Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Have you lost perspective?

There is no question that as human beings we can become myopically focused on our own reality. In other words, we lose perspective.

After all, that is why reality shows are so popular today.

Because for 30 minutes, you can get a sneak peek into someone else's myopic reality!

Watching this human self-absorption can be incredibly scary, amusing and entertaining all at the same time. But, while we are laughing at them, it's hard to see how myopic we can also be with our own lives.

Without even realizing it, we lose perspective and become overly self-absorbed into our own reality; just like those on TV. Except we have a different script. Our script.

My script used to look something like this:

· I was playing the role of a high-powered executive at a major Fortune 100 company. I thought that the role required me to be singly focused in order to perform optimally. So over time, I gave up all else.

· I travelled every week and had little time or concern for people that weren't moving as fast as I was. I ran at 6:15 every morning regardless of which city I woke up in. I had mostly condiments in my refrigerator and ate out for most meals. I often worked till 7 pm or later. When I got home late, cold cereal was often my dinner. I only connected with friends and family via my cell to and from airports in the early mornings or on weekends. Conversations with them often focused on my exhaustion. I missed so many social engagements that people eventually stopped inviting me to attend. Work was my only focus.

· Then one morning after I turned 40, I realized that I had nothing, despite a healthy salary.

I am sure there is a TV reality show waiting to be made on this script, or a movie ...oh wait...the movie has already been filmed, it's called "Up in the air." You see, I was George Clooney with pumps.

Like me, George had lost perspective.

While I had reached a high level of success, ironically my single focus, myopic reality and my loss of perspective eventually worked against me.

Unfortunately, like many others, you may still believe that in order to be "at the top" you have to sacrifice all else.

But, you are wrong.

You see, when you sacrifice all else, you not only short change yourself and any semblance of having a life but you also short change your work, and the value that you bring to your work.

Leaders must have perspective. And you can't have perspective if you have don't have any balance.

Work is more productive, more creative, more engaging for you, those around you and for your company, when you have perspective.

Being so out of balance didn't serve me, my work in Marketing, or my company over time. I clearly didn't have, nor couldn't develop, any perspective for the key consumer of my product who was a suburban mom who frequented grocery stores and was shuttling kids back and forth from activities. She was someone who lived a life that looked quite different than my own. I didn't have to be her, but I did have to have perspective in order to understand her so that I could market to her more effectively.

I also didn't have, nor didn't develop, any perspective for my team members and colleagues whose realities were also different than my own. While I was actually the anomaly, my behaviors didn't recognize this fact. Because of this, I wasn't able to connect and lead them effectively. I had lost all perspective.

When you find that you are so singly focused on something and all else around you is either completely out-of-focus or non-existent, recognize that it's time to regain perspective.

Try these steps:

Stop and reflect.
Moving from one activity to another without reflection is an indication that you are operating without perspective. Stopping helps you to reflect in order to prioritize and make conscious choices.

Step back or Step aside.
Simply by backing up or looking at things from a different angle allows you to frame a situation in a new way. The action alone can give you perspective. It may bring to question your previous approach and open up your curiosity to find a better way.

Ask yourself why? But don't allow "have to" be your answer.
At the root of losing perspective is that we begin to operate under some preconceived belief that we have no choice but to behave or do things a certain way. Don't buy it. Don't do things because you feel you "have to" or "should". By asking yourself "why?" and making conscious choices about your actions you can regain perspective.

Firm up your boundaries.
Get clear on how you want to work; identify where you are going to spend less time and what's going to take second position. This can be a weekly process that can adjust and change as you see fit.

Having perspective benefits you, your work and the people around you. Don't buy into the idea that you have to lose balance, and in the process lose perspective, in order to make it to the top.

In fact, the top is the last place you want to be without perspective!

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