Lorna’s Personal Guidelines for Work, Life, and Love

influence

I have a series of  personal guidelines I follow in both my professional and personal lives. They make all the difference in my satisfaction level at work and my happiness level at home. Here are the top 6—take what you will for yourself.

1. If it’s not a “hell yeah,” then it’s a “hell no.”

Too often, we make decisions based solely on analysis and logic, and we miss the truly creative solutions because we want even more data. I love analysis and discovery through analysis as much as anyone I know, but the deciding factor of everything I do that I consider successful is always gut instinct.

Some belief systems say that intuition is God talking to you and that it is an act of defiance not to listen. I can cite time after time—in work, love, and life—that something was “not quite right” or “this isn’t going to work” but out of logic, expectation, and convincing evidence, I did it anyway and with disastrous results. Every time, though, that my intuition has told me “Do it!” I’ve had good to great results.

Where this guideline comes in handiest is when I’m ambivalent about a decision. If intuition says that my decision is either a definite yes or a definite no, then I’ll be satisfied with the results. If my feelings, however, are “meh” but I commit myself to a course of action anyway, then the results will be “meh.” Best to say no than to say yes to something I just don’t feel strongly enough about.

 2. If you would not make the same choice in a do-over, then make a different choice without the do-over.

I came across this guideline in managing my stock portfolio. I had a hard time trading stocks that had done well for me in the past until I asked myself, “Based on what I currently know about the future of this stock, does it still serve me? Would I, if I didn’t already own it, buy it again? Not last year or last month but today?”

After I cleared several stars-turned-laggards out of my portfolio, I began applying this guideline to both work and personal relationships.   If a work tool I put into play two years ago produced miracles then but no longer does, then there’s no shame in taking it out of play and trying something different rather than hanging onto an old form out of loyalty or ego.

Work evolves.   Our lives evolve. So must we.

3. There is seldom a good reason to lie.

Lying is a severe hot button for me because it takes away my choices.   No matter how ugly the truth is, put it on the table and let’s talk through it. I might be unhappy at first, but given a little time, I can usually come up with a way of moving forward.

A colleague who hides the truth from me will only incur my wrath when I find out, and often by then, it’s too late to give him the eight legal solutions I had for his problem.

I also won’t lie to my bosses, even if my project is failing. To do so would rob them of choices, either to end the project or possibly to offer me help in a way I didn’t know existed.

An aversion to lies, however, does not mean being intentionally cruel. I believe in truth with compassion.   If you ask me, “Do these pants make my butt look big?” I will more than likely tell you that I don’t like those particular pants on you or that a different cut is more flattering.

And no worries:   I won’t ask you if my pants make my butt look big. If I’m inclined to ask, I already know the answer.

4. Give people the freedom to make mistakes—and to fix them.

I find that if you give people in your work and personal lives the space to make mistakes, they often step up and work miracles.   If you’re always fixing someone else’s problem and making excuses for them, it’s really a disservice that you’re doing to them.   They don’t have a chance to make mistakes and learn from them—or to shine. They don’t have a chance to take responsibility and grow because you’re always removing the obstacles and making it easier for them. As a result, they won’t appreciate the sacrifices you’ve made and they will often stagnate rather than make the hard decisions that are truly their responsibility to make.

5. You have more control over your future than you think.

You have thousands of futures in front of you right now, and each moment you get to choose one of those futures.

No?  You can keep reading.   Or you can stop reading.   Or you can try to read this sentence backwards or maybe skip every other word. You can read it aloud or sing it to the tune of the Gilligan’s Island theme.   You can stand up and stretch.   Or go take a nap. Or wrap a towel around your elbow, break that window, and leap out of it.   Never mind that some of these futures may not be good or appropriate choices, but you still have choices.

6. The best we can hope to leave behind is the positive influence we’ve had on others and that they—not we—believe we have changed their lives for the better.

Over a decade ago, I spent six weeks by my father’s bedside in ICU. He eventually came home, but his neighbors in the ICU all died.   During that short season, I heard way too many deathbed regrets.   Strangely, not a one of them wished they’d worked more overtime or that they’d made more money or that they they’d gotten one more promotion.

Instead, they called out for children they’d not spoken to in years, for long-lost lovers they’d left behind, for friendships they’d ended for petty reasons. They wished aloud that they’d done more with their lives, that their efforts had meant something to somebody, that they had something to show for their time on the planet.   They all wished that they’d made a good kind of difference in the world, but for every last one of them, it was too late.

For those men on their deathbeds, it was a lesson learned too late.

Make it your mission to make a difference. Now. While you still can.