Taking the Time to Find Your Calling: Two Ways to Get Started

I’ve been reading an interesting book by Richard J. Leider and David A. Shapiro called Whistle While You Work: Heeding Your Life’s Calling. The authors explain that in many instances our calling comes to us when we are removed from everyday routine—that’s when we are able to listen to what authentically moves us from the inside.

Each summer, my wife, Margie, and I spend time at our lake home in upstate New York, where we are removed from our everyday routine and obligations in San Diego. This change of scenery allows me to do just what the authors of the book describe: I get time to think about where I want to make a difference in the world. In fact, I do most of my writing at the lake. I have time to think about the issues leaders are facing around the world and spend time researching and writing articles and books that offer solutions to those challenges.

So what’s your calling—and how do you discover it? In addition to taking the time to quiet yourself by removing yourself from routine, I also think it is important to identify the activities that cause you to lose track of time—that’s a hallmark of a calling versus something you are driven to accomplish. For me, writing at the lake certainly ticks that box. How about you? Think about using vacation time to quiet yourself. Pay attention to what you learn. This concept goes beyond what you do to make a living—think about what you want to do in your community or with your family that will support your values and purpose.

It’s never too late to make changes in your life by taking advantage of your most precious commodity—time. Life is a very special occasion, so celebrate it by finding and honoring your authentic self!

Enter Your Day Slowly to Lead a Balanced, Productive Life

Years ago I learned a very important lesson from Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. He explained to me that we all have two selves. One is an external, task-oriented self that focuses on getting jobs done, while the other is an internal, thoughtful, reflective self. If we let the task-oriented self rule our lives, we might accomplish many tasks—but we won’t be leading a balanced, values-based, fulfilling life. Making more time in your day for the thoughtful self will actually help you accomplish more while reducing stress.

Think about which self wakes up in the morning. Of course, our external task-oriented self wakes up first—usually to an alarm clock. Think of what an awful term that is—an ALARM clock! My friend pastor John Ortberg thinks we should call it the opportunity clock, or the it’s going to be a great day clock. Wouldn’t that give everyone a more positive perspective and outlook?

So the alarm goes off and you leap out of bed and you’re into your task-oriented self. You’re trying to eat while you’re washing, and you’re checking your email as you get dressed. Then you jump in the car and you’re on your speaker phone while you’re driving. Next, you’re going to this meeting and that meeting and running from here to there. Finally, you get home at eight or nine at night. You’re absolutely exhausted, so when you fall into bed you don’t even have energy to say goodnight to someone who might be lying next to you. And the next morning—bang!—the alarm goes off and you’re at it again. I call that leading a busy life, but not necessarily a balanced, peaceful, or thoughtful life.

There is a way to break this cycle. We all need to find a way to enter our day slowly so that we can awaken our reflective self first thing in the morning. The way for some people to do it will be exercise, and for others reading, meditating, or journaling. I put together a booklet of favorite inspirational quotes that I read in the morning. It only takes a few minutes to read and it helps me begin my day with a positive and happy perspective. Instead of immediately doing activities I can check off a task list, I’m able to be thoughtful about how I approach each task. I can prioritize easier, be more creative, and eliminate a lot of stress this way. I even have more time for the most important activity of all—spending time with loved ones. And what’s better than that?

By entering my day slowly, I find it easier to focus on the important things and have more energy to face challenges. It has worked for me, my family, and friends—I urge you to give it a try.

The Reality of Work-Life Balance

Much has been written about work-life balance. Some say it is impossible to find in our fast-paced world. Others say it is achievable—but you have to work at it.

Summertime is usually the time of year when people try to concentrate a little more on work-life balance. However, I don’t see balance as just a summer project. In fact, for some people, summers can be more hectic than the rest of the year with children out of school, extended visits from family and friends, and pressure to take vacation—even as project deadlines pile up at work. This kind of schedule can turn a balanced summer into a stressful summer. But there is a way to manage all the day-to-day demands of a busy life, no matter what time of year.

Reaching balance in life is all about decreasing stress by focusing on things that create a sense of contentment. Several years ago my lovely wife, Margie, came up with PACT—an easy to remember model whose elements can help people relieve stress in their lives by achieving Perspective, Autonomy, Connectedness, and Tone.

  • Perspective is about seeing the big picture of life. If we know our purpose and direction in life, chances are we have a good perspective and daily stressors don’t get blown out of proportion. To illustrate the concept of perspective, I think about when our kids were young and we would take them to the zoo. Most parents get a little crazy chasing their kids around the zoo, but we loved it because our top priority was to have fun with the kids. We were able to overlook certain things and just enjoy the day—it was all part of our perspective. I called it zoo mentality. Honestly, it still seems strange to me that parents take their kids to the zoo then spend the whole time yelling at them. Everyone would have more fun if they embraced the perspective of zoo mentality.
  • Autonomy relates to our ability to make choices that allow us to be in control of our lives. If you have a high sense of autonomy, you are not totally controlled by your job, your spouse, your children, or anyone or anything. Of course no one can always be in complete control of every aspect of their life, but as long as your daily activities support your personal and professional goals you will have a greater sense of balance.
  • Connectedness is all about having strong positive relationships at home, at work, and in the community. Mutually supportive relationships can enhance a feeling of overall well-being and balance. Creating trusted connections at work helps improve morale and performance, while spending quality time with family and friends leads to a feeling of satisfaction of belonging to a community or being part of something bigger than yourself.
  • Tone covers how you feel about yourself physically. It includes the way you look, your health and energy level, and your level of fitness.  People with high tone generally have a high energy level, maintain a proper weight, have sound nutrition, and feel good about their physical appearance.

Margie and I have taught the PACT model for many years, and I still use it to monitor the balance in my own life. It’s a great tool that will help you not only pinpoint what’s wrong when life gets stressful, but also check off what you’re doing right when you are feeling great.

When your life is in balance, stress naturally loses its grip. Start using the PACT model this summer and keep it up all year long. You’ll live life at a higher level.

Re-Direct the Behavior, Not the Person

on the roadAs a manager—or a parent, coach, or any other kind of leader—you want to get rid of bad behavior but keep the good person. To do this, you must give feedback frequently—this goes for catching people doing things right as well as noticing mistakes or poor performance. It makes no sense for a manager to store up observations of poor behavior and present them all at once at the end of a project or during a performance review. Not only would this be frustrating for the manager, it would also put the person receiving the feedback on the defensive.

Re-directing behavior as soon as possible allows the manager to deal with one behavior at a time. It also allows the other person to focus on constructive feedback and how to correct the problem, instead of being overwhelmed with information about numerous mistakes or misbehaviors that happened long ago.

For the manager, the most important part of the re-direct is remembering to build people up, not tear them down. Confirm the facts, review the goal, and explain specifically how the behavior didn’t support the goal. End the re-direct with a praising: this lets the person know they are better than their mistake. A re-direct should never be perceived as a personal attack. You want the person to be aware of and concerned about what they did, not feel mistreated.

Like all of the Three Secrets Spencer Johnson and I share in our book, The New One Minute Manager, the One Minute Re-Direct takes about a minute and can be a great learning moment for both the manager and the direct report. It allows them to refocus on the goal and work together to strategize how to align performance with the desired outcome. Working collaboratively also improves the relationship by building trust and improving communication.

One Minute Re-Directs are the perfect way to provide feedback and coach people to peak performance. Remember, the best minute of the day is the one you invest in your people.

Why Praising Progress Works

The main idea of The New One Minute Manager is to help people reach their full potential. In the book, Spencer Johnson and I describe the Three Secrets: One Minute Goals, One Minute Praisings, and One Minute Re-Directs. I believe the most powerful of the three is One Minute Praisings.

For a One Minute Praising to be effective, you must praise the person as soon as you can and tell them in specific terms what they did right. Let them know how good you feel about what they did and encourage them to do more of the same.

As a manager, the most important thing you can do is to catch people doing something right. And when someone is just beginning to learn a task, it’s important to catch them doing something approximately right so you can help them move to the desired result.

One of my favorite examples of this is a parent teaching a child to speak. Suppose you want to teach your toddler son how to ask for a drink of water. Of course his first attempt isn’t going to be a full sentence. If you waited for him to say “Give me a glass of water, please” before you gave him a drink, that wouldn’t turn out too well. So you start by pointing to a glass of water and saying, “water, water.” After several weeks or months, all of a sudden one day your son says, “waller.” You are so excited you hug and kiss him, give him a drink of water, and get Grandma on the phone so the child can say, “waller, waller.” It wasn’t the exact way to say water—but it was close, so you praised his progress. Eventually, you only accept the word water and then you start working on please. By setting up achievable targets along the way and praising progress, you help the learner move toward the end goal.

In the workplace, unfortunately, many managers wait until people do something exactly right before praising them. The problem with this is that some people never become high performers because their managers concentrate on catching them doing things wrong, keeping an eye only on the desired performance instead of praising progress along the way.

This happens with new employees all the time. Their manager welcomes them aboard, takes them around to meet everybody, and then leaves them alone. Not only does the manager not catch the new person doing something approximately right, they periodically zap them just to keep them moving. I call this the leave-alone-zap management style. You leave a person alone, expecting good performance from them. When you don’t get it, you zap them. What do you think that does to a person’s performance and engagement?

If you set clear goals and catch your people doing things right, you’ll create a work environment where people are engaged and fully committed to doing a good job. It only takes a few minutes to praise someone for a job well done. It will be the most important minute of your day.