Clarify Purpose and Inspire Greatness

Lessons_in_chemistry

Elizabeth Zott in Lessons in Chemistry lived her purpose, no matter what.

 

According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, "roughly 85% of 1,000 U.S. professionals polled in a new LinkedIn survey say they are thinking about changing jobs this year, up from 67% a year earlier." WOW! In the past, that percentage has hovered between 50-60%.

Those employees, who are a critical resource in their firm, are obviously not inspired by their work or the benefits they're receiving. The firms themselves are losing an important competitive advantage when their people aren't engaged or motivated in a common purpose. What is that purpose and why isn't it inspiring employees?

Definition of Purpose

Merriam Webster defines purpose as the reason why something is done or used, the aim or intention of something. Purpose encompasses a range of aspirations, from a grand reason for living to narrow objectives. Purpose is used interchangeably with the terms aim, target, goal, and intention.

There is a human need for purpose. In Man's Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl, Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, discovered that purpose gives people a will to stay alive. He reports, "Man actually needs the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him." Kenneth Thomas, in Intrinsic Motivation at Work, says, "We seem to need to see ourselves as going somewhere — as being on a journey in pursuit of a significant purpose.

What Is Core Purpose?

"Core purpose is the organization's fundamental reason for being. An effective purpose reflects the importance people attach to the company's work. It captures the soul of the organization," say James Collins and Jerry Porras in Built to Last. "Purpose should not be confused with specific goals or business strategies. Whereas you might achieve a goal or complete a strategy, you cannot fulfill a purpose; it is like a guiding star on the horizon — forever pursued, but never reached."

Purpose is the WHY a firm exists. It's not simply to make money or to increase shareholder value. Those are important goals but not the purpose. Consider these organizational examples of core purpose:

Disney - Make people happy
 
U.S. Health and Human Services Department - Improve the health, safety, and well-being of Americans
 
3M Company - Solve unsolved problems innovatively
 
Girl Scouts - Build girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place
 
State of Colorado, Office of Information Technology - Together we enhance the lives of all Coloradans

Radish Systems, the technology venture I co-founded with Richard A. Davis, has an important purpose: to fundamentally improve the way people communicate with businesses. Learn more.

My Story. I am a catalyst in helping organizations and leaders contribute and deliver extraordinary results. I have led firms, both large and small, in public and private sector, and their leaders in their strategic thinking process. The result is clarity on values, vision, purpose as well as a 1-page strategic plan. Think of me and let me help you define and deliver results toward your core purpose.

Purpose Improves Business Performance

"A key role of core purpose is to guide and inspire," say Collins and Porras. When a firm has an inspiring purpose, people are drawn to work for the firm. The best and the brightest want to be involved. Rather than be itchy to leave, they want to stay, be engaged, and contribute to their fullest. People get a sense of meaningfulness from their work. According to Kenneth Thomas, work that delivers a high level of choice, competency, progress, and meaningfulness leads to intrinsic motivation which leads to high levels of engagement, fun, retention, and results.

A participant in my Pursuit of Passionate Purpose research study, Don Vanlandingham, the retired chairman and CEO of Ball Aerospace, said, "Ball Aerospace combines meaningful work with passionate people. A lot of our people would work even if we didn't pay them." What Don was saying is that Ball's purpose made a positive difference on Ball's culture and inspired their people.

Why Passionate Purpose?

Opportunities surround us, but you must open your eyes to see them. When preparation meets opportunities, you will find your purpose. When you align that purpose with your passion, you will find your passionate purpose. A passionate purpose is a goal or intention pursued with great enthusiasm, interest, zeal, and/or passion. The conclusion of my research, published in Pursuit of Passionate Purpose, is: "The pursuit of passionate purpose, as well as its attainment, and connections along the way bring the real rewards of life."

Practical Pointers for Purpose — Organizations and Individuals

1.
PREPARE. Purpose comes when preparation meets the possibilities. Nurture yourself and your passions by continuing to learn, grow, and trying new things. Do things that will build your true self. Be action-oriented.
2.
ASK WHY. Consider using the Five Why Method to know your purpose and why to pursue it.
3.
ASK HOW. How does pursuing this purpose bring meaning to your life?
4.
CLARIFY YOUR PURPOSE. I recently met Kevin McCarthy, author of The On-Purpose Person. He offers this approach.
5. COMMIT TO YOUR PURPOSE.

Summary

Purpose is the fundamental reason for being. As Viktor Frankl states, "There is a human need for purpose." Both organizations and individuals have a "why they exist." Prepare, ask why, ask how, get clear, and commit to your purpose!

 

copyright 2024 Theresa Szczurek, all rights reserved.

credit for photo


Change or Die

Constant change 3 

(quote by Heraclitus, image by:  https://www.pinterest.com/pin/534732155728795869/

 

We are surrounded by change. It is the one constant in life. Driving through the Colorado mountains to Gunnison for a Board of Trustees meeting at Western Colorado University, I see aspen trees bursting out in glorious gold — this shows the change of seasons. My daughter just got married — there is change in her life and mine. When I meditate, I am mindful of the flow of sensations — here is evidence of the impermanence of life. One of the companies with which I'm affiliated was just acquired — there is change in my professional life and in that organization. Change is all around us. How do you manage it?

What Is Change?

Change is transition. It is defined as the act or instance of making or becoming different.

Practical Pointers for Effectively Managing Change

Social Change Theory developed by Kurt Lewin in the 1940s offers a useful approach to understanding and managing change. I have put it to work in all aspects of my life, especially organizational change.

Here is a quick overview. First, represent the situation as a field of forces. There are positive forces encouraging movement to the desired state and there are restraining forces holding movement back.

Then, to change the situation and the force field, use Lewin's three steps to unfreeze, change, and refreeze. "First you must melt the ice to make it amenable to change (unfreeze). Then you must mold the iced water into the shape you want (change). Finally, you must solidify the new shape (refreeze)." Further details from Lewin's model are below.

1.

UNFREEZE. Understand why the change needs to occur. State the vision of the outcome. Articulate a clear message.

2.

CHANGE. Realign the force field by decreasing or removing the forces restraining the shift. If possible, turn the negative forces into positive forces. Then increase forces encouraging the change. "Look for new ways to do things. People need to understand how it will benefit them. Time and communication are the two keys to the changes occurring successfully. People need time to understand the changes, and they also need to feel highly connected to the organization throughout the transition period. That means answering questions openly and honestly, dealing with problems immediately, and relating the need for change back to operational necessities. You can also empower your people by involving them in the process, where appropriate. Also, have line managers provide day-to-day direction. Where possible, generate short-term wins to reinforce the change."

3.

REFREEZE. "The outward signs of the refreeze are a stable organization chart, consistent job descriptions, and so on, making sure that the changes are used all the time, and that they are incorporated into everyday business. As part of the refreezing process, make sure that you celebrate the success of the change — this helps people to find closure, to thank them for enduring a painful time, and to help them believe that future change will be successful."

My Story

When we were building our first tech venture, Radish Communications Systems (aka Radish 1.0), we applied Lewin's change model. We had introduced our VoiceView product and made the first big sale, but we realized we were not going to get to our financial goals. Change was needed. We conducted a force field analysis of the situation. While there were positive forces encouraging companies to buy and implement Radish's 'voice with visual exchange' solution (such as improved understanding, reduced time to transact business, and improved user experience), there were strong negative forces holding companies back (users needed new hardware and software on both sides of a phone call, there were no standards, and there was uncertainty if our company would survive).

So we changed our business model to realign the forces. We were fortunate to attract a significant partner, Microsoft, to embed our software in the Windows operating system and modem partners (representing 90% of the worlds' chip, modem, and PC shipments) to embed our hardware in their off-the-shelf devices. With these powerful partners, we removed the negative forces and our solution became the defacto standard for voice / data communications over standard telephone lines. Remarkable!

Summary

Change is inevitable. How to manage it? Use Kurt Lewin's change management model. Recognize there is a field of forces holding the situation in its current state. Unfreeze the situation, make change happen by realigning the forces, and then refreeze. The result can be fast and smooth change leading to a stable outcome.


copyright Theresa Szczurek 2023


Turn Dreadful Meetings into Joyful Ones.

Joyful Business Meeting

When was the last time you were in a well run meeting? Did you feel good, energized, inspired, productive, connected, focused, on purpose, and happy you attended? Oh joy! Now think of meetings you've attended that are a waste of everyone's time. Did you feel distracted, bored, lethargic, frustrated, impatient, and unvalued as time was wasted. Oh dread! Time, time, time. It is one of our most precious resources. Yet more times than not, we suffer through inefficient gatherings that don't accomplish a worthwhile goal. It's time to revolt against dreadful meetings and turn them into joyful experiences. How?

What Is a Meeting?

According to Wikipedia, a meeting is "a gathering of two or more people that has been convened for the purpose of achieving a common goal." There are many types of meetings, from large to small, short to long, formal to informal. Let's talk here about work meetings which can be board meetings, management meetings, team meetings, staff meetings, kickoff meetings, project meetings, stand-ups, huddles, and more. The location can range from in-person to remote to hybrid, where participants can be either on-site or virtual. They can take place at all different times of the day.

My Story

Similar to what many of you find in your work, I participate in numerous meetings. As a trained meeting facilitator and certified management consultant, it can be frustrating for me when I'm not running the meeting and it runs amuck. Oh my! I recall a recent meeting, where speakers ran on and on, and important business — scheduled later on the agenda — was neglected because we ran out of time. In another meeting, there didn't seem to be any agenda, skilled facilitation, or time limit. As a result, certain people dominated the discussion. What to do?

Practical Pointers

Here are a few guidelines for making work meetings more worthwhile for everyone. Depending on the type of meeting, they may not all apply in your situation.

1.
CLARIFY PURPOSE. Establish the purpose of the meeting. What do you want to accomplish? Is there an envisioned outcome? Sometimes it's better not to have a group meeting at all, but rather meet one-on-one with people. Do we really need to have a meeting?
2.
ESTABLISH AN AGENDA. Create a list of items to be discussed. Keep the agenda short. Allocate time per agenda item rather than the meeting length. Send out the agenda with the meeting notice so that people can come prepared. Clarify what work should be completed before the meeting and brought in.
3.
CREATE THE INVITATION LIST. Who is critical or required to be at the meeting? Who is optional? Don't invite everyone — just those that contribute to the purpose and have a role. Keep the invite list small.
4.
GIVE NOTICE. Send out a meeting invite. Get the meeting on the calendar. Some meetings require a certain amount of notice.
5.
START ON TIME. End on time. This shows respect for the people attending.
6.
PREPARE. Come in with your thoughts. In order to save time during the meeting, you might send questions and comments ahead of time.
7.
FACILITATE. Appoint a facilitator. That person doesn't necessarily need to be the CEO or the Chairperson. Ask if it's okay to share facilitation responsibility. If sharing that role works, then take responsibility to contribute and keep the meeting on track and help the facilitator. Gather the energy of the people into this space and time. Keep the meeting moving. Ensure that everyone gets a chance to contribute. Pass the ball to someone else to share. Summarize a discussion topic and then move on to the next agenda item.
8.
AGREE ON RULES OF ORDER. Do you use Roberts Rules of Order? It's perhaps the most widely known set of rules offered to facilitate and manage meetings. Sometimes a simplified set of rules is more appropriate. That's why Colorado local governments, for example, established Bob's Rules of Order.
9.
COMMUNICATE CLEARLY. Gather your thoughts before speaking. Summarize your points.
10.
SET A TIMER. Have a person who keeps track of time and will alert the facilitator to move on. This person can be a big help to the chairperson or facilitator.
11.
RECORD. Appoint someone to take notes and document the important decisions made and next steps. Who will distribute them?
12.
EVALUATE. In some way, gather feedback on how the meeting went and what can be done to improve it. How are people feeling at the end? Use these inputs to turn dreadful meetings into joyful gatherings.
13. OPTIMIZE CADENCE. What regular meetings do you have and how often do they convene? Verne Harnish in his book, Rockefeller Habits, says "To make more than just a lot of noise in your business, you've got to have rhythm. And the faster you want to grow, the faster you have to pulse. At the heart of executive team performance is a rhythm of tightly run daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual huddles and meetings — all of which happen as scheduled, without fail, with specific agendas."

Summary

Let's work together to turn dreadful meetings into joyful experiences. If a meeting is needed, follow the practical pointers above. Steve Jobs would agree. The results are better meetings, greater productivity, and more fun!

 

copyright Theresa Szczurek 2023.  All rights reserved.  

Feel free to share, but please leave the  credits to the author, Theresa Szczurek


Recap Progress, Plan What's Next

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My mother always said, "Life is short. Death is sure." So true, I realize, given that my good friend Nancy had a life-changing accident falling off her roof (she is healing, thank goodness). It makes me ask, "Am I living my one life as I want?" Have you asked yourself lately what brings meaning to your personal and business life? Consider Mary Oliver's quote:

"Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

This is the time to Assess Progress and Plan for Next Year. [Note, as an executive and business coach I can help you and your organization through this process. Contact me to get this scheduled.]

Assessing My Progress

Here are some of my priorities and goals that bring meaning combined with lessons learned from this past year:

1.PROSPERITY. For me this means attract financial, spiritual, professional, and health abundance, safety, security, serenity, and independence. Read my December 2021 Newsletter about the Marshall Fire that burned 1000+ houses just a few miles from our home. Many friends lost everything. Last week another wildfire started even closer. Thankfully, the Rotary club and my minister both alerted me to prepare to evacuate. At first I froze, but then our family began moving as fast as we could. We had time to notify our neighbors, load our cars with our pre-packed 'go' bags along with computers, photos, camping gear, and other precious belongings, and arrange to go to a friend's house. Fortunately, the fire moved south and we didn't need to evacuate. We had prepared by having our evacuation lists and bags, increasing our homeowner's insurance limits, taking videos of our possessions, starting to get our old family photos digitized (but not all), backing up important documents, and putting more in our safety deposit boxes. Lesson: Realize it can happen to you. Be prepared. Have a plan. Question: How can you attract more prosperity, abundance, and safety in your life?

2. STRONG, TRUE, HEALTHY SELF. I am generally blessed with good health and work daily at fitness, although after nearly two careful years I just got and recovered from COVID-19 and Paxlovid rebound. Looking back over this last year, I recall falling down a few times during my hiking, xc skiing, and mountain biking adventures. Fortunately, there were no broken bones. Why would that happen, given that my physical therapist says I have excellent balance? I wasn't paying enough attention or going too fast during challenging hikes. I had not prepared with the right equipment, so I bought new hiking boots, use my hiking poles, and avoid icy paths without shoe traction spikes. Lesson: Slow down, focus, say no to some activities, and prepare. Continue to make efforts to eat well, exercise, get enough sleep, drink water, breathe, and reduce stress through meditation, affirmations, exercise, and prayer. Question: What are you doing to have a stronger, healthier self?

3.CONNECTIONS. As a total extrovertflSimpl, I treasure caring relationships with my family, friends, and work colleagues. This year brought domestic travel to new outdoor locations such as camping in Theodore Roosevelt National Park in ND with family and lots of CO hikes with friends, as well as making new connections at the New York Stock Exchange Diversity Initiative and through the Deloitte Board Ready program as I strive for corporate board seats. Lesson: Keep exploring and making new friends. Question: What are you doing to nurture connections in your life?

4. CONTRIBUTION. My 2022 theme was "Opportunities to Contribute." Meaningful consulting, board service at Western Colorado University, speaking, writing this e-newsletter, and efforts to scale Radish Systems brought real rewards, along with volunteering with advisory positions at US Digital ResponseBlackstone Entrepreneurs Network, and Founder Institute. It is gratifying to see that ChoiceView®, Radish's core product, continues to improve business communications by adding visuals to voice. Lesson: I come alive through meaningful work. Believe, believe, believe that the right opportunities will find you. Have a theme. My 2023 theme is Joy! Question: How are you contributing?

5. FLOW and HAVE FUN. This means be whole and live a balanced life. Be a SUNFLOWER. This year I started and ended each day with Gratitude, Appreciation, and Meditation. I read more books and attended more professional webinars and events. Lesson: Keep learning. Smile. Be joyous. Question: What brings that state of flow to your life?

Assessing Your Progress

Look back on the goals you created as you started this year.  Celebrate your progress.  As Sarah Van Breathnach says in Simple Abundance, "Don't be discouraged if you haven't achieved them. It's the reaching for them that's important. Make a new list. Carry whatever's still meaningful to you over to the New Year's list."

Plan to Pursue Your Purpose Next Year

Now is the time to establish goals for next year and then put together a plan to achieve them. [Note, as an executive and business coach I can help you and your organization through this process. Contact me to get this scheduled.]

Summary

What progress did you make this year toward your priorities and goals? Did you pursue your passionate purpose? What lessons did you learn? What is your plan for next year?

copyright Theresa M. Szczurek 2022-2023.  All rights reserved.


Accessibility Matters

Accessibility Icons

Is your business and your technology accessible? Accessibility is a hot topic. So much so that the State of Colorado legislature passed and Governor Polis signed HB21-1110 into law in 2021. Most all accessibility guidelines relate to web content or documents. They assume people will start at a website. But what about people who start with a phone call? Learn more in this newsletter.

CODA won the best picture Oscar in 2022. The acronym CODA means 'child of deaf adult.' This touching movie raises awareness of the challenges faced by people with hearing disabilities, as well as CODA family members. The question we need to ask is, what are we doing to support people with hearing loss or other disabilities, and improve their accessibility?

Why Should You Care?

NEGATIVE IMPACT. Hearing loss has been shown to negatively impact nearly every dimension of the human experience, including physical health, emotional and mental health, perceptions of mental acuity, social skills, family relationships, and self esteem, as well as work and school performance.
FINANCIAL IMPACT. Those with unaided hearing loss earned on average $20,000 less annually than those who used hearing aids or cochlear implants.
PEOPLE IMPACT. About 15% of the world's population, or over 1 billion people, live with some form of disability, of whom 2-4% experience significant difficulties in functioning. They are the world's largest minority.
IT'S THE LAW. U.S laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), require that accommodations be made to improve accessibility to those with hearing and other disabilities. In Colorado, HB21-1110 makes it a state civil rights violation for a government agency to exclude people with disabilities from receiving services or benefits because of lack of accessibility. All state agencies and local governments must be compliant with state standards by July 1, 2024. The United Nations adopted in 2006 a Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.

Practical Pointers for Coping with Hearing Loss

GET EDUCATED. Learn about hearing loss and other disabilities and what you can do to accommodate the situation.
SEEK MEDICAL HELP and get tested. People with hearing loss wait an average of 7 years before seeking help.
COPE AND SUPPORT. The Mayo Clinic offers tips to help you communicate more easily despite your hearing loss. Tell your friends and family that you have some hearing loss. Position yourself to hear by facing the person you’re talking to. Turn off background noise. For example, noise from a television may interfere with conversation. See the complete list.
TURN ON CAPTIONS. During virtual meetings and while watching TV, turn on captioning so audio is represented in text format. In this way, people can leverage visual as well as audible information sources.
TAKE ACTION. Government and businesses must consider the Americans with Disabilities Act and provide technological and other solutions that can help people accommodate hearing loss.
USE 'VOICE WITH VISUALS' COMMUNICATIONS. According to Dr. John Medina, author of Brain Rules, when you see and hear information you are 600% more likely to understand. Radish System's ChoiceView® addresses this market with a new kind of voice-and-visual phone call positioned between a voice-only call and a videoconference. ChoiceView improves phone accessibility for users with sensory, cognitive, or mobility disabilities. It helps businesses make and save money while preserving compatibility with their existing phone systems. ChoiceView provides a realistic alternative for users who want to reach businesses via a phone call but need to engage beyond voice only. Learn more.

Summary

Accessibility matters. Over 1 billion people in the world live with disability. You should care because of the large negative impact on people and the economy and because it's now the law. Use these tips: get educated, seek medical help, cope, provide support, and take action. Consider how to expand from voice-only to 'voice with visuals' communications.

Theresa M. Szczurek  copyright 2022.  All rights reserved.  


Something Completely Different is Good

 

And now...

When something is not working out or has not yet delivered, we often try harder. Is that your typical approach? Martha Beck, bestselling author of Way of Integrity, says, "Most of my clients, once they've admitted that their lives aren't really working, try to fix the problem by doing everything they've always done, but harder."

I know that when I set a goal, I persistently pursue it. Relentlessly! I buckle down and work harder, longer, and hopefully more creatively. Most times it delivers. But what if it doesn't?

Consider the mantra, "And now for something completely different." It's from Monty Python, the British surreal comedy troupe that created the sketch comedy television show, Monty Python's Flying Circus. What is the 'completely different' for you?

Assess Progress

This is the time to Assess Progress. During this state of the four-phase Pursuit of Passionate Purpose process, you assess how things are going and, depending on the answer, you determine what's next. You may continue pursuing a passionate purpose, with or without mid-course adjustments. Alternatively, you may determine, with or without making the goal, to move on.

My Path

I recall pursuing my first entrepreneurial venture, Radish 1.0. There came a time when our original business model was not delivering big enough or fast enough. We pivoted to a new approach. This allowed us to attract significant partners and eventually set the stage for a good exit.

However, as the co-founder, I began to experience personal challenges in this new environment. I felt I couldn't live true to my own highest convictions anymore. I perceived that my core value of integrity was being compromised. I tried to change the situation, but couldn't. I tried to live with the situation, but couldn't. I finally made the difficult decision to leave my Radish baby and move on. I did not die. Radish did not die. Rather in the end, it opened the opportunity for me to finally get pregnant and deliver on the Baby Plan. It brought our true baby, Annie. Oh joy!

And more recently, since leaving the State of Colorado CIO position, I've been consulting, speaking, helping Radish 2.0, volunteering with US Digital Response, and serving as a Trustee for Western Colorado University — while still being open to other opportunities to contribute. My sense, however, is that now may be time for something completely different. Stay tuned.

Practical Pointers

ASSESS. Use your favorite assessment method to determine how things are going. One of the simple measures is pleasure versus pain. Are you smiling or are you sighing?
APPRECIATE. Once you recognize some progress or a successful step, then appreciate it. Rewards, recognition, and celebration are ways to be grateful. Thank yourself, other people, and spiritual forces that are helping you along the way.
ALLOW. Consider the surrender suggestions from Martha Beck's Way of Integrity, which I realize are so consistent with the Allowing Strategy in Pursuit of Passionate Purpose. Realize that you have no control over anything. Focus on the present. Just be. Try saying these affirmations while you breathe in and out: "I allow everything in the universe to be as it is in this moment. I surrender all resistance to the universe being as it is in this moment."
MOVE ON. Every pursuit has a beginning, middle, and end — just like the cycles of life. Sometimes it's necessary, albeit difficult, to stop, be present, go in-between, or try something completely different. That difference could be just a mid-course correction, an adjustment, or a broader change. It could involve moving on.

Summary

When things are not working (or even when they are), stop, be present, breathe, and surrender. Appreciate, adjust, and perhaps move on. It may be time to try something completely different!

 

Theresa Szczurek copyright 2022.  All rights reserved.  


The Courage to Continue

Winston Churchill

Given the current state of the world with war, climate change, pandemic, and economic turmoil, the courage to continue in these 'worst of times' is paramount for all of us. The movie, Darkest Hour, portrays the extreme challenges faced by Winston Churchill, the newly elected Prime Minister, as Hitler aimed his war machine on England. His personal approach in meeting these challenges was, "Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts."

I believe that to survive and thrive in these times — to find the courage to continue — represents a pursuit of passionate purpose. "The pursuit of passionate purpose, as well as its attainment, and relationships along the way bring the real rewards in life," from my book, Pursuit of Passionate Purpose.

Practical Pointers

CLARIFY YOUR PASSIONATE PURPOSE. Passionate purpose is an intention or goal pursued with passion, intense enthusiasm, zeal, fervor, and interest. What is your purpose? Why is attainment of this goal meaningful? The more meaningful the purpose, the more intense is the passion, and the more noteworthy is the impact. In the case of the Darkest Hour, the survival of the U.K. and the free world was at stake. On a personal level, purpose can relate to health, finances, job, relationships, and many other aspects of life.
FIND COURAGE. Once you know the purpose is right, it's time to commit to it wholly. The word courage comes from the French root, corage, which means "having heart". If you are clear on your values and the idea serves your spirit and values, then courage comes. With courage to commit comes more passion, zeal, and fervor. This is the energy essential for successful pursuit. In the case of the Darkest Hour, the British people said they would never, never, never stop fighting against Hitler. We feel that same passion coming from Ukraine now. They have great courage. It is contagious and inspires others to help.
SURROUND YOURSELF WITH SUPPORTIVE PEOPLE. Help and serve others. The most effective Passionate Pursuers realize that it's vital to build relationships with and bring along on life's journey the proper people and support network and also lessen the impact of improper ones. Don't do it alone. In helping others, you help yourself. Recently a massive wildfire suddenly engulfed 1000 homes close to where I live and the community rose up to help. Hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, volcano eruptions, other natural disasters, and war are impacting our nation and the world, but people are coming forth to help. We must be allies.
PERSIST. Effective Passionate Pursuers use the Persistence Strategy to mindfully persevere with focused determination using a divide-and-conquer tactic and never giving up. The approach is to: (1) commit to a clear purpose, (2) divide the whole purpose into parts, (3) conquer the whole, piece by piece, and persevere with unremitting will to accomplish each part, and (4) seek feedback to assess progress, build confidence, and adjust the action plan.

Summary

M. Scott Peck, in his landmark book The Road Less Travelled, reminds us that "Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it."

Use the four Practical Pointers above to find the courage to continue, even in the worst of times. Never give up. It is the pursuit of passionate purpose, as well as its attainment, and relationships along the way that bring the real rewards in life.

copyright @2022 Theresa M. Szczurek.  All rights reserved.  


How to Cope with Uncertainty

Fires in Boulder County

A house is destroyed in the Marshall Fire.

The winds of change and uncertainty are blowing, constantly. As I write this post, monstrous wildfires have suddenly struck and are destroying neighborhoods in our community. Luckily my family and I are safe, yet it makes me realize how quickly things can change.

Without warning and in areas considered safe, 100 mph wind gusts brought power lines crashing down onto drought dried grass. Fires exploded. More than six hundred homes were gone in a matter of hours. People had seconds to evacuate. Some lost everything.

You Can Help! Community support will be needed by many people in the near and long-term. Already, over 35,000 individuals have been evacuated by the Marshall and Middle Fork Fires and hundreds of homes and many businesses have been devastated. Our partners at The Community Foundation serving Boulder County have activated the Boulder County Wildfire Fund in order to address the needs of the community.

Uncertainty Causes Stress

We live in a world of uncertainty. While this has always been the case, these last few years seem even more unstable with the pandemic, social conflicts, political unrest, financial fluctuations, and more. Uncertainty is the state of being uncertain. It's defined as not known or definite, not able to be relied on, not completely confident or sure of something.

The Stress in America survey, conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of the American Psychology Association, found that "63% of adults agreed that uncertainty about what the next few months will be like causes them stress, and about half (49%) said that the coronavirus pandemic has made planning for their future feel impossible. Research shows that people react differently to uncertainty, and those with a higher intolerance for uncertainty may be less resilient and more prone to low mood, negative or down feelings, and anxiety."

Practical Pointers on How to Cope with Uncertainty

1. KNOW AND NURTURE YOURSELF. Determine and reconfirm "Who am I?" by looking at your values, gifts, and traits. Start with who you are now. Answers to that question help you define what you're passionate about. By nurturing yourself, you strengthen your sense of self and become the whole person you want to be. This can be your core foundation, even in times of uncertainty, and provide resilience. Engage in self-care. Make efforts to eat well, exercise, get enough sleep, drink water, breathe, and reduce stress through meditation, affirmations, yoga, and prayer.

2. ALLOW. Do not resist. Use the 'Allowing Strategy' as explained in Pursuit of Passionate Purpose. Allowing is also called surrender, nonresistance, lack of control, acceptance, or equanimity. Be clear on what you want and allow how you get it to unfold. Effective Passionate Pursuers are flexible, open to the possibilities, and receptive to options along the way, yet hold firm to the broad intention and pursue it persistently. The Allowing Strategy is about surrendering with equanimity to the natural flow instead of struggling and resisting.

3. BE SELECTIVE. Limit the amount of exposure you have to the media and be selective in what you listen and watch. Avoid dwelling on things you can't control. Say NO to many things, in order to say YES to your passionate purpose.

4. REFLECT ON PAST SUCCESSES. Somehow you survived past unknowns and stress. This knowledge can build your confidence that you will get through this time of uncertainty. What helped you then? What might you do differently this time? Make a list of what to 'Start, Stop, and Continue' doing and then take action.

5. CONNECT AND ASK FOR HELP. Use the 'Connections Strategy' as explained in Pursuit of Passionate Purpose. The most effective Passionate Pursuers realize that it's vital to build relationships with the proper people and support network, and correspondingly to lessen the impact of improper ones. This includes you. Ask yourself what you would tell a friend in this situation. Reach out to family and friends whom you trust. You don't have to isolate or go it alone.

6. PURSUE YOUR PURPOSE. When you know your passionate purpose and direct your energies toward achieving it, you can more easily weather uncertainties. Develop a plan. Pivots will likely be needed along the way. Be creative and resilient. Keep going and persist. Take action. Don't give up.

Summary

We live in uncertain times which can cause stress. Use these proven coping mechanisms including: know and nurture yourself, allow, connect, be selective, reflect on past successes, and pursue your purpose.

 

By Theresa Szczurek, copyright 2021-2022.  All rights reserved.


Forgiveness as your Superpower

Whether you work in the public or private sector, there's a need for forgiveness. Forgiveness can help you both personally and professionally. Forgiveness Advocate, Lyndon Harris, gave an inspiring keynote at the US Servas 2021 Conference on "Forgiveness is my Superpower." Excerpts and additional material are below.

What is Forgiveness?

"Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness," says the Greater Good Magazine. Additionally, Lyndon Harris says, "It is about taking back your power, feeling at peace, healing yourself, and learning a skill."

According to Dr. Fred Luskin, director of the Stanford Forgiveness Project and author of Forgive for Good: A Proven Prescription for Health and Happiness, it is not forgetting, not excusing poor behavior, not denying the hurt, and not reconciling with the offender.

Benefits of Forgiveness from Mayo Clinic and Other Sources

FORGIVENESS SETS YOU FREE. " Forgiveness liberates the soul, it removes fear. That's why it's such a powerful weapon. Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies," said Nelson Mandela.
IT PROMOTES HEALTH. It lowers your blood pressure. It improves your mental and physical health as much as stopping smoking.
IT REDUCES ANXIETY AND STRESS.
IT FOSTERS HEALTHIER RELATIONSHIPS.
IT BRINGS PEACE AND JOY.
IT BUILDS A BRIDGE TO THE FUTURE. It is the means to break the cycle of violence and revenge. You become a better guide for your children and those around you.
IT IMPROVES PURPOSE AND PRODUCTIVITY. With the release from grudges and burdens, you can focus on making a meaningful difference in your life and the lives of others. Life becomes easier.

Forgiveness in Action

The journey of Lyndon Harris to forgiveness began at Ground Zero on the morning of 9/11/2001. Serving as the priest in charge of St. Paul's Chapel, he initiated a volunteer force that rose to over 15,000, serving meals, offering supplies and giving encouragement to the rescue workers. Then came conflict with the church elders, who thought Harris overstepped without church leadership approval. Harris resigned and his life fell apart with PTSD, depression, bankruptcy, and a failed marriage. He eventually began working with Dr. Fred Luskin and other forgiveness experts. Forgiveness set him free. Now he helps others. Learn more.

"After being imprisoned in South Africa for 27 years, simply for his protest of Apartheid, one might expect that Nelson Mandela would hold at least a small grudge. But, as he so eloquently said himself, 'As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison.'" As he wrote in his book, Long Walk to Freedom, "In my country, we go to prison first and then become President." Learn more.

Practical Pointers to Embrace Forgiveness

BE AWARE. Recognize that lack of forgiveness is holding you a prisoner. It is hurting you. Become aware of the benefits of forgiveness.
SET A PURPOSE AND INTENTION. As Dr. Luskin says, "Make a commitment to yourself to do what you have to do to feel better. Forgiveness is for you and not for anyone else." Establish a passionate purpose to move beyond the resentment and pain. Set a goal to forgive.
REFRAME. "Get the right perspective on what is happening. Recognize that your primary distress is coming from the hurt feelings, thoughts and physical upset you are suffering now, not what offended you or hurt you two minutes — or ten years — ago. Forgiveness helps to heal those hurt feelings," says Dr. Luskin. Reframe the situation by changing the assumptions.
PURSUE YOUR PURPOSE. "Instead of mentally replaying your hurt, seek out new ways to get what you want," says Dr. Luskin. Those new ways may include taking care of you through being kind to yourself, being present now, learning stress management, relaxation, and breathing techniques, saying positive affirmations, playing, spending time in nature, and taking on new meaningful pursuits. Be the change.
SURROUND YOURSELF with Proper People. Improper people can hurt you. Proper people, animals, and spiritual forces can help you. Spend more time with them. Use the Connections Strategy. Join a support group or find a counselor.
LET GO. Use the Allowing Strategy. Choose to forgive and move on.

Summary

Anger and resentment can over take your personal and professional life. Set yourself free through forgiveness. Here's how: become aware, set the intention to forgive, reframe the situation, pursue forgiveness by taking care of yourself, surround yourself with proper people, and let go.

P.S.  Sign up for the free "Szczurek Success Strategies" e-newsletter now.

copyright 2021 Theresa M. Szczurek.  All rights reserved.


Does Technology Improve Work-Life Balance?

Information technology is a double-edged sword offering a mixed bag. There are pros and cons.

"Current generations coming into the workforce are much more concerned about work-life balance and flexibility. How will technology address these concerns?" asked Jill Tietjen, P.E., moderator of the panel discussion on Powering Up the New Economy through Technology and Inclusivity at the recent conference of the International Women's Forum of Colorado.

I was honored to speak on the panel along with Dr. Janet Kavandi, astronaut and SVP at Sierra Nevada Corporation. Note that I love to speak. I'd be pleased to speak at your next meeting on this or other topics.

THE PROS — Some Ways Technology Encourages Work-Life Balance

SAVES TIME. The use of technology can save time, so you can spend it how you like. I recall how my grandmother washed clothes over 50 years ago. It took most of a day using a ringer washer first and then hanging the clothes on a line to dry. Now with modern washing machines and dryers, clean clothes are achieved in a fraction of the time. Think of how the pandemic changed grocery shopping for many of us. Rather than driving to / from the store, spending time walking the aisles, and then checking out, online shopping reduces the process to a few clicks on a computer or smartphone followed by delivery or pickup.

ENABLES REMOTE WORK. Thanks to computers, Internet access, and collaboration software, many people can work from home or in remote locations. This can save commute time and expense, reduce pollution, improve productivity, and increase flexibility. Of course, employers need to agree. I remember running our company Radish Systems virtually. This allowed us to hire the best people from around the country who would not have otherwise relocated. I was the State of Colorado Chief Information Officer when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and my Information Technology team quickly — in a matter of a few weeks — enabled 80% of the 30,000 state employees to work remotely. We found employees were less stressed and more productive, while working longer hours and staying healthier.

REDUCES MUNDANE WORK THROUGH INCREASED AUTOMATION. With artificial intelligence (AI), more and more mundane and repetitive work is being automated. Especially when there's a workforce shortage, automation allows workers to focus on the most challenging problems. Amazon, for example, has stated a goal for their warehouses to eventually run completely with robots. The future of much work is white collar, and people need the proper training to have the digital skills to succeed. Of course, rather than work-life balance, we must realize that increased automation may take the "spirit" out of work and leave a jobless underclass.

THE CONS — Some Ways Technology Discourages Work-Life Balance

INCREASES STRESS. Many people are always plugged in. They are therefore always on call. Since employers know this, they may put 24/7 demands with unrealistic response times on their staff. Rather than turn off and relax, people 'waste' time by surfing the internet, playing games, or mindlessly scanning social media.

HURTS SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT AND CAN BE MANIPULATIVE. Watch the movie The Social Dilemma and learn from the tech experts in Silicon Valley on the dangerous impact of social networking, which technology firms use in an attempt to manipulate and influence. The Social Dilemma points out that many social networks exploit human weakness by designing with something called "positive intermittent reinforcement" in mind. This has been linked, especially in youth, to increased mental health challenges. Many of these tech gurus do not let their children use social media.

IMPACTS BRAIN FUNCTION. Research has shown that frequent digital technology use has a significant impact — both negative and positive — on brain function and behavior. Potential harmful effects include heightened attention-deficit symptoms, impaired emotional and social intelligence, technology addiction, social isolation, impaired brain development, and disrupted sleep. This is especially impactful for the young. That's why we chose to have our daughter participate in a Waldorf-influenced elementary school. Waldorf Schools are very careful in structuring the environment for children so that wonder and imagination thrive. They suggest limiting media exposure for children, especially before 4th grade.

INCREASES CYBERCRIME RISK. As discussed in my May 2021 Szczurek Success Strategies newsletter, cybercrime is a big and growing risk. To protect yourself and your business, consider people, processes, and technology, and take action. Otherwise you may lose your identity or lose precious data and have your business shut down. A cybercrime attack can take enormous time to recover from, create stress, and cause financial harm — the opposite of work-life balance.

Summary

Technology can both encourage and discourage work-life balance. Be aware. Know how important it is to take action. Set the intention to be on top of it. Encourage children, at the proper age, to pursue STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine) careers so they can be part of the solution.

copyright @2021 Theresa M. Szczurek.  All rights reserved.