Chasing the High (but Not Finding It)

Chasing the high is a phrase that struck me when listening to a tape from Dr. Wayne Dyer in the early 1990s. I came to realize that is the path I had been on up to that point, and I have to admit, I take minor detours onto that path still to this day.

What is chasing the high? You hear high in reference to drug usage. That is one and a devastating one to us and those around us, but there are so many ways we daily chase the high—some small, some not so small, some life-changing. Highs can take many forms.

Much like steps up to a higher floor, we chase highs that we believe help us climb to that ultimate high of happiness. We chase those highs in an effort to fill gaps or “holes” we perceive in ourselves that we believe block us from being happy.

Some holes are shallow and others cut to our very core. The hole could be something in your physical being, social life, work, relationships, possessions, spirituality or anything else you feel you need to fill those holes and make you feel whole. We want to feel more successful, victorious, womanly, manly. Then we’ll be happy we tell ourselves.

You may not even realize you have a hole that you are trying to fill, but if you carefully look at your daily actions and decisions, and ask the simple question, “Why do I do that?”, it will reveal itself to you. You may have to ask it several times as you peel away your layers like trying to get to the heart of a celery bunch or to the root cause of why you do what you do.

Our approach to filling the hole is to “chase” something in the physical world around us that we believe directly fills or something that compensates for that hole. If we lose our job and what we do is who we are, we desperately look for another one or maybe we turn to alcohol to drugs to compensate for that feeling of not being whole.

But you can never get enough of things outside of yourself to feel whole.

There are three commonalities to all of our chases:

  1. They go on outside of ourselves.
  2. We truly won’t be able to fill the hole from outside of ourselves.
  3. Those chases are choices we make and like all choices, have consequences—natural or manmade, intended or unintended, seen or unseen, felt or unfelt, heard or unheard, immediate or future. Often, we fill those holes at the expense of ourselves, those around us or the physical world.

In 1976, I was a chemist at Lubrizol studying for my Master’s Degree in chemical engineering. One of the engineers explained the difference between a chemist and a chemical engineer. He asked me to imagine I was chasing Raquel Welch (remember this is the 70s) through the woods and with each step you cut the distance in half.

A chemist would say that you’ll never catch her since you can cut the distance in half an infinite number of times and never get there. A chemical engineer would say that you’ll get close enough to make it practical.

When it comes to happiness, the real high in life, the chemist is right if you are looking for the happiness (wholeness) outside of yourself—you’ll never get there. There will always be a gap.

The chemical engineer, on the other hand, is right if you are looking for it within yourself—you get close enough to make it practical.

This blog has been about personal sustainability, which starts on the inside and then manifests itself on the outside. My definition of personal sustainability is:

Living your life in a way that enables you to get what you need without damage to the people or the world around you.

Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? Yep, it is…if you lived in a vacuum. But then life happens to you.

Potential and Effectiveness

In the previous post, I talked about the three ingredients that define your potential:

1. Knowledge & Education
2. Natural ability and talent
3. Compelling urge to do or be better

If that’s our potential, why don’t we always operate at the peak where those three converge? The relationship between potential and effectiveness is depicted in the picture above. The iceberg, above and below water, is your potential; the tip above the water (about 10%) can be thought of as your effectiveness.

The “gate-keepers” between potential and effectiveness is your self-image—how we see ourselves—and self-esteem—how we feel about ourselves. The combination of those dictates our performance, which, in turn, determines our effectiveness[hyperlink] and therefore how sustainable we are. The link between effectiveness and sustainability is explained in a previous post.

There is a feedback loop you have inside you that looks like this:

Self-Talk Cyle S-I S-E (9-26-2018)

As we go through our daily life, we’re always talking to ourselves, not literally (although I do on occasion) but in our brain. That self-talk reinforces we how we see ourselves and how we feel about ourselves.

I’ve seen estimates that we have tens of thousands of thoughts each day and other data that says 75% of those are negative. What do you think one negative thought, let alone 75% of 10,000 thoughts, does to our performance?

The bottom line is that we need to be very aware of our thoughts and to take it one step further, infuse thoughts that reinforce where we want to be or what we want to do. We automatically move toward whatever we hold uppermost in our minds.

Self-Talk Cycle (9-26-2018)

There are a few key characteristics to our self-talk that make it compelling to move toward our “vision” of ourselves. These are:

Personal – “I”
Positive – what you want (not what you don’t want)
Present Tense – as though it is already happening
Positive Emotion – words such as happy, enjoy, sensational (emotion is a powerful motivator)
Realistic – words such as consistently (pre-forgive yourself for mistakes)
Specific – use measures when you can

When we receive negative criticism, we have to filter those comments, decide if they have merit and then be our own best critic by changing those negative thoughts into positive self-talk to achieve a higher level of performance.

When I was a soccer coach, it always befuddled me that my team would play at the level of the team it was competing against. If the team was poorer, that’s the level my team would play at and vice-versa.

f I knew then what I know now, I would have tried to instill in them that instead of playing the other team, in their minds, they need to play their own best self. I first heard this idea from Chrissie Evert Lloyd, tennis champion in the 1970s.

We need to always play our own best self. Are you doing that?

You Have Potential!

Have you ever been told, “You have potential!”?

Or maybe you were told the opposite, “You’re not living up to our potential.”

What is potential? If I put my engineer hat on (bear with me, this will make sense) and think of it in terms of energy, it’s stored energy like that possessed by a basketball stuck in your roof gutter. The formula for calculating the stored energy in the ball is:

Potential Energy = m x g x h

m – mass of an object
g – acceleration due to gravity
h – height above the ground

As the ball falls to the ground picking up speed due to gravity, the potential energy is transformed into kinetic energy. Analogously, if you look at the picture on this page, the person has potential energy at the top of his/her jump. Okay, I will stop there with the physics lesson, but there is a point to this.

What is “stored” in us? What defines your potential?

My definition of potential is what’s possible for each of us if we fully develop the physical, mental, socio-emotional and spiritual aspects of our life. It’s not quantifiable by the usual success measures—financial, assets or social standing. The concept of what’s possible is why the descriptor full potential is redundant. By definition, potential is always full.

As for potential energy, there is an “equation” for your potential:

Potential Components (9-12-2018)
Two of these, the compelling urge to do or be better and knowledge and education, we can control. The third, natural ability and talent, like gravity, we can’t.

Knowledge and Education (Height)
We accumulate knowledge throughout our lives, and not just book knowledge. Our experiences in life teach us a great deal. We are the summation of our experiences. We don’t always use what we know, though, even on an everyday basis. For example, we all know about the importance of good nutrition and exercise, but does our daily routine reflect that knowledge?

My basement workroom can be quite disorganized, which frustrates me at times when I’m trying to find something. Do I know better? Absolutely, positively! I make up reasons for not organizing it, such as my family and extended family are constantly asking me to do or make things and then there’s my volunteer work, such as Relay For Life. It’s not a motivation issue (something for a future post). I do know better.

Are you maximizing your “height” in everyday life by using all that you know?

Natural Ability and Talent (Gravity)
Do you have natural ability and talent—something you just are able to do, something you were born with? Some people believe that we picked our parents well and we received these talents genetically. I’ll leave that notion to the reader to ponder.

Your natural ability and talent can, however, get in your way of achieving your potential. Do you use your talents to the max? Or because you are good at something, do you not practice it to get even better? It’s one of the frustrations I experienced as a baseball and soccer coach, a dad and now as a grandfather. It’s captured in this quote:

“The easier it is to be good, the more difficult it is to be great.”
~Bob Moawad, Increasing Human Effectiveness Workshop

Our tendency is not to work at the things we are naturally good at so we can get even better. Alternatively, we use the things we are good at to compensate for areas we don’t want to work on. I’ve seen soccer players who were nimble and fast runners use this to compensate for not developing their foot skills.

This can be the downfall of college freshman who didn’t have to study while they were in high school. When they get to college, they find the “game” has changed, and they need to study, but they are not prepared.

There is a book, Developing Talent in Young People, by Dr. Benjamin Bloom, which was his doctorate thesis study of 120 of the high-achieving doctors, scientists, mathematicians, artists, pianists, athletes, etc., looking for the answer to the simple question, “Why are they?”

You would think natural ability and talent would be the overwhelming factor. That was not the case, though. In fact, some had siblings who had more talent. What made them the best was the compelling urge to be better, which was manifested in their determination, passion and persistence.

Compelling Urge to Do or Be Better (Mass)
Most of us want to improve. We know the areas of our life where with some effort, we could be or be performing at a higher level. Exercise and diet are two common personal ones. For my in-laws 40th wedding anniversary party, my mother-in-law was determined to lose 40 pounds and be about the size she was when they married. She did it through sheer willpower—diet (a lot of cabbage soup) and exercise.

What about your relationships? How about in your vocation? Are they areas to improve or are you simply beyond comparison? Are there habits to break or maybe create or workshops to attend (and then use the knowledge) that would cause you to excel in your relationships or job?

You first have to have the will to improve, which is a big factor. Back to my mother-in-law’s success in weight loss. In the months following their anniversary, she slowly gained back the weight to where she was. What hadn’t changed in all of this? It was her self-image. She still saw herself as the overweight person. Willpower is great but not enough.

Your self-image regulates performance and therefore your effectiveness or sustainability and how close you come to achieving your potential.
Next up: Your potential and personal sustainability.

Self-Esteem – How You Feel About Yourself

In a previous post, I talked about your self-image regulating your performance and keeping you in your comfort zone. Your self-esteem also plays a role in your performance.

I’ve heard various definitions of self-esteem, but the one I like best comes from Bob Moawad’s Increasing Human Effectiveness workshop. It’s not an inventory of your favorable characteristics, traits, achievements, honors or accolades; nor is it conceit. It’s not what you do—your job or your roles in life.

As Dr. Wayne Dyer said, “If you are what you do, then when you don’t, you aren’t.” Think about that. It’s the downfall of people who lose their job or a retiree. A job can be a tee. I struggled with that a little, feeling a bit lost, on the first Monday after I retired from Lubrizol.

My definition, which is adapted from Bob Moawad’s, is:

The degree that I like and respect myself and feel confident to deal with life’s challenges; how warm, friendly and appreciative I feel toward myself.

If you have ever owned dogs or been around them, you have witnessed unconditional love. When I facilitated The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People workshop, the best personal mission I ever heard was, “I want to be worthy of my dog’s unconditional love.” What it would take to be worthy of that?

But how do you feel about yourself? Do you have a warm, friendly and appreciative feeling and love yourself unconditionally? What holds you back? Is it your life? Is it your achievements? Self-Esteem does play into what you achieve or, more correctly, what you believe you can achieve, which is your potential. I’ll discuss the connection between your potential and effectiveness/sustainability in a subsequent post.

How do you talk to yourself (come on, we all do it) when things go well, but more importantly, when things go badly? I know I do not acknowledge myself when things go well as a result of my efforts. In fact, I often play it down. But I’m really good at beating myself up when things don’t go as planned. I catch myself verbally abusing myself in my mind. I would never talk to anyone else like that. Where does it come from?

One thing I have to be very conscious of is the difference between perfection and excellence. In a nutshell, I am perfect. Sounds arrogant, doesn’t it? It’s really not, though.

What else can I be given that I am the summation of all my life experiences, good and bad, that brought me to be where I am? Excellence, on the other hand, is the result of excelling at something. The two may be equivalent in some cases, but it’s best to strive for excellence realizing that you are perfect just as you are. I will talk more about this in a subsequent post as well.

For me, high self-esteem is the result of being well-grounded from within. Your Sacred Self would never talk down to someone else. I know that’s just my Ego trying to bust his way out and dominate my life. I’ve become better at catching when my Ego goes on a rant about something I did or didn’t do, say or didn’t say. But I still have to improve.

Since you and I as humans can think about our thoughts, we need to pay attention to our self-talk. Catch yourself doing things right and tell yourself. Now don’t go overboard. For example, if you do a great job at carving the turkey at Thanksgiving, don’t tell yourself that you can now do intricate surgeries. Not quite the same thing…

When things go bad, hit your mental “pause button” before you think anything about yourself or others. There is a gap between the stimulus and response where you have the opportunity to use your four human endowments—self-awareness, independent free will, conscience, imagination—to choose how you respond to anything. But you must first have the knowing that you can do that. I say knowing as opposed to belief because it has to come from your innermost being, your Sacred Self.

As a side note, there is another outfall when things go wrong and you’re the cause of it. In addition to beating you up, your Ego wants to put the blame on someone or something else while your Sacred Self will accept the responsibility.

“There are two ways to have the tallest building in town. One is to tear everyone else’s building down, and the other is to build your building taller.” -Jim Rohn (US Author 1930-2009)

The Ego will tear all the buildings down around it, while the Sacred Self wants to build yours up.

Which one, Ego or Sacred Self, are you going to allow to win? You can choose.

Trust – Like the Air We Breathe

“Trust is like the air we breathe – when it’s present, nobody really notices; when it’s absent, everybody notices.” — Warren Buffett

Trust in an organization or a relationship can be ubiquitous or scarce and anywhere in between. Trust can be lost in an instant like a tsunami hitting land. We’ve all seen trust disintegrate when something is done or not done or said or not said. It can be devastating.

It also can be slowly eroded, sometimes imperceptibly over time.

Back in the early 1990s, I was responsible for selling unneeded Lubrizol property. One parcel, which was part of a 1982 purchase had a very wide Lake Erie frontage. The water line property was a 20-foot bluff, which was constantly eroded by the continual lapping of the waves, creating an undercut into the bluff. Eventually, gravity won and the earth above this undercut fell down to the shore and was eaten up by the Pac Man-like waves. The cycle repeated. By the time I sold the property in the 1990s, 10 acres of land has disappeared into the lake.

This is very much like what can happen to trust in a relationship or organization. Dr. Stephen R. Covey uses an Emotional Bank Account (EBA) as a metaphor for measuring the level of trust in a relationship or in an organization. Interactions, directly between people or indirectly such as a new organization policy or practice, can result in deposits or withdrawals from that EBA.

Deposits in the EBA result from keeping promises, honoring expectations, being loyal to those absent and making apologies; while withdrawals result from the opposite actions.

We trust those who are trustworthy. Trustworthiness has two components—competence and character. Competence, in general, is easier to discern in a short period of time. It’s based on the knowledge, skills and results produced. You wouldn’t trust a surgeon to prepare your tax return nor would you trust your tax accountant to perform open heart surgery…or any other surgery for that matter.

Character, however, is the outward manifestation of your Sacred Self. It’s your integrity, motive, and intent with people. Character is reflected in your integrity, humility, fairness, modesty, love, courage, etc. The Trust Matrix defines competence and character in more detail.

I’m sure you’ve felt the slow deterioration of trust in a relationship. Trust erosion in an organization can be a little more elusive; for example, from the forced retirement of individuals for no apparent reason to the shock of fellow employees. Employees just arrive at work one day and are given 20 minutes to clean out their personal belongings. It breeds fear…will I be next?

You have to wonder how long it will be before the erosion causes a large mass to fall, just like undercutting the bluff. I believe that very few people cognitively notice the slow erosion (as opposed to sudden sapping) of trust in an organization until it craters, and then it’s noticed.

Lack of trust is like AIDS. No one, as far as I know, has ever died from AIDS. They die from a complication such as getting a cold that turns into pneumonia and results in their death. Likewise, no organization has ever died from lack of trust—it dies from the complications that arise over time as trust erodes.

HIV-AID vs Trust Loss Comparison (9-1-2018)Source: 10 Facts About HIV/AIDS Everyone Should Know

The slow disappearance of trust is imperceptible yet you can see it manifested in interpersonal relationships, which then impacts empowerment, which, in turn, impacts the ability of the organization to internally align itself to meet the customer needs. The cost to an organization is large.

There are numerous examples today where people do not tell management (or co-workers) what they are really thinking in a respectful way. Instead, they do one or more of the following:

  1. At best, give the politically correct answer or, at worst, say nothing
  2. Tell what they want management to know or what they think management wants to hear
  3. Just do what they are told to do out of fear—fear of what will happen if they go countercurrent
  4. Don’t trust what will happen if they speak their minds

Since they don’t trust what will happen if they speak their minds, their energy is sapped for two reasons—they are disappointed in themselves for not speaking up, and they are disappointed in the manager (or co-worker) for not seeking their input openly (emphasis on openly).

Unfortunately, once the damage is done, it is potentially not repairable. My lake erosion analogy breaks down here somewhat because rebuilding trust in a relationship after it craters is harder than installing retaining walls, creating breakwalls or filling in dirt.

The great thing, though, is that once real trust exists in the relationship or an organization and there are continual deposits in the emotional bank account (continual reinforcement), it could take a mega-tsunami to break it back down. Small withdrawals from emotional “bumps” in everyday interactions from that Emotional Bank Account can be tolerated.

What’s on Your Mind?

Every Monday about 6:00 a.m., I receive an e-mail from Aegis 360 Consulting with a quote to ponder. Ned Parks, Aegis 360 owner, provides his take on it. This week’s quote was from Michel de Montaigne, a French Renaissance philosopher.

“Nothing fixes a thing so intensely in the memory as the wish to forget it.”

And Ned’s note was:

Start thinking about what you want and see how fast you get there.

It brought to mind several things, one of which was a conversation with my son about teaching his seven-year-old daughter how to shoot at the soccer goal. She repeatedly hits the upright on the goal—just inches away from being a goal. She’s democratic about it; it doesn’t matter from where she is shooting.

This, in turn, brought my soccer coaching days crashing in from my episodic memory when I came to realize how I had set up my players to not score. As any player was about to take a shot, I would shout, “Shoot it where he’s not! Shoot it where he’s not!” The “he” (or she) being the goalkeeper.

To my frustration, dismay and puzzlement, every player shot it right at the goalkeeper, who, of course, either blocked the shot or caught the ball.

It wasn’t until years later while sitting in a Human Effectiveness workshop when I heard a quote from Wayne Gretzky, one of THE greatest hockey players of all time:

“I don’t see the goalie; I only see the back of the net.”

that I realized what I had done wrong. My words, “shoot it where he’s not,” had caused my players to focus on the “he,” the goalkeeper, not the open net, and their little feet merely followed their brain’s instructions and kicked it right at the goalkeeper. They had no choice.

Fast forward a few more years and a quote from Dr. Wayne Dyer brought it home for me:

“What you think about expands.”

Dyer uses the word “really” to progress from simply wishing for something to having a passion for it. The “really” progression (or the four reallies as Dyer calls it) is:

Really 1– wish (quietly want something)
Really 2– desire (openly ask for it)
Really 3 – intend (will bring this into your life)
Really 4 – passionate (unquestionably want it)

He cautions to be careful what you really, really, really, really want because you will bring it into form. Likewise, he warned, be careful not to think about what you really, really, really, really don’t want because you will bring that into form also.

Back to quote by Michel de Montaigne at the top. When we wish so intently to forget something, all we are doing is firmly writing it on the blackboard of our mind.

In sports, when a player messes up, they may say something like “my bad.” That’s the wrong thing to say because all that does is focus you on what you did wrong. You know you messed up; your teammates know you messed up. Why etch it a little deeper into the granite of your psyche?

Why not focus on the future and what you want and say something like “next time,” which is a social commitment to getting it right the next time. Your teammates then know you’re committed to getting it right and your head is “in the game.”

When my two oldest grandchildren were learning to ride their two-wheelers, one was definitively focused on “riding the bike” while the other focused on “not falling.” On one level, that sounds like the same thing. In reality, it was not. Which one do you think excelled at bike riding? Yes, the one who focused on “riding the bike.”

So, what are you thinking about? What sticks in your mind all day long, day in and day out? Is it what you want…or what you don’t want? The two aren’t the same. And the consequences of your thoughts won’t be the same either.