Tuesday, September 22, 2009

More is the Same than is Different

I recently read the book Resilience by Elizabeth Edwards. I am on a hiatus from business books and those in the psychology section of Barnes & Noble. My brain wants to be inspired and educated. I picked this book up because I have seen her interviewed a number of times and am so impressed with how she views her life. Here she is dying of cancer, she has young children, she is an advocate for health care issues and...she has been faced with her husband's very public infidelity. If there is anyone that can teach us a few things about resilience, it is Elizabeth Edwards.

So this got me thinking - when I am working with an executive, a patient, or even a friend and I am trying to help them understand the idea of resilience, I tend to say out loud, "More is the same than is different" no matter what it is he or she is dealing with. By focusing on the parts of your life that are the same, you can find your own strategies and tools for resilience.

Resilience is an important concept in companies with new hires, during training, when significant changes occur in the workplace, or when times are toughest. With performance appraisals you can spend one hour telling someone what a great job they are doing and when the meeting is over all the person remembers are the bad things they need to work on. We filter out the positive and hold on to the negative. Using the strategies of resilience, you can remove that filter to internalize a more balanced view of the feedback.

Here are some case scenarios where I believe it is important to look at "more is the same than is different."

  • Job Loss: We are not defined by our careers. In my opinion we are defined by our character and how we interact with the world. If you know someone who has lost a job, tell them, "More is the same than is different." They are still loved by their family, they are still full of potential and they have talents that are marketable. A report from Harvard even says that 73% of middle managers say their jobs haven't changed. What do you think?

  • Divorce: No one wants to get divorced but when it happens, it should be because all other options have been exhausted. Hollywood especially has had some nasty divorces over the years. People have to earn a divorce, I believe, in order to get one. Because getting one is not easy. More is the same than is different. With a divorce, you still have people counting on you, you still have people you count on, you still have to manage your money, and you still are capable of love and being loved.

  • Financial Struggles: I have a friend, Don Neubaum, who is a professor at Oregon State. He teaches in the business school and he and I went to high school together. I LOVE Don. It is okay because his wife Sandy knows it. In our conversations about the state of the economy and financial struggles that are occurring in businesses and in families, he believes that we should all learn from these lean years. Shame on us if we get fat financially when some of the struggles start to lessen. More is the same than is different. We all have to tighten our belts, do some serious soul searching on how we spend money, and be incredibly deliberate about our spending habits. No matter what the economic condition is, we have to be resilient and recognize that we manage money instead of money managing us.

  • Health: There has been a lot of research that there is healing power in the way we think. We can produce the good juices in our body that can build our immune systems. Yes, there is a limit. Yes, it is important to get the best health care possible, and yes it is important to remember that "more is the same than is different." With every health crisis, we are all still involved in our lives. We can become educated and we can live our lives with quality.
More is the same than is different.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

How to Leave Stress at the Office

I find it hard to leave stress at the office. Sometimes it's because I can identify with issues my patients are experiencing and empathize so much with their struggles. Recently I've been stressed over the fact that my great administrative assistant, Kathy, is moving with her family to Nashville. I know I can overcome how stressed I feel because I know: when we bring stress home we tell our friends and family that their time isn't as valuable.

M. Scott Peck said, "Until you value yourself, you will not value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it." I challenge you (and myself!) to value your time at work and at home and to stay in the Smart Zone.

One thing I hear when working with managers and executives who work long hours is that, at the end of the day, it is difficult to shake the feeling of being at work. Even when they get home they don't feel "at home." They feel disconnected and preoccupied with what took place during the workday or are anticipating the problems of the next day.

Part of the issue is that the intensity during our workday is different than the intensity of our home lives. Although our home and work life both take considerable mental and physical energy we still have to shift gears when we walk in the door at home.

In my business we provide strategies to stay in the Smart Zone that will improve productivity at home and work. But don't do this! Here are Smart Moves for leaving stress at the office:

  • Do you leave work and then use that same part of your brain at home? When I work on my financials at the office and then come home and work on bills, my brain is going to get overwhelmed. I've recently started taking serious Yoga classes near my home so I can balance how I use my body and my brain. As my instructor Carlos says, "Bring peace and calm into your world."

  • Are you finally energized by 3:00 in the afternoon? Eat a late afternoon snack that is high in carbs but low in fat and protein - like a granola bar, fresh fruit or a bagel. This type of snack jump-starts the amino acid in the brain that promotes a relaxation response.

  • Do you immerse yourself in work related content 24/7? What is by your bedside? Business books, financials, proposals? I have taken a sabbatical from business books to read bestsellers so I am exposing myself to more than just business and psychological literature. Right now, want to know what is by my bedside? The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb. All 723 pages. I will be sorry when I finish it because it is such a great book.

  • Set aside 10 minutes after lunch to return personal phone calls. This will eliminate your need to talk on your cell phone on the drive home at the end of the day. Instead you can listen to good music or an audio book. Click here for ways to maximize your lunch break.

  • Carve out transition time. Devote the final hours of your workday to some of your least-pressured tasks. I like listening to music on Grooveshark and doing paperwork. Thanks to my buddy Rex, I've now got speakers mounted on the inside of my desk so I can really enjoy my end of the day paperwork. You will feel a sense of accomplishment by completing at least one thing before day end.

  • Don't talk about work when you first get home. When you walk in the door at home resist the urge to immediately start talking about your day. Cooper and Sawaf, authors of Executive EQ, call this a "transitional buffer zone." This is time to renew your spirit of being home. Don't run to your computer to return emails. You might first greet your family, get your children a snack and change into some comfy clothes.