Archives for March 2010

When to Forget About Putting All Your Ducks in a Row

tundraswans by firda on flickr

tundraswans by firda on flickr

If you find yourself many weeks into planning a project, you may well be on target toward your goal. You may well be doing the detail planning and rehearsing that will ensure your success. But while putting your ducks in a row is a popular metaphor for making preparations and sounds like the right thing to do, it may not be a good idea.

Here are three times when you should forget about putting your ducks in a row.

When you are putting off taking action on something that you’ll have many opportunities to revise and refine later.

Two decades before I bought my first computer, I researched and asked questions of everyone I knew who owned one. I closely studied features, benefits and costs.

When I made my third round to the same friend with another pile of questions, she said wearily, “Just jump in and buy one. You’re going to replace it in a few years anyway.”

I had not realized until that moment that whatever computer I chose would just be the first of many. I was treating this purchase as if was going to be a one-time event.

It seems silly now, but until that moment I was stuck.

Now I was finally able to move forward.

When you are building up a lot of fear over losing something before you even get it

I once operated a home-based tutoring program that I wanted to move to a commercial building where I would have more room and could schedule multiple activities at one time.

I found the perfect building. It was about 14 blocks from my house and I passed it on the way to drop my youngest at preschool. It was brick with its own parking lot, and was already decorated and furnished thanks to the decorator/chiropractor couple who once owned it.

But fear set in, and for good reason. I was not savvy about real estate negotiations and didn’t have big bucks for a down payment.

When I went on a walk-through I fell in love. It had an eleven-seat waiting room, a glassed-in reception area, a large office with a skylight and down the long hall were rooms on each side that would be perfect for small classrooms.

There was a kitchen, two restrooms and at the end of the hall a large room for conferences or other events.

Again I was gripped by fear, but I bought a book called How Not to Get Taken Every Time and set out to negotiate for the building.

Normally I was the one in our marriage who was surefooted, but this time I was equally as afraid as my husband. As we got closer to the possibility of actually becoming the new owners something entered my mind that quieted my fears.

We didn’t have the building, and if we were able to get it and through some unfortunate turn of events lost the building we’d be right back where we currently were. We wouldn’t have the building again.

That was an amazingly freeing realization.

We proceeded to buy the building and kept it for two years until I decided to close the tutoring program.

When you are putting in a lot of planning for something you deep down don’t want to do

When I closed my tutoring program I thought I wanted to offer educational seminars. In my usual manner I began researching, reading and attending seminars.

I made notes and drafted plans for many months.

Finally one day I caught myself sighing when I was looking over my plans for my educational seminars. That’s when it hit me that I had no enthusiasm for this project.

It had seemed like a good idea years before, but it clearly wasn’t where I was being lead at that time.

Wow! I could stop lining up those ducks toward this goal and reassess my direction.

Did you recognize yourself in any of these scenarios? If so, forget about putting your ducks in a row and instead take more action, risk failure and check in with your enthusiasm to be sure you’re headed for a passionate interest.

Want to Be Happier? Get with the New Program

Hotel cash ATM machine by cupcake fan on FlickrWhen I was preparing to travel to China the teller at my credit union advised me that merchants around the world preferred their own currency to traveler’s checks.

So, armed only with my debit card and credit cards, I went on my trip. Just as the teller suggested, I got cash from the hotel’s ATM machine and was well prepared for day trips and shopping.

One traveler who was part of our tour group, however, had insisted on buying traditional traveler’s checks because that’s what she had always done.

This disappointed traveler was almost in tears when the hotel front desk manager told her that they wouldn’t accept her traveler’s check. Even though she signed it in front of them the manager insisted that the signatures looked different.

You will be happier on the day that you accept the old way has been replaced with a more efficient and safer version.

Let me give you another example.

Many years ago when newspaper presses were computerized, some employees unwilling to learn to operate the new presses found themselves without jobs. If you’re on any job these days computer use is no longer optional, it’s part of the requisite skills.

Likewise, many people who are seeking temporary employment until they find the jobs they want are discovering that they need to upgrade their computer skills in order to compete. It doesn’t matter whether we think this is fair or not, it just is.

There are likely things that are still equally as good done as they were long ago, but if you’re stuck on doing things the old way you will find many great experiences and opportunities passing you by. In some situations you will just be shut out all together.

Want to Be Happier? Riding a Dead Horse Won't Help

Riding a Dead Horse by James Cridland from flickr

Riding a Dead Horse by James Cridland from flickr

I recently listened to a teleseminar with Brett Harward, author of The 5 Laws That Determine All of Life’s Outcomes He shared many powerful tips on running a successful business all based on the idea that we are not in a recession, but a revolution.

He emphasized that the way of running businesses has changed. The consumer has many choices and a strong voice. Businesses who don’t recognize this are trying to get back to normal. The only problem is that normal has changed.

If you are trying to be happier, but experiencing frustration, you may be trying to live by the old “normal” in your life.

Let me give you an example.

A friend expressed her upset that her teenage nieces and nephews never call her on the telephone or write letters. She continued with accusations of how thoughtless they were. After all, she had done for them when they were growing up.

She confessed that when she complained to them they told her that if she had a computer they would send email or a cell phone they would text her, but that they seldom make phone calls anymore.

That made her even more upset. No way was she going to be forced to get a computer or a cell phone.

Her unwillingness to recognize that modern communication has changed has kept her from more frequent contact with her relatives.

She certainly does not have to invest in a computer or a cell phone if that’s her choice, but she also won’t achieve her objective of keeping close relations with her nieces and nephews by ignoring the changes in how we communicate.

Another example.

A few years before I retired from teaching, we received a notice that all future minutes of our division meetings would be in the form of email. We were urged to read the minutes before the next meeting, notify the Dean’s assistant of any errors or omissions and bring our printed copies to the next meeting.

The Dean went on to stress that “I don’t like to read email” would not be an acceptable excuse and that the only print copy we would receive would be the ones we printed from our own computers.

Our school was actually behind the times compared to the advances in technology on other campuses, and yet some faculty members were upset at this change.

Their upset didn’t block the change in communication. They had to scramble along kicking and screaming, finally learning to use their computers, at least the email.

Are you one of those people who grumbles about the rapid pace of changes in communication, entertainment, transportation and many other things in our lives?

You’re not alone. I can remember dragging my feet on some gadgets and changes along the way. But I soon realized that my success, well-being and happiness were dependent on acknowledging and embracing change.

Riding a dead horse, especially upside down, makes for amazing art full of symbolism.(See photo above) But it’s not a good practice for life progress.

If so, watch out for those bumps and scraps you’re sure to sustain as you get pulled along at the tail end of progress.

Want to be Happier? Longing for the Good Old Days Will Keep You Stuck

42-15530533Many people believe that somewhere in the past were the good old days and that the old way of doing things is best.

If you are want to be happier but feel stuck, it may because you are clinging to this misguided belief.

Over the next few posts I will share why longing or trying to do things the old way will keep you frustrated, stuck and unhappy.

The truth is the good old days were not always that good. It may seem that way in retrospect, but if you examine all the aspects you may be able to put those memories in perspective.

And if you did have some great times but didn’t savor them because you were constantly trying to be in the future, you missed them anyway.

The number one reason the old way won’t work anymore is when it solved a problem that no longer exists.

There’s a story about a new bride who was cooking her first dinner and invited her mother. Her mother arrived early she was observing her daughter as she cooked.

She noticed that her daughter cut a roast in half and placed each half in its own pot on the stove to cook.

The mother looked at her daughter with curiosity and asked, “Why did you put that roast in two small pots instead of cooking it in just one large one?”

The daughter looked at her mother with surprise and said, ” Don’t you remember, that’s the way you always cooked roasts when I was a child.”

The mother threw her head back in laughter and said, “Oh. I just did that because we were so poor that those two small pots were all that I had.”

The daughter was following her mother’s practice without ever knowing why.

It reminds me of the way my mother rolled out dough with an empty beer bottle because she didn’t own a rolling pin. Wouldn’t it be silly for me to follow my mother’s habit when there’s no longer a need.

Take a look at your habits or your longing for the good ol’ days. Are you behaving according to an old problem that no longer exists or tradition that is no longer serving you?

Tell us about it.

Are You Making These Six Socializing Mistakes?

IMG_4088When you are fortunate enough to be on the guest list and agree to attend a social event, how you behave at the event will determine if there will more invitations in your future.

Socializing is more than just showing up. It involves interaction, communication and engagement. Before you attend your next social event, ask yourself if you make these six socializing mistakes.

Then before you head out to the event, vow to correct them.

1. Arriving empty-handed

Even if the event is not a potluck or a special celebration, it’s still a good idea to take a small gift. It does not need to be expensive nor lavish. Flowers and wine are popular, but you are not limited to these choices. A gift the hostess can enjoy after the event, such as a relaxation gift basket, is often welcomed. If you know the hostess personally, then use that knowledge to take something that will have special meaning for her.

2. Talking about yourself

You may well lead an exciting life, but a social event is not the time to announce to every attendee that you were just awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Chances are many already know that. The rest don’t care to hear it recounted. Instead, listen to the guests you meet and learn about their lives and activities.

3. Clinging to the person you came with

It’s very tempting to clutch to the arm of your date or spouse at a party or social event, especially if you don’t know anyone else in the room. But that’s no fun for your partner and is very off-putting for the other guests and hostess.

Ease your way to the food table or bar and cordially greet the most approachable person you can spot. Chit chat will do for a conversation starter. Again, resist the urge to talk about yourself, and get the other person talking about themselves instead. Getting to know others at the party will be more fun than you think.

4. Eating and drinking too much

Arriving at a party starved is not recommended. Unless the event is a sit-down dinner or a buffet, chances are the food is mainly snacks. Eat and drink moderately so that you can engage in conversation without food oozing from your mouth or your speech starting to slur.

5. Leaving without telling your hostess

Before you leave, seek out and say thank you to your hostess. There’s no need to make excuses. The hostess didn’t expect nor want you to move in.

6. Failure to follow up

Even though you said thank you in person, send a card or email to your hostess after the event. Attach copy of pictures you took since hostesses don’t always hire a photographer or remember to have someone take pictures.

Some of these tips may seem old-fashioned, but good manners, decency and courtesy never go out of style. Avoiding these six mistakes will add to your happiness and increase the likelihood that you will be invited again.