How to Improve Your Quality of Life: The Three Actions That Matter

It is an age-old story. It happens to be mine now. I was given a brain tumor. The amazing UT Southwestern surgeons and staff in Dallas removed it totally in September 2014 and it was benign. I am one of the fortunate ones. I actually see carrying a tumor as a gift because of the way it changed my view of how our quality of life is created. As a 20-year veteran speaker/trainer, you just don't experience major changes like this very often.

Today I will introduce the three life actions this blog will focus on over the next few weeks. I challenge you to begin developing your quality of life by looking at how you are doing in these three areas:

1. Let go of the little. 

2. Protect your core. 

3. Strengthen your best.

(Download these in image or PDF format.)

The first one, let go of the little, seems trite, but shows up in so many crevasses in your life. A rare quality of life is grounded in big, meaningful elements being in place. However, it is also created by having the ability to know what needs your attention and focus and what doesn't. How purposeful are you at letting go of the little distractions and irritations that create unnecessary stress and tension? One of the secrets we are going to look at is that it matters less what gets to you. What matters is how you respond. 

The second one, protect your core, is about taking care of what makes you you. I need to invest time and resources being a solid Christian, husband, father, friend and speaker because that is who I am. How much time are you investing in the areas that define who you are? Your quality of life is grounded in who you are at the core and how authentically you excel in those areas. I am going to help you discover if and how even small disconnects might be hurting your quality of life's health.

Strengthen your best speaks directly to your ability to create value for others. This third life action is about service. How much time and effort do you invest creating value for others? This one is not about inspiration or motivation. It is a tangible, action-based challenge that creates a significant difference in your quality of life through the act of significantly improving the quality of life of others. We can only live with a rare quality of life once we purposefully desire to serve others and then act on that desire daily.

These three concepts are where we will spend our time over the next few weeks. Please visit often. I look forward to your comments, questions and the opportunity to help you create meaningful changes. 

Questions to journal and work on:

  • How purposeful are you at letting go of the little distractions and irritations that create unnecessary stress and tension?
  • How much time are you investing in the areas that define who you are?
  • How much time and effort do you invest creating value for others?


What My Brain Tumor Did For You

Wednesday, September 24, 2014 from 7:30 am to 2 pm I was out and my skull was wide open. Dr. Barnett and his exceptional team in Dallas at UT Southwestern were taking out the golf ball-sized brain tumor I had behind my left eye for years. I learned much from the month-long journey leading up to that room. This morning I am a 20-year professional trainer/speaker only seven days after brain surgery and I am amazed at how I have changed.

My perspective has changed regarding the most important concepts dictating quality of life. The purpose of this blog over the next few weeks will be to share this short list. My goal is to help you improve your quality of life using lessons I have experienced going through this journey. I am going to help you create a rare quality of life based on a list of three life actions. Please check back often and let's see where we can go together.

My brain tumor has been thankfully removed and was diagnosed benign. There is much for you to learn from my experience.


Skill Assessment: Joys and Discomforts of a New Leadership Position

Congratulations.  You have been promoted to a management position you have been hoping to receive for quite some time.  You have set goals, worked hard, kept your nose clean, excelled in your former positions and you finally made it.  Now, the hard work begins.  How do you motivate your staff to give their best?  How do you help your team see you as a team leader (when you have been a peer up until now)?  How do you manage your time to accommodate all the extra tasks on your plate?  How do you make decisions like a leader?  How do you coach people?  How do you let people know they have to be let go?

You certainly need more education and experience to handle all of these situations.  It does matter.  The number one reason why people leave a job is because their boss did not know how to lead.  The quality of the boss/leader/supervisor/manager/team leader is one of the single most influential elements on the quality of life in a workplace.  You want (and need) to be in the category of “great boss.”  I encourage you to be very self-aware of your strengths and weaknesses as a leader and work to develop in your areas of need.

Today we will look at five behaviors of effective new leaders that are vital to their success by looking at Julie.  She has just been promoted to a new management position at a bank and is doing a great job.  Her team trusts her.  She is sending her division of the bank in the right direction.  How is Julie accomplishing this?  Following are five insights:

1. Julie let go of the thoughts and processes she had as a team member. She learned quickly how to put decisions, emails, conversations, etc. through the filter of leadership. Her experience as a team member is certainly beneficial. However, decisions as a team leader can be more complex, weighty and require a more measured approach.

2. She asks questions when necessary. Julie understands that she was not hired to be perfect and because she knew everything. She was hired because she was an exceptional team member and because she had the potential to be a highly trusted leader. Julie looks for opportunities to sharpen her leadership skills.

3. Julie knew going in to the position that there would be push back from two groups of people – those individuals she used to be team members with and those individuals on her new team with more experience and/or age. She focuses on not taking offense to these dynamics, nor does she allow them to apply unnecessary stress on her work life. She takes every push back, big or small, in the proper context and stays focus on the work at hand.

4. Julie expects to have to continue to earn trust. She does not assume that her position included an instantly high trust level from everyone. This allows her to lead by example – working harder than her team, showing up early, leaving late, sticking to commitments, etc. She maintains her work-home life balance; being a leader doesn't equal zero home life. However, she is a living example of the old saying that no leader should ask his/her followers to do anything they are not willing to do also.

5. She was a likable, personable person before the promotion, but has worked hard to increase these traits. She forgives first, trusts others quickly, replies to requests of her time/attention quickly, listens actively, doesn't make other people fight for her time/attention, encourages and builds up her team genuinely and often, coaches her team members in privacy, and is a source of optimism in the office, etc. Julie is a meaningful source of joy for not only her team, but for the bank as a whole.

I experienced push-back from my co-workers when I took one of my first jobs soon after college.  I had a Senior Director position and two of the Directors (less pay, but more experience and older) actually set me down individually to let me know I had no say over what they did.  It was a rude awakening to work life as a team leader, but I didn't let it tarnish my excitement or my commitment and passion to providing great leadership for that office.  Congratulations on your new position.  There aren't many parts of professional life more meaningful or significant than being a leader others want to follow.


RELAX: Five Steps to Stress Management

My newest keynote/breakout session content focuses on stress.  What it is, how it impacts us and what we can do to make the most of it. The program is titled RELAX and is based on five actions we need to take to ensure stress is helping us, not hurting us in both our personal and professional lives.  

Before we look at the five actions, let's cover some basics.  Stress is one of the responses your body triggers when it is under pressure.  The basic principle of the RELAX program is that we can control what stresses us and how we respond to stress.  Stress can improve our quality of life or be detrimental to it. These five actions below are designed to help you respond positively to stress.

(Click here for a RELAX poster to print and display.)

Reset to normal - When we are under fire, our mind-set influences everything.  Stress is a physical response and works automatically in most situations. Our first goal in a stressful situation is to make sure we control our mindset by resetting to normal thought patterns as quickly as possible.  Leave the room, put your thoughts on something else, take a five-minute break, etc.  These tactics clear our mind to think about next steps.

End in mind - Stressful situations force us to have tunnel vision and only see what is right in front of us creating the frustration.  You need to break this habit by putting your thoughts on the goal, project completion, change, etc. that you are trying to achieve.  Keeping this end in mind will remind you of the value and purpose for the stress you are under.  Tell yourself that the stress might be bad right now, but it is worth it for the greater goal.  RELAX is not about chilling out.  RELAX is about taking positive action under stress and creating an environment where you are fueled by stress, not defeated.

Listen to stress - One of your most important tasks during a stressful situation is to become self-aware of what type of stress you are under.  Not all stress is bad and everyone responds to stress (no matter what it is created by) in different ways.  Giving presentations is a great example.  Many people get negatively stressed out thinking about and giving presentations.  However, this is a choice they are making.  Thousands of people give presentations every day and view the stress as positive. Listen to your stress, examine it and then decide if how you are responding is based on the condition of the stress, the situation or you.

Acknowledge what works - Choosing to respond positively to stress is the grounding principle behind RELAX.  Figure out what works for you and make it habit to repeat those actions, thoughts, etc.  These might include listening to great music, going to the movies, taking a day-trip with your family, positive self-talk (more important than people realize), playing golf, reading a good book, etc.  Acknowledge what works for you and stay disciplined to it.

Xpress needs - Life is a team sport and so is RELAX.  Stress can damage our quality of life in many ways, but a common way is preventing us from sharing our needs with those around us - family members, friends, co-workers, etc.  Make sure you express your feelings and thoughts with a close ally that can help you keep things in perspective and remind you to RELAX.

Contact me if you have a future conference, retreat or team training where you think my RELAX keynote/breakout session would be a great addition.  Thank you.