Posts Tagged ‘Innovation’

Time for a Change #23: Getting Your Team into Flow

by William Reed on August 16, 2012

Individual and Team Flow

No one truly works alone. We all depend on other people to earn and provide a livelihood. But the quality of our work experience, the quantity of our productive output, and the sustainability of our engagement all depend on the degree to which we are able to maintain individual and team flow over time.

Individual flow is often described as an experience of relaxed concentration, the enjoyment of high performance, challenge, and mastery. Athletes call it being in the zone, musicians in the groove, business people call it full engagement.

Alas it is easy to be pulled out of individual flow by a mismatch of talent and task, leading to boredom or anxiety; and by a mismatch of team energy, whereby other people pull you out of flow. You are in flow if you have a real reason to go to work. You have a passion for what you do. You would do it anyway, and not just because you are getting paid. Considering how much time and life energy we spend on work and careers, finding your flow is urgent and important business.

To gain deeper insights into your individual and team flow take the Talent Dynamics Profile Test online and get immediate results in the form of a profile graph and detailed report. Visiting the website will also help you learn more about the 8 Talent Dynamics Profiles shown in the illustration, and how this approach is used in business.

Team members also depend on one another to get into and keep working in flow. This requires an appreciation of differences in styles and strengths, and the ability to communicate and collaborate with people who share your workspace. This cannot easily be achieved with just a pleasant smile and a cooperative attitude. Once you understand the profiles, strengths and weaknesses, and flow requirements of each individual in your team, it is easy to understand who and what is missing in your composite profile. This will also help define your identity and style as a team, as well as help you determine and attract the outer edge supporters and providers who can help balance and fortify your team.

A high performance team is a priceless asset. Think of what happens to a band when a key member leaves, or how highly interdependent are the members of a sports team. The team’s performance is highly dependent on the team and team members remaining in flow.

Shared Mission and Motivation

Sun Tzu’s classic strategy on winning without fighting applies equally well to what happens inside the team, as it does to the opposition. To be successful it is critical that the team have a shared mission, which is more than a mission statement. What holds it together is an emotional commitment, the genuine feeling that we are in this together.

Working together should be a pleasure, your team an extended family. The team that plays together stays together. Having fun at work makes it easier and more natural to socialize with your team outside of work, within the bounds of friendship, and not as a forced obligation. All for one and one for all is not a bad thing to aspire to if it is felt from the inside.

Shared motivation is the other half of the coin that keeps the team together. Motivation depends on a good match of talent and task, role and responsibility. Players in position, passing the ball to the right person at the right time, and celebrating your success. Talent Dynamics gives you a framework for determining both roles and strategy.

Life/Work Balance

One challenge of full engagement in your work is that it can absorb time, money, and resources that might otherwise be devoted to health, financial planning, family and friends, study, personal development, leisure, or even volunteer activities. Almost by default your work will occupy the lion’s share of your time. Hopefully it will also make the other areas of your life better, but the balance is likely to be asymmetrical.

Management guru Peter Drucker found that people who were only successful in business were often quite unsuccessful and unhappy in other areas of their life. Revisit Drucker’s thinking on this through a book by Bruce Rosenstein, who interviewed Drucker at the end of his life, which I reviewed in a separate article, Living in More than One World.

Value and Leverage

Looking at the Talent Dynamics square in the illustration, you can see it as composed of a vertical Value axis, and a horizontal Leverage axis. To a business, Value represents the things that its customers are willing to pay for, its products and services. Leverage represents the way in which value is made known and available, through its people and systems.

The questions to ask on the vertical axis are what is it worth and when? DYNAMO energy in the green triangle is where you find innovation and ideas in the form of products; whereas TEMPO energy in the yellow triangle is where you find timing and sensory experience in the form of services.

The questions to ask on the horizontal axis are who will deliver it and how? BLAZE energy in the red triangle is where you find people who can make the company’s value known and available; whereas  STEEL energy in the grey triangle is where you find the systems and distribution mechanisms which make the company’s products and services readily available.

Making Magic

The Great Multiplication is where you multiply Value X Leverage, which results in sales and profits for the company, as well as increased value delivered to the customers. Companies which do this well over time are able to grow and continue to deliver additional value to customers at higher levels. Amazon.com started out as an online bookstore, but now sells all kinds of products in many consumer categories. It also offers customers a chance to resell used books, and even has a credit card service. They deliver more things, faster and more cheaply, so they continue to grow. But behind the scenes, this is all made possible because many of the individuals and teams working at Amazon.com are themselves in flow. Companies which drive sales and performance by forcing their people out of flow are not able to sustain growth.

Who are gonna call to make magic? Call EMC Quest and we can show you how to make the most of your energy, mind, and creativity when it is time for a change in your business.

For a summary of this article and reminders of next steps to take, download a PDF file COLLABORATION MANDALA.

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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Have you ever kept 200 executives waiting? It isn’t a nice experience, and if you are a presenter it can be something of a nightmare. Some years ago I was the second of two speakers to a group of about 200 executives in a large city in southern Japan. The first speaker used PowerPoint from his PC, and I was planning to use Keynote from my Mac. I was told that all we needed to do was switch cables when my turn came to speak, so there was no need for a break between speakers. My slides were ready, but I was not ready for what happened.

Who knows if it was the projector, the cable, or the computer, but immediately after I was introduced as the next speaker, the air froze when I realized that they couldn’t get my slides to display. I had 200 executives waiting for me to start, the assistant in a cold sweat trying to connect the cables, and a presentation that I might be forced to deliver without slides. Unfortunately, my presentation depended entirely too much on my slides.

We did manage to get the slides on the screen after about 5 minutes, but it was one of the longest 5 minutes I can remember as a speaker. Even today I don’t remember what I presented, but I vividly remember the folded arms, the impatient expressions, the frequent glances at watches, and the feeling of near panic deciding whether to wait for the slides, or deliver entirely without them. In retrospect, had I prepared to deliver with or without slides it would not have been difficult, and might have been more fun without slides. As it was, I would have been happy to have an ice pick to break the ice that formed in those unfortunate five minutes.

Though it doesn’t happen often, you are much better off if you are prepared for if and when…

  • You don’t have time to prepare slides
  • The slides you have aren’t any good
  • You have to make your presentation shorter/longer
  • The equipment isn’t working
  • You have an idea to share, but no computer or projector
  • You want to try it without…

Start with Why?

If you have to present without slides, the most important question to start with in your preparation is to know why you are there. Hopefully you have something you want to say, because you want to change the world in some way. Realistically, the reason may be that you have to present as part of your job. In either case you will want to do your best and present something of value to the people in your audience. This is the same talking to a large audience or sitting around a table. Knowing Why will help you pinpoint your passion. Fnd the part that you care about and it will be easier to convey why you, and why now. Otherwise you might as well just send your message as an attachment to an e-mail.

Show and Tell

Long before the days of slides and presentations, I remember well from elementary school the time for Show and Tell. Kids would bring things from home and tell the rest of the class something about it. No one ever taught us how. That wasn’t necessary because it is easy to talk about something that you want to show to others. Many adult presenters spoil the show by showing off, or telling too much. Technology sometimes takes away from a presentation by breaking off the emotional connection, or even masking the lack of real content.

You can often connect better with your audience by sketching your ideas in your own hand. A lack of artistic skill often prevents people from doing this, but a rough sketch conveys more personality and humor than any stock photography from the Internet. Diagram your ideas, and be sure that your diagrams lend clarity not confusion. You can also effectively demonstrate ideas with your face, hands, and body. People much prefer an animated speaker to a talking head. And as Hamlet said, “Suit the action to the word, the word to the action.”

Dialog takes you directly into the scene, which is why movies are mostly made of dialog. Use it liberally by sharing what people said. Drama engages the mind, so the more you can dramatize what you talk about, the more engagement you will get from your audience. Dramatizing is a skill, and not to be confused with using histrionics for effect. Exaggerated emotional behavior calculated for effect will turn people off faster than you can count to three. Use stories in your presentations, but make sure that they have a heartbeat. Stories should stand on their own, that is they shouldn’t need slides to be understood. They are your best chance to bring your presentation to life, to keep people on the edge of their seats, and to gain a permanent seat in memory.

Experiment with different writing tools and surfaces. Write large and write small. Above all practice in all kinds of environments, especially when you can be relaxed and conversational. It can be lots of fun to pull out your favorite writing tools and surfaces, and then strut your stuff!

Improvising and Improving

The best way to move beyond slides is to also move beyond the script! Learn how to improvise. It is a skill which seems inborn in the personality, but in fact is learned over time. Improvisation is practice taken to such a high degree that it looks effortless. It comes to the person who is thoroughly comfortable with the material. An excellent guide to help you learn how to improvise as a presenter is Improvise This! How to Think on Your Feet so You Don’t Fall on Your Face, Mark Bergren, Molly Cox, Jim Detmar.

Improving is just as important. It is will keep you on an upward curve. Watch speakers on TED.com Ideas Worth Spreading—Riveting Talks by Remarkable People, and you will see that many of the best speakers use slides only sparingly, if at all. Watch speakers who present well without depending on slides and you will learn volumes on how to improve your own presentations. Learn how to doodle and draw from the unsinkable Sunni Brown! http://sunnibrown.com/. A useful skill to have in business presentations, whether before a large group or in a small meeting, is solving complex problems with simple pictures, which you can learn from Dan Roam, author of the bestselling book The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures, http://www.danroam.com/.

Back to Slides

Once you have gained confidence that you can do pretty well presenting without slides, possibly even better without slides, then it is time to revisit slides and see how they can possibly enhance your presentation without interfering with it. Be a Slide Minimalist. Lean how to do without, and then you can be more effective with. The key is to learn how to be great with or without slides.

Learn to use the “B” key on your keyboard, which will blank out your screen until you hit it again. That brings full focus on you as the presenter, and prevents the distraction of flickering shadows on the screen when you hand or body stands in the way of the projector. If you must use slides then learn to use them well. Two excellent guides to begin with are Garr Reynold’s Presentation Zen and Cliff Atkinson’s Beyond Bullet Points. But before you dig into that and fall back into slide dependency, go back to If and when…? Prepare yourself to present at your best any place and any time.

Download a summary of this article and tips on reaching the other side without slides at  NO SLIDES MANDALA 

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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Look at the image of black squares in rows and columns, and count how many black spots you see. While there appear to be many, in fact there are none. When we focus on the figure, we easily ignore the ground. In this optical illusion, the intersections appear to be sprinkled with black dots, which pop in and out and shift about the image with a dizzying effect, purely as a figment of our imagination.

If you calmly focus on any one of the white dots, you can clearly see that it is white, and that the black and grey dots are an illusion. If you focus on the central white dot, and gradually let your field of peripheral vision expand, you may be able to see an expanded range of dots as they are white, without any flickering dots on the screen. This is a challenging shift in focus, because it requires you to see comprehensively the big picture, the details, and the relationships all at the same time.

Easy to get lost in business

The lack of comprehensive vision causes confusion. This happens to many people who enter the world of business. Whether you are an executive or someone on a career path, if you don’t know where you are and where you are going, you may easily find yourself lost in the cross winds.

The flickering mentality leads to a pursuit of short-term profits without regard for consequences. Large organizations and governments which engage in short-sighted or greedy behavior can wreak havoc on the economy and the environment. The pursuit of the flickering dot mirage creates stress, and over time the process tends to chew people up and spit them out.

Itoh Motoshige, Professor of Economics at the University of Tokyo, says that to understand economies today we need a flexible focus, the ability to shift appropriately from the bird’s eye Macro view, to the insect’s eye Micro view for detail, and to the fish’s eye for changes and interrelationships. This is precisely the power of the Mandala Chart, which enables you to shift perspective and focus with ease.

A world of opportunity

The Mandala Chart can help us regain our bearings by seeing our business comprehensively, and what role we want to play within it. It also helps us refocus on the interfaces and spaces between things and people. Because the majority of people are too busy pursuing the mirage to really recognize reality, this is where the opportunities are.

What is typically presented as a good opportunity in business, is often actually an opportunity to be part of somebody else’s business plan. Most of these so-called opportunities are so easy to duplicate, that they lead right to the red ocean of competition for slight edge advantages and dwindling profit margins. If customers are unable to distinguish between brands or quality, they will naturally gravitate to the lowest cost option.

True opportunities are never obvious, because they exist in the spaces between. They represent the world of possibilities and new combinations, and come to life when an entrepreneur or enterprise recognizes and fully engages their potential. This is why so much innovation happens at the leading edge of technology, through interdisciplinary collaboration at the edges, and through networking and mastermind groups.

An ancient principle

The Principle of Comprehensiveness is the second of eight principles in the Framework of Wisdom for the Mandala Chart. Two concepts which help define it have roots in Buddhism, particularly the branch of Esoteric Buddhism which introduced the Mandala to Japan.

(), meaning empty as the sky, which in fact is full of stars, galaxies, and infinite possibilities. In Japanese painting, architecture, traditional and martial arts, space is a powerful entity. It is also an essential idea in Buddhism, often mistranslated as emptiness, but more accurately representing the infinite potential of that which is without form. The realization of this potential depends on the second concept, which is how you engage with this potential.

(en), meaning edge or relationship, which can also mean the opportunity which is abundant in the intersections where people and ideas meet. It may also be thought of as the present moment and space, which is where the past transforms into the future. Think of how often things have developed according to the people you met and the decisions you made at the time. Yet this is an ongoing process, not a final verdict.

The Mandala itself has roots in India, Tibet, China, and Japan, where it was introduced in the 9th Century by a Buddhist Priest named 空海 (Kūkai). From the sixty-four frame (8×8) structure of the Diamond World Mandala, a National Treasure from 9th Century Japan, it is easy to see the roots of the Mandala Chart. The imagery used then represented the iconography of Esoteric Buddhism, as a graphical way of looking at the Buddhist universe with flexible focus.

Back to business

How then do you apply this to business? Once you understand the importance of flexible focus, once you learn how to look at things comprehensively, then you need to fix your eight compass points for business, and place them in the framework of the Mandala Chart.

How you determine those points depends a great deal on your type of business, your role in the business, and the field on which you play. To get you started, try downloading the PDF template COMPREHENSIVENESS MANDALA, which gives you eight coordinates likely to apply to any business. You can apply the Principle of Comprehensiveness to any area of your life (Health, Business, Finance, Home, Society, Personal, Study, Leisure). It is best if you generate your own questions, starting from the essential ingredients of Quality Questions: WHY? WHEN? HOW? WHAT? WHO? HOW TO? HOW? WHY ME?

  1. WHY?
    • Why are you in business?
    • What Legacy do you want to leave?
    • What would you do if you had the resources?
  2. WHAT?
    • What products and services do you offer?
    • What is your plan for ongoing content creation?
    • What are the platforms by which you will deliver your value?
  3. WHY ME?
    • Why are you the right person (people) to carry out this mission?
    • What in your background supports or led up to this position?
    • Why should people choose you above all of the providers available?
  4. WHO?
    • Who are the key players in your organization?
    • Who are the key stakeholders in your business?
    • Who are your ideal customers?
  5. WHERE?
    • Where will you locate your business physically and geographically?
    • Where can people around the world access your business online?
    • What venues and stages do you have to showcase and conduct your business?
  6. WHEN?
    • When do you plan to begin?
    • Can you put your projects on a calendar or timeline?
    • What are your milestones for progress?
  7. HOW MUCH?
    • How much will it cost to operate your business?
    • How much can be expected in revenues?
    • What are the key numbers and indices that you need to pay attention to?
  8. HOW?
    • How do you plan to achieve your goals?
    • What systems do you have in place for delivery?
    • How will you ensure that your business is sustainable?
  9. HOW TO?
    • How to scale up your business?
    • How will your business continue to innovate?
    • How will you automate your business processes for efficiency?
  10. HOW?
    • How will your business secure cash flow?
    • What operating systems and technologies give you economies of scale?
    • What is your system for accountability and follow up?

The logic of the location of these questions on the Mandala makes sense when you refer to the Wealth Dynamics Square covered in the previous article, Time for a Change #16: A Rewarding Business, with FLOW in the center, DYNAMO on the upper side (How to? What? Why me?), BLAZE on the right side (Why me? Who? Where?), TEMPO on the lower side (Where? When? How much?), and STEEL on the left side of the square (How much? How? How to?). The important thing here is to consider them all with the flexible perspective made possible by the Mandala Chart.

Spend some time trying to see your business comprehensively, looking for new opportunities in the spaces between, for new ways to connect and integrate each of these elements.

The next time you find yourself getting tired, confused, or stressed by your job or business, look at your Mandala Chart. See if you can take your mind off of the flickering dots illusion, and refocus on the substantial opportunities that exist in the spaces between. Be sure to write your insights down. What you discover will calm your mind and benefit your business.

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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Time For a Change #16: A Rewarding Business

by William Reed on May 31, 2012

Finding your path of least resistance

To better understand the Wealth Dynamics Square featured here, a brilliant creation by entrepreneur and founder of Wealth Dynamics, Roger J. Hamilton, it is best to start with the Wealth Dynamics Profile Test, which gives you a measure of where you start, and how far you can go, as well as which direction represents your path of least resistance to Wealth.

Even if you are not an entrepreneur, it will help you understand Wealth Creation, which is a major function of any business, and increasingly an imperative for educational institutions and non-profit organizations, which cannot depend on donations to keep their operations afloat.

There isn’t space here to go into the details of the 8 profiles, except to note that they are supported by successful entrepreneurs and business models in each category, and based on the concepts developed by Carl Jung, and derived from Asian philosophy. More importantly, the Wealth Dynamics Square is like a codex for understanding how people interact with people to create the ideas, networks, products, services and systems that make the business world go around.

Keeping your perspective

There are so many elements to manage in business that it is easy to lose your perspective. By focussing too much on one area at the expense of others, it is easy to win the battle but lose the war. The Mandala Chart can give you flexible focus, like a zoom lens which can look at the bird’s eye view of the whole, the insect’s eye for detail, and the fish’s eye for the connections.

As a guide to navigating and actually applying the concepts in the Wealth Dynamics Square, I suggest 8 categories you can use for Business: Value, Leverage, Wealth, Business Model, Strategy, Platform, Resources, and Network. Download a BUSINESS MANDALA featuring key questions for each of these categories, so that you can begin to create your own customized approach to a rewarding business.

A. Value

Without value you have no business. The challenge is that the value that is obvious to you may not be obvious, and may not even be noticed by the people who have the ability to pay for it. To be successful you need to create value, brand and package it in a way that is easy and attractive for others. This is an ongoing process, if your business is to survive the eroding forces of competition and shifting values. You must have energy and commitment to be at your best.

➀ What is your Wealth Profile, your path of least resistance?

➁ What is your personal platform, you means of showing your value to others?

➂ What is your process and plan for increasing your value over time?

Click here to find out more about the Wealth Dynamics Profile Test.

B. Leverage

Value without leverage is mere potential, a good idea waiting to be implemented. Leverage is how a concept is made known, tangible, deliverable, and ready to use or consume. Leverage is made possible by working with people in complementary profiles who can carry the concept forward into action. It depends on trust, tools, and systems for reliability.

➀ Which profiles offer the most leverage for your value?

➁ What strategies outside of your profile can you engage in to increase your leverage?

➂ What is your process and plan for increasing trust among your leverage partners?

C. Wealth

According to Roger J. Hamilton, Value X Leverage = Wealth (V x L = W). This is higher level of value for business partners, customers, and society, and the reason why a business stays in business. It is also what contributes to the lasting value, or legacy of the business.

➀ What types of value will you create for your business partners and stakeholders?

➁ What type of value do you create for your customers?

➂ What value do you create for society, and what legacy will you leave?

D. Business Model

All successful businesses operate on a structure, or business model that keeps processes running smoothly, and is the key to duplication, repetition, and sustainability. Some business models can be copied, as often happens with franchises. However, the ultimate success depends on the people involved, and not the mechanics of the business.

➀ What are the key elements and processes in your business model?

➁ Can you articulate them in the Business Model Toolbox?

➂ Do you have agreements or contracts in place to communicate and protect your business model?

Click here to learn more about business model generation, as well as tools for generating your own business model.

E. Strategy

While the business model is the vehicle, strategy is the map, the plan that shows where you are going and how you will get there. Strategies should allow flexibility to adapt the plan as you go, without losing sight of the end goal.

❐ Do you have scenarios and simulations for your business potential?

❐ Do you have a business plan?

❐ Do you have a platform for implementing your Strategy?

Click here to learn about a tool that can give you Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE

F. Platform

In a world which is flooded with information and driven to distraction, you need a platform to be noticed, and to attract people to your products and services. Although there seems to be no limit of choices in how you build your digital or analog platform, the options are increasingly affordable and provide greater reach at a lower cost. The effectiveness of your platform depends on having a sound business model and a good strategy.

❐ What is your digital platform, website, social media, software?

❐ What is your analog platform, brochure, business card, one sheets?

❐ What is your process and plan for leveraging your platform?

G. Resources

No business can last without resources, not only financial, but information, contacts, ideas, all of the things that support and sustain your business as it grows. Pay close attention to and protect your resources.

❐ Do you keep an inventory of your resources?

❐ Do you polish, protect, and use your resources?

❐ What is your process and plan for outsourcing when you do not have particular resources?

H. Network

Ultimately it is the people in your network who make everything possible for your business. You need to identify who they are, and take care of your network well if you would have people take care of you in turn.

❐ Who are the people that can help you?

❐ Who are the people that you can help?

❐ Do you have a process and plan to cultivate and increase your Wealth Network?

Click here to read about the anatomy of your Wealth Network

Developing a rewarding business is hard work, but it becomes easier once you identify and coordinate the elements that support it. The great thing about being or even thinking like an entrepreneur is that you navigate your own course, rather than following instructions to navigate someone else’s course. Use the Business Mandala to keep your perspective and develop your work into a rewarding business.

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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Time For a Change #15: Finding Your 80/20 Path

by William Reed on May 18, 2012

The unlikely economist turned philosopher

It seems unlikely that an economist would have an insight that ultimately inspired a philosophy of living, but that is exactly what happened. In 1906 an Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto observed that 80% of the land was owned by 20% of the population, and that this ratio seemed to recur with regularity even in nature. This observation was picked up by management consultant Joseph M. Juran, who named it the 80-20 Rule, or Pareto Principle. Also know as the law of the vital few, it has become an accepted phenomenon that in business 80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients.

This was taken up as a core theme by Richard Koch, a successful management consultant, entrepreneur, and author, who wrote a series of books such as Living the 80/20 Way, centering on the law of the vital few as a Way of Life. He provides lots of anecdotal evidence on how the principle occurs and recurs in business, in nature, and in our experience, but also provides practical advice on how to get better results for much less effort.

The promise of his philosophy is a way to work less, worry less, succeed more often, and enjoy life more. It is a practical philosophy, one which focuses on getting results, not through the conventional approach of working harder or more efficiently, but by thoughtfully focussing on the 20% of your ideas, contacts, and activities that will yield 80% of your results. He speaks convincingly to business audiences on how most people work too hard for meager results, when they could accomplish and enjoy more by learning how to find and focus on the vital few.

Avoiding digital distraction

It is hard to fathom the degree to which digital technologies and computers have transformed our world. We can now virtually transcend space and time. New economies of scale bring goods from the world to our doorstep the same day. Computers give us windows on the world and affordable access to information, education, media, and entertainment. Through our smart phones and tablets the digital window points in so many directions, it feels as if we have the world at our fingertips.

For all of its fascination, fun and convenience, we should not forget that the world at our fingertips is actually a world under glass, a virtual reflection of what actually exists elsewhere in analog form. Moreover, since we are not actually there, we can easily go somewhere else. We are always just a click away from zillions of choices! Even if your mind is only preoccupied with 3 or 4 choices, that is already enough to cause you to become digitally distracted and lose your 80/20 bearings, losing sight of the vital few.

Bret Victor wrote A Brief Rant on the Future of Interaction Design, an article which raises questions few people seem to be asking; about what we are giving up when we limit the many dextrous functions of our hands to the simple action of swiping our fingers or tapping on a screen. He believes that our future is in our hands, our ability to feel, manipulate and make things, and not in pictures under glass.

In our digital dreams we should not forget the importance of focus, the analog world of sensory experience, the world of sensory serendipity, the world which to appreciate you have to have been there.

Finding fun in focus

In his book, The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs: Insanely Different Principles for Breakthrough Success, Carmine Gallo attributes the success of Steve Jobs in part to his ability to “Say no to 1000 things.” Apple’s ability to focus has resulted in game changing innovation, making it one of the most profitable companies in the world today.

For most of us it boils down to the art of time management, which in fact is really the art of self-management. Edwin Bliss is an internationally known consultant on time management, and although his books were written in the 1970s, they as timely today as they were when they first came out. Written in brief chapters with practical advice on everything from managing your schedule to increasing your energy and focus, they are also illustrated with amusing illustrations that depict the dilemmas that we all face in time management. For a wealth of tips on how to manage your time and increase your productivity, is well worth reading his two classic titles on time management, Getting Things Done and Doing it Now.

Your path of least resistance

It is not only digital distraction and poor time management that take us off of the 80/20 Path. One of the most fundamental mistakes that you can make is to spend your precious life energy working hard on something that does not come naturally to you. Sadly, many people find themselves stuck in  a job or career in which they spend years developing an average level of competence, when they could truly excel at something else in a much shorter time if they found the right path.

This is not just the classic dilemma of the would-be artist who works at a detestable day job just to pay the bills and get by. It can apply equally well to anyone in any line of work. It is more a matter of finding your flow, according to Roger J. Hamilton your Wealth Dynamics profile. There is no sense in putting this off. It is one of the most important things you should know about yourself, if you wish to succeed on the 80/20 Path.

One of the hardest lessons to learn is that only a few things matter. How tragic if you look back at the end of your career or life, and feel as if you frittered away your life pursuing things that did not really matter. Take an 80/20 inventory of your life now, and focus on your few true friends, gifts, and goals.

For a visual summary of these ideas and approaches download here the 80/20 MANDALA. Catch up on other articles and Mandala downloads in this series by accessing the Time for a Change file on GOALSCAPE Connect.

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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“Nature has given us two ears, two eyes, and but one tongue—

to the end that we should hear and see more than we speak.”

~Socrates (c. 469 BC – 399 BC)

There is nothing more timely than ancient wisdom. What was true in Socrates time over 2400 years ago, must be even truer today in our age of Internet, Satellite television, Skype, Facebook, smart phones, and talking heads shouting in our ears. Those who seek sanctuary to meditate and quiet the mind find it next to impossible in a world in which constant chatter invades our private space. To avoid drowning in the noise, people talk back in self-defense, until all the world is talking, and very few are actually listening. It is comical to see this happening sometimes in cafes when everyone at the table is talking at once, a mini-drama enacting out the larger drama happening on the world stage.

Getting back on the same page

We have gotten so distracted that we are not no longer on the same page, we are not even on the same channel. Remote control and easy access to unlimited channels has seduced us into making this easy escape any time we get distracted or bored. This problem is serious in schools, where flitting minds outrun teachers like jackrabbits. The modern attention span is so short, that the average visitor to a website makes the decision to stay or click away in just 3 seconds. That is ten times shorter than the already super-brief 30-second elevator speech.

While it is definitely harder to get and keep people’s attention today, it is even more important in business to connect with the people who matter most, your customers and your collaboration partners. The first thing to do is to get back on the same channel, then at regular intervals to get on the same page and communicate about what you see. The channel might be Skype or your smart phone, but the page is more likely to be a document, a slide presentation, a spreadsheet. The challenge is that information can get so complicated spread across multiple documents, that it is easy to lose track of the big picture. GOALSCAPE Connect is a perfect way to get and stay on the same channel and page with your collaboration partner on any project, and any level of detail. And you can show the Big Picture to others in presentations on a big screen or a tablet, enabling them to join you on the same page.

Beware the memory trap

Memory is fallible. It can even be called ephemeral, because the details fade quickly. We tend to fill them in with different details which we think are right, which we have selected as important, or simply because the wires got crossed. Memory can be a trap.

Memory is deceptive because things seem so clear at the time, we feel so certain we will remember them just as clearly. Hansel and Gretel could teach us a lesson, for he laid breadcrumbs on the path so that he and his sister could find their way back out of the forest, not realizing that the birds had eaten them, every one. Understanding does not equal recall. There is false security in a paper trail, or an e-mail trail, particularly when you try to retrieve it among shifting subject lines. What started out as RE: abc, over time under the same subject line can turn into talk about xyz. More snares for the memory trap.

The Art of Active Listening

One of the best ways to become an active listener, and to improve your memory, is to become a great notetaker. This is an art in itself, but without active listening your notes will suffer from a lack of discoveries, insights, and original observations.

Given that active listening is an essential skill for students to become active learners, Joe Landsberger created a site called Study Guides and Strategies, which contains excellent advice on active listening and other learning skills. His active listener matrix shows four factors that affect the quality of listening, Subject Complexity, Speaker, Environment, and Presentation. The accompanying questions reveal how highly interactive active listening can be. They also show how important face to face conversation is compared to the on screen or text message communication which has become so common today.

Tell to Win: Connect, Persuade, and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story, by Peter Guber is a bestseller that has won high praise from people like President Bill Clinton, Daniel Pink, and Muhammed Yunus. Movie producer, sports team owner, and professor at UCLA, Peter Guber shows how story has the power to melt resistance, move hearts, and catalyze business success. Even this master storyteller highlights the importance of active listening in communication saying, “…the more time I spend getting them to do the talking—to tell me their story or, as it may be, their problem—the better able I am to reshape my story to address their specific challenge.”

Now retired University of Maine researcher Dr. Marisue Pickering articulated 10 skills for active listening, skills which a person so intended can learn, practice, and master.

  1. Attending, Acknowledging
  2. Restating, Paraphrasing
  3. Reflecting
  4. Interpreting
  5. Summarizing, synthesizing
  6. Probing
  7. Giving feedback
  8. Supporting
  9. Checking perceptions
  10.  Being quiet

Research on the techniques and attitudes required for active listening show it to be a skill as engaging as playing a sport. This should be good news for people whose mind is so active that they often end up talking more than they listen. It is possible to get better at both.

A New Age for Collaboration

Howard Rheingold, writer, artist and designer, theorist and community builder, delivered a humorous and insightful talk on TED.com called The New Power of Collaboration. A long-time observer of technology and its implications for communities, he will get you thinking about what all of the coming technology might mean for you in terms of collaboration. Particularly appealing is his idea that evolution, or at least our understanding of it, is moving away from competition for domination, and toward cooperation for survival.

You can download an ACTIVE LISTENING MANDALA, summarizing ideas in this article. All of the articles and downloads in the series can be found on Time For a Change GOALSCAPE Connect.

Find a worthy person as a collaboration partner, open your ears, your mind, and your notebook, and see how incredibly much there is to learn.

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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Fountains have long been a feature of human habitation, and are a central feature in gardens in many cultures. The sight and sound of flowing water is refreshing and inspiring. Water features are an important element in Feng Shui as a means of enhancing energy flow. Ever and yet never the same, water is a symbol of the Way of the Universe in Taoism.

We bathe in water, and drink it to sustain our life. Perhaps water calls to our oceanic origins, or simply resonates well with the senses and the body, itself being 60% water. With the brain being composed of 70% water, and the blood more than 80% water, it is no wonder that we speak of the water of life.

Flowing water both enhances and entrances us. The sound of water rings like chimes in the wind, and is perhaps nature’s finest music. We return to water to feel renewal in the quality of flow. We can also look for active ways to participate in the flow, particularly in enhancing the flow of ideas.

Thoughts in flow

Deepak Chopra, MD and author of books on spirituality and mind-body medicine, says that while scientists claim that we have around 65,000 thoughts a day, 98% of them are the same thoughts that we had yesterday. While repetitious thoughts may be necessary for repetitive tasks and routines, it also suggests that our thinking is almost completely caught in a closed loop.

Assuming that there is at least some room for improvement, and that for the sake of our well-being it is worth exploring new mental territory, what can we do to break the cycle of sameness and stimulate a fresh flow of ideas? A constant flow of ideas can help you tap into new fountains of thought, wisdom, and youth.

Here are a eight things you can do get your thoughts in flow. They are inexpensive and accessible, and will keep your thoughts flowing like water, rather than frozen in stone.

  1. Water. Engage with water every day. Bathe in it, drink it, and enjoy the sight and sound of its flow. While this may seem to be something that you already do, chances are you can do it with greater mindfulness and appreciation. Don’t dry out before your time.
  2. Music. We are blessed with greater access to music than ever before, higher fidelity recordings, and portability, and even opportunities to learn and produce music ourselves. Music can refresh and stimulate your brain. Don’t let it slip by unnoticed.
  3. Walking. To get your blood moving, exercise your whole body, give you a change in perspective, and wake up your brain, there is almost no finer way than walking. If your ideas are not flowing, trying getting off your seat and onto your feet.
  4. Writing. Put your thoughts into words on paper, where they can be read and shared with others. Whether you write at a keyboard or in a notebook is not as important as whether or not you write at all. Many people avoid writing because of negative associations picked up at school. However, it is still one of the best ways to get your thoughts moving and your head clear.
  5. Reading. Books are food for your brain, and can nourish it if you read selectively. It isn’t the number of books you read, or how fast you read them, but rather the degree to which you interact with them intelligently. Read thoughtfully, take notes, and vary your reading speed according to content and purpose.
  6. Questioning. Children ask hundreds of questions a day, adults ask few. Questions are fine food for thought and good conversation starters. Keep a written list of questions and don’t let it gather any dust.
  7. Sketching. Many children draw daily, while most adults do not draw at all. Sketching and doodling stimulate the brain, helping you to visualize and remember abstract things. Don’t worry if you lack artistic skill. Drawing icons and sketching stick figures can be even more effective at stimulating ideas than making detailed realistic drawings.
  8. Laughing. Not only is laughter the best medicine, it is the shortest path between ideas. Laughter is the body’s way of processing things which don’t easily fit in one part of the brain or another. When unlikely things suddenly come together in a surprising or entertaining way, that makes us laugh. This leads to sudden insights and fresh perspectives.

You can download a Mandala Chart here with self-coaching questions to help you get your THOUGHTS IN FLOW.

Why more ideas?

F. Scott Fitzgerald said that, “the true test of a first-rate mind is the ability to hold two contradictory ideas at the same time.” The way this is done is not by holding them at all, but rather by juggling them in a balanced pattern that keeps the ideas in flow. Ideas move people and catalyze change. New ideas are not always welcome, particularly when change is perceived as a threat to the status quo. The only dangerous idea is the idea that all other ideas are dangerous.

If you want to change yourself, you need to change your thoughts. If you want to change others, you need to influence their thinking. If you want to change your environment, you need to find new ways of engaging with it. Change starts when your thoughts and ideas get into flow, and it comes about when that flow is powerful enough to get other things and people moving. Time for a change? Prime your mind for a constant flow of ideas.

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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Time For a Change #3: The Trap of Tunnel Vision

by William Reed on February 23, 2012

A common trap in thinking about goals is tunnel vision, or single-minded pursuit of a goal. It is defined as “recklessly determined to do something at any cost,” or hell bent, which should give you an idea of its destination.

While this may be the only way out for a cornered rat, it is no way to live your life. And yet we see it over and over again with consequences such as burn out, chronic fatigue, and high-speed collisions along the career path. Tunnel vision is like being in a rut and on steroids. The destination is fixed, and everything else is sacrificed in its achievement.

Horse-drawn carriages usually featured blinders to keep the horses from being distracted by things to the sides of the road. While it would feel strange for a person to walk around with blinders on, many people walk through life with mental blinders.

This shows when the eyes have a very narrow field of vision. Such a person will pass you by on the street without noticing you, entirely caught up in their own world. In extreme cases you see it in the eyes of the terrorist, fixed in one direction and to one purpose. You can get a sense for a person’s field of vision by looking at a photograph of the face. Hold the picture in front of your face, and move it slowly to the side. You can sense the moment that you leave their field of vision. Do the same thing with a portrait painting or photograph mounted on the wall. In works of genius, such as Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, the eyes seem to see you wherever you stand, a testimony to the Master’s all encompassing field of vision.

Loosen the tension around your eyes, particularly when you think about your goal. You may discover an easier way to achieve it, and a gentler way to approach it.

Recover your rhythm

Have you ever worked in a fixed posture for hours without break? If you work like this at a computer, work with your hands in small area, or even driving a car, your nerves and muscles become fixed to the task, and you experience a physical form of tunnel vision. If you do this too often then the tension itself can become chronic. Physical activity can help, but unless you change your mindset the tension will quickly return.

The first thing in recovering your rhythm is to increase your awareness. There are four elements you can check in your mindset, which are summarized in a Mandala Chart that you can download here entitled Recover Your Rhythm.

  • Check Yourself. Part of the tunnel vision trap is being so focused on your goal that you become blinded to your own tension and behavior. Becoming aware of tension in and around your eyes is the first step to releasing it. Single minded goal pursuit also reveals itself in conversation, being fixated on a single topic. Keep an eye on how you spend your time, so that your days are not dominated by a single activity.
  • Check Others. We can learn about ourselves by observing others, and the influence that they may be having on us. Seek out the company of broad minded people. Encourage other people to talk about their goals and it will help you find perspective on your own. Maintain a flexible perspective to avoid picking up the tension of single minded people around you.
  • Check Your Goal. The goals which are not written down are the ones which tend to trap us, because lack of clarity increases anxiety. The better your understanding of your goal, the more ways you find of achieving it, and the more you will enjoy the journey without the pressure of tunnel vision. Divide your goal into manageable sub-goals that you can work towards in a tangible time frame.
  • Check Your Results. Regardless of how relaxed you might feel, you still want to achieve your goal, and that requires focusing on results. Review and rewrite your goal statement to keep it fresh. Talking about your goal with others can help you monitor your progress and celebrate your success. If you want to achieve accelerated action, then give GOALSCAPE™software a try. It can help you define, track, and reach your goals with less stress.

The Recover Your Rhythm Mandala Chart also contains strategies to help you overcome or avoid the trap of tunnel vision such as, make a wish list to free your imagination, get help from others to lighten your load, take five to get your nose off the grindstone, and forgive and forget to take a more light-hearted approach.

Ask a group of people if they know somebody with tunnel vision, and most of the hands will go up. Ask for a show of hands if you yourself have tunnel vision, and most of the hands will go down. The truth is that we all have it to some degree. Fortunately, we also have the capacity to recognize the trap before we fall into it. Ultimately the cause and the cure are in your mindset.

Soften your focus

The Japanese word for Mind is 心 (kokoro), suggesting an entity that is constantly changing (korokoro kawaru) and one that tends to tighten up (koru). Like clay, the mind needs softening with water to prevent it from hardening into a fixed shape. The mind tends to tighten up when you succumb to tunnel vision. It often afflicts people who work too hard, like a bow which kept strung until it breaks. The best thing for such a person is to recover the rhythm of pressure and release.

It is fine to be firm with yourself in pursuit of an important goal, because without self-discipline it is unlikely to be accomplished. But balance firmness with forgiveness. It is when you loosen up and unstring the bow that you are able to recover your perspective, and free yourself from tunnel vision.

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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Time For a Change #2: Lighting Your Fire

by William Reed on February 17, 2012

Make no mistake about it. Goals start and end with Passion, the essential ingredient in motivation. Passion is the energy that feeds the flame, without which your project is doomed to falter.

The quintessential question is how can you light this fire in yourself brightly enough to inspire others to help you achieve your goals? You cannot do it alone, and people need more than just a reason to help you, they need to share your passion.

The quintessential challenge is finding intrinsic motivation, love of the thing itself, which is the only kind of motivation strong enough to overcome obstacles and sustain your energy to achieve your goal. Many people get trapped in the pursuit of a goal which may not even be their own, agreeing to exchange their time and life energy for money or rewards of convenience.

As Daniel Pink points out in Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, motivation is an evolutionary process. It started out with what he calls Motivation 1.0, the survival instinct which drives us to escape danger and protect ourselves. It evolved into Motivation 2.0, the carrot and the stick, the elaborate system of reward and punishment by which most people live and most companies manage. However, there is a far more powerful and sustainable force which he calls Motivation 3.0, that of intrinsic motivation, the passion that drives you regardless of rewards or restrictions.

RSA Animate created a remarkable 10-minute animated video presentation of Daniel Pink’s Drive, which he calls whiteboard magic, illustrating part of a talk he did for TED.com. This is the science and persuasion behind Motivation 3.0. That is fine for those lucky enough to have figured out and committed themselves to their true passion in life.

What is needed is something to help light the fire for those who haven’t. Some suggest starting with a blank sheet of paper to write out your ideas, but when your mind is blank, then blank paper looks…blank! It is easier by far to start with a template to assist and seed your thoughts. To help you find and focus your passion you can start with a Mandala Chart that you can download here: Lighting Your Fire.

This Mandala Chart contains questions that will help you frame the East, West, South, and North of your Passion, the WHAT, WHY, WHO, and HOW that help you position where you are and where you want to be. It doesn’t matter if you are not able to answer the questions in detail. At the beginning, asking the question is more important than answering it.

You may find yourself in a job or career that doesn’t feel right for you, even though it is how you earn your living. Don’t simply quit or change jobs without deeply considering where you are and what you want. You may find in your new job that some things are better, some things are worse, but overall you are worse off than before due to acting without clarity.

Once you find your Passion, even if only in a hobby or volunteer project, then you naturally gain more energy to pursue it, more solutions to implement, and meet more like-minded people who can help you. The ring of fire is a virtuous circle of success. It is only when that flame dies that you find yourself in a vicious circle of defeat.

4 Rs to reach your goals

As important as Passion is, it requires focus to get results. You can be long on enthusiasm and short on results. There are many factors that come into play in making things happen, but if you take care of four fundamentals, then you will have a start. These are also included in the Lighting Your Fire Mandala Chart.

  1. Rewards. The key thing to determine here is whether you are motivated by passion, or by promises and threats. It may take you ten years to figure out how to live by passion rather than compromise. However long it takes, it must be better than wondering at the end why you wasted the years of your life. At the same time, there is no need to be a perfectionist in your pursuit of your passion. Enjoy the journey as much as the destination, the process as much as the product.
  2. Restrictions. Most people can come up with more reasons why they cannot pursue their passion than why they should. They have got it backwards, because the largest obstacles are those which you cannot see, those formed by your own assumptions and lack of knowledge. One reason why education leads to achievement is that it broadens horizons and opens up opportunities for new ways of looking at and doing things. Even if the obstacles seem obvious, write them down and take a closer look. You may find with Pogo that, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”
  3. Rituals. Repetition is the key to reinforcement, and ritual is the means to repetition. Your rituals are your habits, the things that you perform regularly without effort, and that you return to, to remember and reinforce your passion. Rituals may be formal or informal, but should not be an empty routine. When you train in a martial arts dojo, you are performing a ritual to take you deeper on the Path. Top athletes have rituals that they create and perform to get into their zone of top performance. All cultures create rituals for the survival and continuity of the culture. Be flexible in how you think about and perform rituals, but include them to keep your Passion burning strong.
  4. Resources. Assuming that there is a gap between your present state and where you want to be, you will need resources to help you realize your Passion. It is worthwhile to take an inventory of what you may already have, and ask yourself if you are putting it to the most effective use. As you meet people with like-minded passions, you will be able to share and contribute resources. One plus one in the right combination equals far more than two. If you want to achieve something great, then you will need a great strategy and superior tools to match.

Before you get too deep into planning and implementation, make sure that you are working in the service of your Passion. Trade your time for money if you must, but reinvest your time and money in the things that will make your life worth living, and your legacy worth loving. All of the efficiency in the world will not light your fire if you are missing the quintessential flame of Passion.

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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Flexible Focus #64: The One Year Plan

by William Reed on August 4, 2011

The Mandala Chart can be used to help you focus on your priorities for the current year, regardless of how many months remain in it. Using a template adapted from the original developed by Matsumura Yasuo, the founder of the Mandala Chart method, you can get a picture of your status in the current month, where you want to be by December of the current year, draw an image representing the achievement of your goal, and write down specific steps you need to take to reach your goal. Moreover, you can do this for not just one, but for all 8 of the major fields of life, Health, Business, Finances, Home, Society, Personal, Study, and Leisure, all on a single sheet of paper.

The format for the template is shown in the illustration, but it should be copied and handwritten, preferably on B4 or A3 sized paper to give you room to write. The process is the same for each category. Write a brief description or list of points describing 1) Your current status, 2) Results by December, 3) A sketch or image for the end of the year, and 4) Steps you need to take to reach this

You may only need to do this once every quarter, but you should check your progress at the beginning of each month, and reflect on what you need to do to stay on track. This is far superior to a To Do List, because it takes into account the whole picture, the details, and how everything is connected.

Using a traditional linear To Do List puts you at risk of achieving one set of goals at the expense of another, succeeding in your job, only to ruin your health. Or you might set yourself an unrealistic task list, and end up giving up before you make progress on your truly significant goals. In other words, this format gives you perspective as well a focus, something not easy to achieve with traditional goal setting tools. You may also wish to set a theme for each of the 8 fields, a short phrase or key words which helps you focus on the big picture for that field.

Ideally you do this at the beginning of each year, but even if you start late in the calendar year you can still use it, though your focus may be on a more immediate set of objectives. It is still worthwhile, because it gives you practice in thinking in this way, and each year you will get better at it.

The image in Step 3 is quite important as well, because it gives you a visual anchor, a point of mental focus. It also breaks the monotony of pure text. When you create your One Year Template, be sure to leave enough room to list 5 to 8 phrases, as well as to illustrate your goal. You can write small, but you don’t want to feel cramped in when thinking about your future.

You might also score yourself in your current status on a scale of up to 100 points in each field, indicating where you stand over all, as well as where you need to focus your efforts and time. Once you complete the exercise, you will be ready to transfer your action steps to your Mandala Diary or Day Planner. This would also be a good place to store your One Year Plan, so that you can take it out and look at it from time to time.

Again the steps in filling out the template are:

  1. Take an assessment of your situation in the current month. Score yourself on a scale up to 100 points.
  2. Describe as specifically as you can what you would like your situation to be in December of the current year.
  3. Blend steps 1 and 2 into an image that represents achievement of your goal, and how you will feel.
  4. Write a specific action plan of what you need to do between now and then to make it happen.

Taking care of what is important in one area can make life easier in another. Likewise, neglecting one area can negatively affect another. When you experience this for yourself, you will better understand the principles in the Framework of Wisdom, such as the Principle of Interdependence, and other principles which we have covered in this series.

The more you appreciate how each area is connected, the better you will understand how success in one area can positively affect the others. This will alter your thinking, and improve your action steps to keep everything in balance. Taking action steps in one area which simultaneously contribute to other areas in your life is working smarter, rather than harder.

For most people it isn’t easy to get perspective on life. Nor is it easy to set goals, create a specific action plan, and stay motivated to take the action steps required. However, all of this becomes easier once you get it on paper, where you can see the big picture, focus on the details, and appreciate how each part is connected. The One Year Plan is one of many templates available for the Mandala Chart, and it is one of the best ways to make sure that you are attending to everything that is important, without losing sight of the whole.

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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