Make A Life and A Living

“There is no user manual for the rest of your life”, said my friend Virgilio Guardado.  Once you finish school, be that high school, college or graduate school most of us ask “Now what? Just exactly what I am supposed to do next?” Heck some of us ask that much later, when we are thinking about the next step in our lives. You make it up as you go along, pulling from the reference points and insights you encounter along the way.

We all say we make to make a life, the best life that I can. But how do you go about doing that? And what exactly does that mean? Making a life is when you invest in all the important aspects of living, that includes having an income, while embracing what feeds your soul, enriches your experience, nurtures your ability to mature and cultivate wisdom, makes you smile, laugh, and cry. It is a full-blooded, full-bodied journey that unfolds overtime.  Making a living is just that, earning an income that supports your ability to feed, shelter and cloth yourself and perhaps those you care for too.  In this go-go-go world it is easy to be swept up making a living and forget to make a life.

What I wish someone told me when I was younger, or that I had really listened when they did, about making life not just a living, are the eleven insights below.

  • Know who you are and be secure in that knowledge, especially if you are out of the mainstream. You don’t need to be dogmatic nor do you need to conform solely to fit in. We need the outliers to share a unique perspective, innovate, or offer a different approach.
  • Be courageous moving forward on your path. What happens along the way is not between you and the naysayers.  It is between you, your conscience and your spiritual reference.
  • You are making a life, not just a living.  Work-life balance is a process of making intentional decisions each day about what is best for you overall.
  • Careers are built over the course of time as you have experiences and develop skills that enrich you. Do more than you were asked.  Doing enough work to get by does not build a platform from which you continue to grow.
  • Remain teachable and find someone who will be frank with you. Take advantage of the opportunities to learn from experienced members of your industry.
  • Be scrappy; take a risk and when you do be confident not cocky.
  • Respect should be freely given to all; trust must be earned each day.
  • Be proud of what you bring to your work and world, and look for what others bring too.
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously.
  • Be passionate about something. It’s what drives and gives you the energy to keep going when you are stuck in a rut, need to learn something new or just feel mediocre.
  • Back-up and forgive yourself when you doubt your abilities, then try again.
Thanks Virgilio Guardado, Kasey Perry, Tashmia Prowell, Bryant Ryan, Nicole Kemp, Mom and Dad, for sharing your ideas with me.
Portions of this article originally appeared in BOOM Jackson, Summer 2012.
Deirdre Danahar©2012, All rights reserved

Creating a Productive Workplace

A great workplace has an inviting environment that goes beyond the desks, paint and windows. It has boundaries that foster a productive climate where people are valued for their attributes, roles suit individuals’ signature strengths and people’s potential is cultivated. The established boundaries eliminate distractions and confusion regarding what needs to be done, by when, how and by whom. The results are great work, done in a timely manner, consistently.  Plus, people find solutions to office problems instead of just complaining and they might bring cookies on Friday because they enjoy working together. They become a dynamic team.

An effective leader understands that professional boundaries are an extension of personal boundaries within a formal setting where there are shared goals to be accomplished. The goals are the source of both individual and team motivation.  Without appropriate boundaries employees and supervisors may confuse workplace relationships with personal relationships. Certainly workplace relationships can develop into personal relationships over time. But most of the time interaction with supervisors, colleagues clients and customers stops at the end of the work day. Setting professional boundaries is much easier when a relationship is viewed as formal rather than casual.

An effective leader also understands that failing to define boundaries, having no boundaries, or inappropriately rigid boundaries can have an adverse impact on their business and employees.  Some boundaries, however, need to be firm, for example, lying, stealing, or verbally or physically abusing others is never allowed. When professional boundaries and priorities have been clearly defined, it’s very likely that a group can function effectively, even in the absence of its leader. If everyone on your team understands what to do, how to do it, and when to do it, then team members will feel grounded in their roles.

Professional boundaries can be defined by a job description that clearly outlines specific duties responsibilities and reporting relationships. However, many times job descriptions define responsibilities in broad general terms. Professional boundaries become clearly defined when you answer these questions:

  • Who gives you your assignments?
  • To whom do you report?
  • Who gives you feedback?
  • Who sets your work priorities?
  • How are your company and client personal information kept secure?
  • Do you know how to treat all staff members fairly without positive or negative feelings influencing your decisions?

The responsibility to set a solid foundation falls upon the leader however every team member plays a role in creating a smooth functioning organization. Each team member is responsible to be willing to speak up to a colleague or supervisor and clearly define their issue and help find a resolution that works for everyone.

Professional boundaries are best set by carefully negotiating them in an open discussion about responsibilities, goals, and priorities prior to launching a new project or beginning a starting a new job. Here are three core skill areas to help you get started:

1. Know your limits: what you can do well within the allotted timeframe.
Do not exaggerate your ability by overselling it. Give accurate estimates. Delivering a good product on time improves your credibility, missing deadlines or delivering a substandard product hurts your reputation.

2. Tactfully and openly communicate about goals and limitations.
Do not undersell or misrepresent your ability. This prevents you from demonstrating your professional skills and could affect your career advancement. Highlight what you can and will do. Ask for help when it’s needed to ensure good quality work. Actively engage in problem solving and don’t complain about the problem.  Ask for feedback when it is not forthcoming.

3. Be available to discuss differences and reach agreements.
Honestly reflect back your understanding of the other person’s needs, interests, and concerns. Attempt to negotiate win-win solutions.

This article originally appeared BOOM Jackson.

Deirdre Danahar © 2012, All rights reserved.