” and what you can do to
have one. Research from the new subfield of positive
psychology has provided scientific evidence that people can do
something about raising their happiness level. I have
organized some of the main research findings into three areas
or strategies for happiness: the three M’s: Meaning, Mastery,
Positive psychology researchers led by Martin Seligman at the
University of Penn describe three paths to happiness: the
pleasurable life, the good life and the meaningful life. They
are all important to living a rich and full life with the most
important being the meaningful life. The Pleasurable Life
involves pleasures such as a nice house, good food, and
recreational activities. We all know people for whom this is
their only path. They can’t wait until 5 o’clock for real life
to begin whether it is stopping for a few beers at the
neighborhood pub or riding their motorcycle they seek one
pleasurable experience after the other without much substance
The Good Life relates to achievements whether from the deep
satisfaction of a job well done or time spent in intimate
communication with friends and family. When one is between
achievements or things are not going so well, people who use
this path as their main route to life satisfaction feel a
bit empty like something is missing.
The Meaningful Life pulls everything in your life together
like a connect-a-dot puzzle providing a foundation for all
you do. It answers the question: “Why do I do what I do?” It
might include your philosophy of life. It might include your
values and how they inform your life decisions. It might
include beliefs in something outside of yourself whether a
Higher Power or a sense of community. It guides your moral
compass and it answers, when all is said at the end-of-life
question: “Was it all worth it?”
When I coach people to develop the Meaningful Life as part
of a happy new year and a happy life, I ask them to
construct their personal Pyramid of Power with four
horizontal strips placed on top of each other from the
bottom up: purpose, mission, vision, and goals.
- A statement of purpose. It answers the question, “Why
am I here?” It is usually short, abstract, and, once
articulated, changes very little across your lifetime.
Some examples that my clients have come up with:
- “I am a bridge connecting ideas and people for the greater
- “I manifest God’s love for his people.”
- “I bring order and beauty to an ugly and chaotic world.”
Writing such a statement sounds deceptively simple. It
often takes awhile and sometimes follows writing the other
pieces that form your Pyramid of Power even though it is the bottom
strip of the Pyramid.
- A mission statement. This statement answers the question:
“How shall I live out my life?” It also answers the question,
“If I were to live my purpose, what would I be doing?” Longer
and more concrete than a purpose statement, it is meant to
serve as a guideline for about 3-5 years or 6 months
whichever seems most viable. It will get rewritten when it is
achieved or when it gets out of date given new opportunities
and interests. I like to use a formula developed by Laura
Beth Jones in “The Path” including:
- 3 verbs of what you are good at;
- 3-8 values that you hold dear;
- 2-3 groups of people that you serve.
Here is what one client, a medical researcher, came up with
for her mission statement:
“I research, promulgate, and teach about coronary artery
disease to students, colleagues, and patients who value
clarity, integration of ideas, and hope.”
- A vision statement. A vision statement answers the
question: “If I work on my mission, “What will result?”
It represents outcomes hoped for, dreams conceptualized. It
will be the longest of these pieces, actually composed of
substatements based on categories you create out of
dreaming big about your mission and its results for you,
your immediate world, and the wider world of your
business, family or the globe. Sometimes my clients start
with categories such as home, work, family, friendships, or
hobbies and then generate how their mission would be
articulated into an outcome in each area. Sometimes people
start with the specific dreams and categorize later into
6-8 categories that act as umbrellas for catching and
holding new dreams and goals. The substatements are stated
in the present tense even if they are not currently true.
This grammatical form creates immediacy and propels one’s
One client wrote one of her statements about caring for
herself: “I am a good steward of my health in body, mind,
- Goals. In order to achieve the vision of doing your
mission, you will need goals. Most professionals already
have lots of goals more than we can complete in a
lifetime. Some of the traditional New Year’s resolutions
are goals. What is different here is that the goals are
anchored to the rest of the Pyramid of Power instead of
floating around by themselves. They relate to a Big
Picture of why you are here, what you are doing while you
are here, and what you hope results from your actions.
Your goals are ways to carry out those hopes.
Once these elements are created, I help people create a
Life Management System to organize, track, and evaluate
the elements. It could be in a 3 ring folder so that
pages can be moved around, or on a planning wall, or in
a computer project management file. These devises should
be reviewed and revised periodically such as weekly,
monthly, or quarterly. Many of my readers have already
developed their Pyramid of Power in the workshop where we
first met. Perhaps now is the right time to consider
spending a few minutes at the start of this New Year
reviewing and revising your Pyramid. If you have not yet
taken me up on my offer of a complementary coaching
session to get these elements in place, this might be a
good time to gift yourself with a session.
Most of my readers are busy professionals with active
work lives. A Happy New Year often means some element of
success, prosperity, or productivity. The high
performance literature is rich with theories about
success depending on effort, education, talent, or
dedication. While these things are all important, the
data don’t support the claim that these factors account
for success. There is one variable that shows up in the
peak performance literature that accounts for more
predictability of success than any other. It shows up in
the sports data, business sales data, and even predicts
the accuracy of certain medical procedures such as
colonoscopies. That variable is mastery, the level of
achievement that comes from doing things well
consistently. It is attained by one strategy, that of
repeated practice with feedback.
Even if you ignore professional sports stories as I
usually do, you probably know basketball’s Michael
Jordan’s story. Cut from his high school team for lack
of talent, he dedicated himself to practice. Sure he was
somewhat coordinated. Sure he was motivated but what
really made him a star was practicing shooting,
dribbling, and rebounding over and over again way beyond
the hours when most people would have gotten tired and
given up. In his field the natural outcome measure was
baskets made. The ball either drops through the hoop or
doesn’t being close doesn’t count. Even when he
finally was drafted by the Chicago Bulls, what made him
a star on a great team was that he consistently
practiced 2-3 hours past the work day of his teammates.
He got good because he practiced with feedback, number
of baskets made, until he got a groove that he could
count on, until his whole body learned how to shoot
successfully from every angle.
If you are a gastroenterologist doing colonoscopies,
your outcome measure will be polyps removed. Removing
polyps translates into lower risks for colon cancer for
your patients. According to research published in 2006
in the New England Journal of Medicine,
gastroenterologists working on mastery take just a
little more time to get from the endoscopic camera.
Their effort pays off in their own sense of mastery
and in lower long term risks for their patients.
If you want to be successful in sales, ask your
satisfied customers what made the sale. Ask your
non-buyers what would have made the sale. In addition
seek feedback from a sales coach who can watch a
video tape of your approach with live prospects.
If you want to be a successful teacher, ask your
students for specific feedback. Not, “Did you like
the class?” but, “What did you like about the
class? What did you learn? What do you wish we had
done differently?” Get a master teacher to visit
class or view a video tape to give you feedback.
Practice new techniques until they are second nature,
until you can facilitate discussions easily or give
instructions for a lab exercise that your students
can actually understand and follow.
If you want to have a Happy New Year in your work
life, aim for mastery in one small part of your
professional life or other area of your life.
Mastery does not mean a relentless pursuit of
perfection, though, but merely the targeting of one
small area of improvement through a bit of extra
practice. It might involve target something in your
work life that could be improved. Or this might be
the year where you attain mastery in an aspect of a
hobby like one year when I did a ballroom dance
showcase with my teacher. Unlike the stars on Dancing
with the Stars, I didn’t take off from work and
family to devote 8 hours a day. Instead I spent 3-6
months mastering the techniques and choreography of a
cha-cha routine by taking one lesson a week with my
teacher during which he gave me feedback and
practicing at home in front of mirror where I got
immediate visual feedback. Closer to show time, my
teacher and I also practiced with a coach who gave us
feedback. While the process was hard work, it was
enormously satisfying. I was happy that I mastered a
difficult routine and danced it in front of an
audience. Is there an area of your work or hobby life
where mastery can increase your happiness this year?
Meaning and mastery sounds like such serious business,
you might wonder what happened to the Pleasurable or
the Good Life. Can’t we have any fun in the New Year?
Where is the balance?
The key to successful balance is not in carving out
equal portions of your waking time to each aspect of
your life. It is in emphasizing what you want to
emphasize in each portion. This may change from moment
to moment, day to day. That is why you need to be
mindful of where you are in the process. I offer to you
that most busy professionals need to be mindful of the
three kinds of time segments in a typical day or week:
- Thinking Time
- Doing Time
- Buffer Time
Thinking Time is when you plan, track your goals, and
assess your successes. It is when you reflect on your
Pyramid of Power or goals for mastery and decide what
is needed next. It might be when you write a sales
presentation or a professional paper.
Doing time is when you do what you do. Taking care of
kids is doing time. So is meeting with your employees
or faculty to discuss trends in the field. Doing is
busy; it is productive - as long as it is guided by
your Pyramid of Power.
Buffer Time is the in-between time. Commuting, picking
up the dry cleaning, going to doctor’s appointments,
getting hair cuts represent things we do in Buffer
Time. We need this time. Without it our lives get
chaotic and fall apart. We also fill Buffer Time with
activities that do not add to our happiness level such
as watching TV in Buffer Time, gossiping at the water
fountain or faculty lounge, sleeping in, or eating or
drinking too much. That is why Mindfulness is so
important. Asking, “Is this activity adding to or
subtracting from my quality of life?” will bring you
up short to see if you are using your time to live a
fun, successful, meaningful life. Asking, “Am I having
enough fun for my effort,” is another good question.
Sometimes doing nothing and just hanging out is
important Buffer Time; sometimes it is wasting time.
Only you can evaluate which is which.
Mindfulness requires periodically hitting the magic
restart button on your brain with time for reflection,
relaxation, or meditation. Realigning your neurons with
these activities allows you to have more focus in a
scattered world. Add in the one activity found by the
positive psychology researchers to be especially helpful
in deepening your happiness by asking at the end of the
day, “What am I grateful for?” It will bring you full
circle to connecting all the dots of your Happy New
Year: the meaning, mastery and mindfulness of your life.
Have a Happy New Year. A really happy one!
2. BossWoman coaching
About the publisher: Susan Robison, Ph.D. is a professional coach,
speaker, author and seminar leader. She loves to coach women who
want improvement in:
- work-life balance,
- career transitions,
- building your business or practice,
- time management,
- increasing productivity.
If you are feeling stuck on the way to your ideal life, give Susan
a call for a complementary half-hour coaching session.
She provides keynotes and seminars to business and organizations
on the topics of:
- leadership strategies for women,
- work-life balance,
She offers her audiences a follow-up coaching session because she
knows that workshops don’t work.
Contact Susan for your coaching, speaking, or seminar needs at
Susan@BossWoman.org or at 410-465-5892.
3. Up and coming workshops
I am currently accepting speaking invitations for
work/life balance workshops for the winter of 2008.
Contact me if your group needs a speaker on
any of the topics listed above.
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© Copyright 2008 Susan Robison. All rights reserved. The above
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