Can You Have It Both Ways?

I have recently been pondering the validity of my expectations regarding the work-life balance. My main questions involve my expectations regarding the relationship between a “solid schedule” and comfortable work environment, and being happy with my income. In the process, I came across an article by Eric Sinoway in the Harvard Business Review titled “No, You Can’t Have It All”. As the title of the article reveals, the author’s opinion is that despite what we have been taught, we can’t have it all. To me, that means it is unlikely that comfort and growth, or pleasant schedule and sufficient income, will be a reality in my current season of life.

I have been gaining a clearer insight into my thinking around this issue in the past few months. Despite my desire to have otherwise, the truth is that I can’t have it both ways. More income and professional growth will likely mean more discomfort. In the article mentioned above, Sinoway (2012) states “You cannot pursue all your goals simultaneously or satisfy all your desires at once. And it’s an emotional drain to think you can. Instead, you must focus on long-term fulfillment rather than short-term success and, at various points in your life, think carefully about your priorities” (para 3). I find his candor refreshing. While it is nice to think that we might be able to provide for ourselves and our families by putting in “the 4-hour workweek”, reality for the clear majority is different. Ultimately, seeking a balance will require making some tough decisions.

Do you feel that you have a realistic expectation of what it will take for you to find your definition of success?

Do most people seem in tune with what it will take to achieve their goals?

Sinoway, E. (October, 2012). No, You Can’t Have It All. Retrieved from .

Changing Mental Models

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”          Albert Einstein (attributed)

As one explores the influencing factors of personal growth and development, the importance of an individual’s mental models becomes apparent.  Peter Senge (2006) defines mental models as “deeply ingrained assumptions, generalizations, or even pictures or images that influence how we understand the world and how we take action” (p. 7-8).  Our mental models are the frameworks we use to make sense of the experiences, problems, and successes that we face.

A key factor in our personal growth is identifying the habits and practices that hinder us from becoming the people we want to be.  It is vital that we are able to not only identify how we are feeling or what we are thinking, but we must also identify why we are thinking a certain way.  It is unlikely that we will change growth limiting habits without understanding the thought process that produces them.

For example, we may feel very uncomfortable and anxious dealing with conflict.  We may want to change this and become more comfortable in these types of situations. However, unless we identify the life experiences that created our current conflict aversion, we are not likely to have the breakthroughs that we want.  Changing our mental models can require a lot of work but the results are worth it.  Unless our thought processes change, our actions will inevitably return to those that reflect our current mental models.

How aware of your mental models are you?

What are practices you use to change your mental models?

Senge, P. (2006). The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. New York: Crown Business.

A Different Perspective on Personal Mastery?

“Personal mastery fosters the personal motivation to continually learn how our actions affect our world.  Without personal mastery, people are so steeped in the reactive mindset (“someone/something else is creating my problems”) that they are deeply threatened by the systems perspective.” (Senge, 2006, p. 12)


This past week, I started reading another book.  The book from Peter Senge is title The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization.  As the title alludes to, the book explores the development of systems thinking, to help groups become learning organizations.  Much of the book is focused on viewing things from an organizational level.  While I do not want to limit myself, the truth is that I work for a large public organization and I am not a “decision maker” regarding organizational direction.  As a result, when I am reading material that is focused on organizational direction, I tend to look for material that I can immediately apply to myself and my personal growth.

The above quote is one that really got me thinking, since reading it a few days ago.  What caught my attention was the idea of learning a new way to look at my definition of personal mastery.  Senge (2006) states ““personal mastery fosters the personal motivation to continually learn how our actions affect our world” (p. 12).  I tend to think of personal mastery as another way of saying emotional self-control.  Such a view, implies that personal mastery is all about me.  However, Senge’s view of personal mastery being connected to observing how our actions affect those around us, makes the importance of personal mastery seem even greater than it already is.

Is your view of personal mastery focused more on yourself or your impact on others?

Does personal mastery take on more importance when you add a community perspective?

How do you motivate yourself to keep growing in personal mastery?

Senge, P. (2006). The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. New York: Crown Business.

What Inspires You to Leave Your Comfort Zone?

“In order to do anything new in life, we must be willing to leave our comfort zone. That involves taking risks, which can be frightening.  However, each time we leave our comfort zone and conquer new territory, it not only expands our comfort zone but also enlarges us.”

John C. Maxwell

I read the above quote today.  It caught my attention because it highlights some important truths about personal growth and the required steps involved.  First, if we are going to exceed past performance and experiences, we will have to leave our comfort zones.  Athletes understand that they will not get stronger or faster by doing the same workout routine over and over.  Such repetition may help maintain a certain physique but it will not result in growth.

Second, the risks we must take to grow can be intimidating.  This is especially true if we are not in the habit of actively seeking growth.  Nevertheless, when we do leave our comfort zones to grow, we can increase the size of our comfort zones and increase our personal and professional bandwidths.

What roles do comfort and risk play in your personal growth? Do you have any quotes that inform your perspective in this area?

Maxwell, J. (2011). The Five Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potential. New York. Center Street

The 5 Second Rule

     I really enjoy discovering new concepts that I find helpful, or at least intriguing.  In the past week, I have been introduced to the concepts of measurable time frames that define “the present” and the Descartes Square for decision making (thanks PearceHawk and kanedr).  I have found both ideas informative and worthy of further research.

     Another idea I came across this week is the “5 Second Rule” by Mel Robbins.  Robbins explores the concept in a book by that title but some information can be found on her site  Of the 5 Second Rule, Robbins states “The 5 Second Rule is simple. If you have an instinct to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will kill it.  The moment you feel an instinct or a desire to act on a goal or a commitment, use the Rule”.

    Generally speaking, I  am drawn more towards principles than rules.  Principles seem to feel less dogmatic.  Nevertheless, I believe there is definitely something worth exploring regarding Robbin’s rule.  In short, we need to act on our good ideas, and quickly, or they will remain ideas. For work, I often visit another company that has their motto highly visible around their facilities. Their motto is “Acta non verba”.  Action not words.  The 5 Second Rule seems to reflect this sentiment.

Do you think there is validity to the 5 Second Rule?  


Robbins, M (October 12, 2016) The Five Elements of The 5 Second Rule. Retrieved from

A++ Method of Opportunity Identification

     This week, I came across yet another means to assist individuals in their pursuit of identifying opportunities.  My most recent discovery is more about maintaining a positive mindset, than explicitly seeking opportunities.  However, the more positive our outlook, the greater our ability to see opportunities we might otherwise have missed.  I found this method in an article by Maria Tabaka.  The A++ stands for the three A s: Accept, Appreciate, and Adjust.  Tabaka (2012) summarizes the method stating, “accept your circumstances, appreciate what you have, and adjust the way you think”.

     One of the most important aspects of opportunity evaluation is doing your best to limit the negative emotions you may feel about your current circumstances, so that you can focus on what can be, instead of what is.  I believe that the A++ method is a viable means to help maintain the positive emotional outlook required for growth.  Of course, after we get a handle on our negative emotions, we will have to move into an action phase.  If we evaluate opportunities too long, lacking actual action, we can become stuck.  This is a great time to recall the Thomas Edison quote “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

What role do you see our emotional outlooks playing in evaluating opportunities?

Tabaka, M. (March 12, 2012). My Secret for Turning Fear Into Opportunity. Retrieved from 

The Four-Sentence Rule

Many of us are aware, at least in theory, of the importance our listening skills play in communicating effectively, developing dialogue and bonding with others.  While it is good to grasp the overall importance of skills such as active listening, I sometimes appreciate getting simple practicals that I can easily put into practice.  I recently came across such a practical that I think is worth sharing.

I have mentioned before George Kohlrieser’s (2006) book Hostage at the Table: How Leaders Can Overcome Conflict, Influence Others, and Raise Performance.  It is a book that I highly recommend if you are looking to learn about how your past and your emotional mindset influence your daily interactions.  In this book, Kohlrieser explores utilizing “the four-sentence rule” in our conversations.  Kohlrieser (2006) describes the rule this way: “Each person speaks in four sentences or less (except, of course, when someone is making a presentation).  Keeping to four sentences encourages people to think clearly about what they want to say before they speak, thereby enhancing understanding and dialogue.” (p. 138).

While there are times when we can benefit from cathartic venting and “pouring our hearts out”, limiting our monologues in conversations will allow us to create more meaningful dialogue.  Do you think there is merit to the four-sentence rule? Would you  find it hard to put into practice?


 Kohlrieser, G (2011). Hostage at the Table: How Leaders Can Overcome Conflict, Influence Others, and Raise Performance. Hoboken, NJ: Jossey-Bass.