Mums- what could we do without them? My Mum recently turned 75. With my brother and our families we organised a get together to appreciate and say thank you to her for all she has done and continues to do for us.
In this last year Mum's health has not been good following a fall in December 2016 leading to a fracture of her right shoulder and elbow with several weeks in hospital recovering from surgery. We are very thankful that she has pulled through this difficult time.
With that in mind here is a short life history and tribute to my Mum with 5 life lessons I have learnt from her:
One of the best definitions of effectiveness I have come across is 'getting the results you want in a way that enables you to get even greater results in the future'. This is about success that endures, is sustainable and is balanced in all areas of life and not just one part. That all sounds well and good, but achieving it is far from easy or straightforward.
There are three key elements to personal effectiveness:
– You know what the important things to be done are.
– You know how to do them
– You are actually motivated to do what it takes and they become habitual.
To understand this better it is helpful to reflect on Aesop's fable of the goose who laid golden eggs. For a humorous, very inaccurate and somewhat tongue-in-cheek dramatisation of this do watch the 7 minute cartoon below:
Effectiveness is about getting the things that truly matter done. You know what they are for you:
That project you keep putting off because it seems too complicated and out of your depth. But if you were to complete it would yield great benefits.
That conversation with a key person who could help to move things forward.
That important family friend or relative you know you need to get in touch with.
That time alone or at the gym to re-charge your batteries and help you focus better.
In contrast to efficiency, effectiveness is based on timeless principles that in the end will bring about the maximum long-term benefits. To really understand effectiveness then we need to first understand what we mean by principles.
Principles are natural laws or fundamental truths about life and the universe that are:
External to yourself
Do not change
Universal and timeless.
Produce predictable outcomes in the long term.
Continue to operate with or without your understanding or acceptance of them
Self -evident and enabling when understood and applied.
Correct principles are like a compass. They are always pointing the way. If we can learn how to read them, not only will we not get lost, confused or fooled by conflicting voices and values, it is more likely we will move forward in our lives with confidence and true power
As Stephen R. Covey puts it:
"We are not in control; principles control. We control our actions, but the consequences that flow from these actions are controlled by principles."
Principles are natural laws in the human sphere that are just as real, just as unchanging and arguably present as laws such as gravity is in the physical dimension.
The best example of this is found in the principles that govern the seasons and farming. Think about what a farmer does. He must prepare the ground, plant the seed, give time for it to germinate and grow. All this takes time and requires honouring the seasons by doing what is appropriate in a particular season. You prepare the ground and plant in the spring if you want to harvest in the autumn. How ridiculous it would be if you ignored this principle and instead chose to plant in the summer expecting a harvest in the winter! To do so is to violate the principles that govern the seasons and the growth of plants.
What are some examples of principles? When you hear them they seem obvious, and yet the media abounds with examples of people who do not live by them......
If you ask people these days h0w they are doing, the vast majority will tell you how busy they are. In many ways there is nothing wrong with being busy. The more important question is what are you actually being busy about?
Efficiency is about doing something faster, cheaper and with less hassle. Its about getting more things done in less time. Nothing at all in one sense wrong with that either. Technology has increased efficiency dramatically in the last few decades. At the same time we have more and more things coming at us and so we naturally find ourselves speeding up and moving faster.
It was Mahatma Gandhi who first said, "There is more to life than increasing its speed." He died in 1948 so what would he have made of today's fast paced frenetic world? Speed is certainly something we have got in our lives!
While efficiency is important it only works when we make it of secondary importance and not the primary thing. In other words, it doesn't matter how efficient you are if you are doing the wrong things in the first place. Of primary importance is ensuring I am getting the right things done. This is why effectiveness is so relevant.
For example you may be driving down the road at great speed, enjoying the weather and seeming to make great progress. But if you are heading North on the motorway to Edinburgh, and your actual destination is South in the opposite direction to London, then you are not being very effective!
While efficiency is getting more things done in less time, effectiveness is about getting the right things done.
Here is how the late Peter Drucker put it:
"Nothing is less productive than to make more efficient what should not be done at all."
That is the crux of the matter. Being busy for the sake of being busy is not enough. Just being busy can actually be an enormous distraction.
Here are five dangers of simply focussing on efficiency for its own sake while ignoring the question of effectiveness:
“If you want to be a billionaire, sleep as little as possible.” Donald Trump.
“Sleep is a criminal waste of time. A heritage from our cave days.” Thomas Edison.
“Every important mistake I’ve made in my life, I’ve made because I was too tired.” Bill Clinton
Sleep. So easy to take for granted, but so essential – especially if you are not getting enough. And yet there is so much bravado and neglect when we think about sleep. Whatever you may think of Donald Trump and Thomas Edison, their opinions on sleep are way off the mark when it comes to what the research and even what common sense shows. And whatever your opinion of Bill Clinton there is much wisdom in his reflection on sleep and making errors of judgement.
On this podcast my co-host Andrew Horton and I discuss:
The importance of prioritising sleep in our lives.
The dangerous consequences of not having enough sleep.
How do I know I am getting enough sleep?
An embarrassing example in my life of not getting enough sleep.
How much are people in positions of authority making decisions from a place of inadequate sleep?
A Biblical perspective on sleep.
Three suggestions for those struggling to get to sleep.
Choices! Every day we have to make them. Over the last few decades the number of choices we have had to make has increased dramatically. And it can feel exhausting. The short 5 minute video below humorously and helpfully explains this:
This issue of overwhelming choices has been exponentially increasing to have a dramatic impact on our often already busy and over-streteched lives.
It was back in the 1990s that perhaps Peter Drucker first predicated this decision fatigue when he wrote:
“In a few hundred years, when the history of the our time is written from a long term perspective, it is likely that the most important event those historians will see is not technology, not the Internet, not e-commerce. It is the unprecedented change in the human condition. For the first time – literally – substantial and rapidly growing numbers of people have choices. For the first time they will have to manage themselves. And society is totally unprepared for it.”
Drucker was right when he said we as a society have been totally unprepared for this dramatic shift, particularly in the industrialised world.
What he is saying is that the biggest change in society that has crept up on us is the huge array of choices in modern life. Those choices range from what cereal am I going to have in the morning (according to Wikipedia there are over 500 in the Western world!) to all the things I can choose to do with my time.
This has gradually and exponentially increased such that we initially hardly noticed it, but it has now added an extra layer of stress and complexity to our already busy lives. As the video describes apparently in 1990 the average American supermarket had 9,000 products to choose from. By 2015 that had shot up dramatically to 40,000. Apparently we need only about 150 to fulfil our general day to day needs. And that is just in the area of food shopping.
It is rather like the proverbial frog in the water pot. Gradually the temperature is being increased and we are beginning to boil! Some have estimated that the average person in the Western world has to make as many as 35,000 decisions every day. That in of itself sounds exhausting!
I have to admit when it comes to appreciating nature I have been a slow learner. Perhaps it has something to do with being the son of South Asian immigrant parents and feeling driven to succeed academically above anything and everything else. Or maybe it had something to do with assuming practical aesthetics were only a luxury for rare occasions. However, whatever the reason, appreciating natural beauty and surroundings was for many years not been a priority to me. Much to my own loss.
To my shame I have to confess that when my wife Sally and I moved to a new house in 1996 with the choice as to how we would design the garden area my natural inclination was to propose that we just concreted it all over! Thank goodness Sally over-ruled me on that!
Taking time out to connect with nature through gardening, going for a walk or even to just get some fresh air can be enormously rejuvenating. There is something about being in the countryside or by the beach that recharges and rejuvenates us like nothing else can. Even I have come to instinctively appreciate that! But I am not the only one who has ignored or downplayed the importance of the environment to psychological wellbeing.
For as long as anyone can seem to remember in most societies progress has been measured by increase in average income and the numbers of people moving from rural areas to the cities. That is how unquestioned and unchallenged economic decisions have been made for centuries. But we are slowly and surely also realising that such progress does not lead to the health and well-being we hoped for. In fact more urbanised and industrialised societies are experiencing increasingly greater levels of physical and psychological distress from conditions such as obesity and diabetes to chronic loneliness, depression and other mental health problems.
When it comes to understanding well-being then there are two important components to consider - the person's sense of contentment and the ability to cope with life's challenges (resilience). There is increasing research evidence to show that spending time in nature has a significant and positive impact on both contentment and resilience....
I don't know who originally said it, but apparently there are only 3 kinds of people in the world. Those who make things happen; those who watch things happen; and those who say, "What happened?"!
As well as being somewhat amusing I am also struck by how insightful such a saying is about human nature. It is so easy to go with the flow of whatever is going on around us or get distracted by whatever is latest or loudest in our lives. And at certain times and seasons of life that can be absolutely appropriate. For example think about the stay-at-home parent with the responsibility of children or the receptionist or administrative staff in a busy office. Or the sudden emergency at home with an appliance or device. In all those instances it is absolutely appropriate to react to the pressing needs of the moment. Not to do so could lead to disastrous consequences!
The danger it seems to me is when we live the majority of our life reacting to what is outside of ourselves rather than in response to the long standing God-given longings, beliefs and desires that have been placed deep inside of us.
Here is how writer Carissa Lada describes how she and her then husband spent much of their lives without intention:
'Most of our activities involved going out to eat, planning which movie we’d see that weekend, or awaiting our favorite shows on TV. We had certain shows we looked forward to each night of the week. It was fine for a while, but I began to have this growing feeling like I was missing out on, well, life. I didn’t want to look back on my life in 20 years and say, “Well I saw every episode of [insert show], so I feel really accomplished!” This growing desire to get more out of life caused a rift in my marriage, and was one factor that ultimately led to its demise.'
So what is intention? At its simplest it is about living with an aim or a plan. But when we talk about living intentionally it is also more than that - it is a choice to deliberately pursue what is significant over the long term rather than the short term. It is to get more out of life than what I see in front of me with the vast myriad of choices and challenges to deal with.