Monday, December 12, 2011

An Elegant Methodology

About 20 years ago, a friend of mine told me about a “time management” course to which her company had been planning to send her. At the last moment, a work related issue came up and she was unable to attend. Instead of rescheduling, her boss bought her the 8-hour seminar on tape. My friend was fairly busy and somewhat scattered (as you can infer) and the tapes sat, unopened on her dresser gathering dust. At some point she lent me the package and effectively changed my life forever…

At the time the company producing the seminar was known as FranklinQuest, so named because the company’s founder, Hyrum Smith, had been inspired by the writings of Benjamin Franklin. On its surface, the program was pitched as a time management system, providing a methodology for prioritizing and tracking deliverables. In reality, it was much more. As I listened to the tapes, Hyrum (it was his voice) explained that the only way to be truly successful was to prioritize our daily tasks based on our ultimate values. He suggested that by using our values as an organizing principle, we could effectively create the lives we wanted to live.

Basically, his deceptively simple approach involved setting up complex long terms goals based on what was personally important to us as individuals. Each of these goals would then be broken out into smaller mid-term and short-term goals. As you organized each day, you would review the short-term goals for that week. At the beginning of each week you would set the short-term goals based on the mid-term goals and so forth. This way, in the exact moment of action, in what I refer to as the power-point, you would be engaging in the task that was most closely in line with your values and most likely to bring you incrementally closer to your ultimate objective. If a task showed up on the list that was not part of this structure, then you would need to re-evaluate its importance to you and determine if it was actually appropriate. 

While bringing this to the forefront of our awareness may be revolutionary, the process is fairly straight-forward. In fact, most of us tend to do it already. If you examine your life, you will see that it tends to be the embodiment of an assortment of your strengths and weaknesses. The parts of your life that are going well are expressions of where you “already have yourself” and the parts that aren't… well, aren't. This is not random. Neither however is it set in stone.

Much of what functions as our belief systems (positive and negative) are remnants of childhood lessons and experiences; ideas that we reflexively adopted from our parents or from the environment around us. Some of these “values” were installed accidentally and do not serve us. Others were fine for a time but have since become outdated or are no longer useful. We are all familiar with Robert Fulghum’s prose-poem All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. This may indeed be true, but there was also a mess of stuff that I learned in Kindergarten that I would do well to surrender. Like, watching hours upon hours of TV when I was bored or sucking on a bottle if I was upset.

Unfortunately, without taking time to DECIDE (and really understand) what values we are choosing to have, many of us continue to operate on these pre-programmed or reactionary positions.

Successfully navigating the CEO Zone involves awarely deciding what is important to us, what we cherish, what we value, and organizing our lives as expressions of those values. Some people might refer to this as “living with intention.”

The basis of Intentional Living then involves identifying and exploring the values we choose to have and then projecting our intelligences far out into the future, imagining what our lives would look like if we were able to organize them solely from the perspective of what is most important. From there, we slowly bring that focus back to the present and in doing so develop a plan to get from where we are now to where we want to be.

There are various ways to engage in this process. I use writing and some peer-based counseling exercises. Others find that meditation, yoga, creative visualization, certain kinds of martial arts, or prayer also work.

Whatever method you choose to adopt or experiment with, consciously or intentionally choosing your value system (and rejecting the pre-conceived or no longer useful perspectives) is immensely powerful and will make realizing your goals both more likely and more fulfilling.

From the Zone…


Note: In 1993, Hyrum merged his business with 7 Habits of Highly Effective People author, Stephen Covey’s group and it is now known as FranklinCovey.

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