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Posts tagged: success

Standards of Success

Anyone who has been to a school reunion knows the pressure to look successful. In business, we often define external yardsticks and measure performance against them. But that same logic is not always appropriate when it comes to measuring the success of your professional life. As long as you use external standards to evaluate your success, you are guaranteed dissatisfaction—you’ll always find someone who is doing more, making more, or has more.

Instead of focusing outward, ask yourself what your standards of success are. Write them down and share them with those closest to you. This ensures you measure what matters to you, not to others.

The Waiting Is the Hardest Part

I admit it – I’m an impatient person. I can’t stand sitting in traffic or waiting in long lines; it just drives me nuts. Equally aggravating for me is waiting in a short line behind interminably slow people as I watch longer lines of people or cars move quicker than mine. Just the other day, I pulled up to the bank and picked the lane with the fewest cars in it, only to take nearly twice as long as it would have been had I just picked the nearest lane to where I drove up, as opposed to the shortest line of cars. Happens every time.

My impatience is a shortcoming and I’m working on it. As part of my seemingly unending quest to ease up a little, reduce my own stress and make life easier on my family (my daughter, Lauren, recently implored me to read my own book as I got impatient and frustrated in 90 minutes of traffic…classic) I’ve done some reading on this whole waiting game.

I discovered some research by David Maister in an piece entitled The Psychology of Waiting Lines. The paper is aimed at people who operate stores, restaurants, doctors’ offices, and other places where people (just like me) hate to be kept waiting. Of course, most of us are the ones standing in line, not the ones controlling the line, but I’m always interested in learning more about myself and the psychology of my behavior.

Maister’s main point is that the actual time we’re waiting may have little to do with how long that wait feels. Two minutes can pass in an instant, or those two minutes (like mine in the bank line) can feel like an eternity. Here are eight factors that make waits seem longer:

  1. Unoccupied time feels longer than occupied time. When you have something to distract yourself, time passes more quickly. Some hotels put mirrors by the elevators, because people like to look at themselves.
  2. People want to get started. This is why restaurants give you a menu while you wait, and why doctors put you in the examination room twenty-five minutes before your examination actually begins. Tricky.
  3. Anxiety makes waits seem longer. If you think you’ve chosen the slowest line, or you’re worried about getting a seat on the plane, the wait will seem longer. Hello?!
  4. Uncertain waits are longer than known, finite waits. People wait more calmly when they’re told Cialis, “The doctor will see you in thirty minutes” than when they’re told, “The doctor will see you soon.” Maister gives an amusing illustration of a phenomenon that I’d noticed while sitting in my doctor’s office recently for a check-up: if I arrive someplace thirty minutes early, I can patiently wait without a problem, but ninety seconds after my appointment time passes, I start to feel annoyed. “How long are they going to have me sitting here?” I start to wonder; as I glance at the receptionist nine times a minute.
  5. Unexplained waits are longer than explained waits. We wait more patiently for the pizza guy when there’s a thunderstorm than when the sky is clear. We wait more patiently on the plane when we know that there’s another plane at the gate.
  6. Unfair waits are longer than equitable waits. People want their waits to be fair. I got anxious, for example, when my family and I waited to get into the Florida Marlins baseball game this past Saturday night; where there’s no clear, fair way to determine who gets through the turnstile first.
  7. The more valuable the service, the longer the customer will wait. You’ll wait longer to talk to a doctor than to talk to a sales clerk. You’ll stand in line longer to buy an iPad than to buy nail clippers.
  8. Solo waits feel longer than group waits. The more people engage with each other, the less they notice the wait time. In fact, in some situations, waiting in line is part of the experience. A few years ago, Lauren and three of her friends waited happily together for five hours in a block-long line to see Taylor Lautner for six seconds at the premier of the movie Twilight. I asked her the next day how long she thought she’d waited – she knew it was “a while” but never looked at her watch and could only hazard a guess at about “three hours”.

Since I read this paper a few days ago, I’ve been a little more patient about waiting in line. I’m occupied (see #1) with analyzing my own experience of waiting in line. Have you found any good ways to make waiting more bearable? Or, on a different subject, have you found that understanding an experience better has made it more interesting or helped you to cope better?

Send me your thoughts to david@livethe8.com.

On Happiness and The Vanishing Rattle

Jean Piaget was a Swiss developmental psychologist and a philosopher in the early 1900′s. Unknown to many people outside the fields of psychology and social work, his theory of cognitive development has had a profound impact on what we know today about a child’s thoughts and actions growing up.

I first read about Piaget as an undergrad in an Early Childhood Development class; where I was introduced to a concept he called object permanence. Object permanence is the understanding that things continue to exist even when they cannot be seen, heard or touched. It’s a level of development achieved by all of us as infants (typically between 8 and 12 months old) when we learned that just because mommy left the room, that didn’t mean she’d left the planet. And when the rattle went hidden under our blankie, it wasn’t gone forever. It’s when we discovered that out-of-sight didn’t necessarily mean out-of-mind; that just because we’re not experiencing something at the moment, that doesn’t mean we’ll never experience it again.

This is a concept we grasp as little ones, and apparently forget when we’re older; especially when it comes to happiness. We feel joy one moment – connected to the things in our lives that bring us gratitude and fulfillment – and those good feelings disappear into the proverbial kitchen the next. Then we struggle to get our happiness back, fighting a tendency many of us have to view positive emotions as nothing more than fleeting conditions, as opposed to embracing the idea that positive emotions can become permanent objects in our lives. Good feelings – like joy, serenity, hope Cialis, interest, pride, amusement, inspiration and love – don’t have to remain out-of-mind for us for too long. Sure, they’ll leave us sometimes when life creeps in and replaces the good stuff with the bad. And we’ll allow people and situations to take our rattle away from us every once in a while. Just remind yourself that the joy will soon return, the hope will come back, your inspiration will reveal itself again and love will fill your heart in due time.

Here are three tips to help you reconnect with those good feelings you might be searching for:

  1. Make a gratitude list. This will shift your mood and remind you of all that is good in your life right now. It’s an especially great technique for feeling better when you’re fearful, angry or impatient.
  2. Do good things. Recapture some positive energy and emotion by getting out of yourself and doing something for someone else. Go volunteer at your child’s school or call up a local homeless shelter and see what you can do to help. I guarantee (yes, I said guarantee) that you will be better afterwards.
  3. Let it go. Don’t let anyone steal your joy. If you find yourself voluntarily stuck in a negative emotion (as opposed to experiencing a normal and natural state of discomfort such as grief or temporary anger) then ask yourself what you have to gain by letting him/her/them/it continue to rent space in your head. It might be time to let it go and move on.

Now…go find your rattle. It’s gotta’ be around there somewhere.

Driven to Succeed

I’m not a big NASCAR fan. I am intrigued, though, by the incredible success of one of the sport’s premier drivers, Jimmie Johnson. Even if you’re like me – and you’re not an avid racing fan – you’re likely aware of Jimmie Johnson’s astounding accomplishments on the race track; recently winning his fifth straight Sprint Cup title in a row. That’s like one football team winning the Super Bowl or one baseball team capturing the World Series crown…five years straight. It’s a pretty big deal.

This morning, I watched an interview with Jimmie Johnson and the reporter asked him: “What’s the secret of your team’s success?”; and here’s how “Superman” (as he’s known around NASCAR) replied:

 

What makes us different is that I’m aware of every single sensation within that car so I know exactly what it’s doing, and going to do, literally at every turn. Then I communicate those sensations to our team in detail. I think that’s what makes us special.

I could instantly understand what differentiated him from the competition. First, the awareness. Not only is Jimmie Johnson acutely aware of what’s going on in and around his car on the racetrack, but he’s equally attuned to the fact that this skill he’s developed (since he was 4 years-old on his first dirt bike, he adds) gives him and his team a competitive advantage. Second, the communication. It’s one thing Cialis Online to be so keyed into your senses that you see, hear and feel everything that’s going on around you. But it’s a decidedly different and complementary talent to be able to relay those perceptions and convey your expectations around them (like: “change the front tire, it’s low”, or “the stabilizer bar needs raised one millimeter”) in a way that people can clearly understand. And to be able to do all of that in seconds, through a headset, while driving 200 MPH, inches from 30 other cars that are all hell-bent on beating you to the finish…well…that’s extraordinary to me. I see why they call him Superman.

So this morning I find myself asking: “Dave, you’re pretty attuned to what goes on around you at work, but how are you doing with your communication to your coworkers and customers about what you see and what you would like to be different?”. And then thinking: “Okay Dave, so you pay close attention to what’s happening in the lives of your children at every turn, but how often are you checking in with them (while we’re all running our own race at what seems like 200 MPH) to make sure they’re on track?”.

I may not be a NASCAR fan, but I admire anyone that demonstrates exceptional insight and displays leadership qualities like Jimmie Johnson does. So…I guess you could say I’m now a fan…a fan of “Superman”.