At the midpoint of the year — summer vacation — most of us take a break to recharge our batteries and enjoy some downtime.
There is great wisdom in this practice. Pausing at the half allows us to reflect on the good work we have done, what we haven't done, and what we must do to advance our personal and professional development.
For many of us, the journey to a cottage, campsite, or recreation area is something we look forward to all year. We get some rest, exercise, and spend time with family and friends relaxing in nature.
Why is it that everything seems to feel, smell, and taste better in nature? Why do we sleep so deeply, and dream so vividly?
Two things occur when we get away from the day-to-day hustle of work.
First, we return to our natural rhyme. As cultural anthropologist Angeles Arrien reminds us, the rhythm of nature is medium to slow.
Nothing moves too fast, rushes from this to that, or multitasks in nature. Eventually, we humans stop rushing around too! We begin to breathe deeply, relax and we enjoy the peace that comes from deep rest. Amazing what the high oxygen count in nature can accomplish!
Secondly, in a state of relaxation, we can integrate all that has occurred in our inner and outer life. We have the time and space to review what we have been too busy to examine or that has been too complex to process in the moment.
Relationships fall into this category. They can take time to figure out. Reflecting on how to maintain strong, healthy and productive relationships at home or work can't be accomplished in the fast lane.
Travelling at the rhythm of medium to slow, we are able to hear the soft call of the deeper questions, a call that is easily drowned out by the cacophony of go-go-go.
- "What am I passionate about?"
- "How can I make a difference?"
- "How can I deepen my important relationships?"
- "How can I take better care of myself, others and the community?"
Last year, in the May issue of Transformational Leader, I covered the importance of good beginnings. (Starting Well, May – 2011)
This month our focus is four observances at the mid-point. These four practices can be applied to personal relationships, teams, projects, or community activities.
Commitment is the means by which the will is engaged. When our hopes and dreams are supported by directed energy — the will — they come to life.
It's ironic, but it's easy to lose perspective on our hopes and dreams while we're pursuing them. That's why the midpoint is an excellent time to stop and check our commitment levels.
Often, we begin a new relationship, a team or a project and we are gung-ho. We are excited about where we're headed. It's pedal to the metal. We're committed!
Time passes and we put some miles behind us in our pursuit of our goals. A lot gets accomplished and we encounter both good and bad stuff along the way. Normal journey.
Fatigue, failures, impatience and disappointments can erode commitment and cause the disengagement of the will. When this happens our commitments become murky or half-hearted.
At the midpoint we have an opportunity to ensure that our commitments remain clear and strong-hearted. Where they have weakened, we have a choice — to recommit or to retire the commitment.
Building strong relationships is vital to sustaining collaboration. When relationships function well, complex tasks are easier to accomplish. When relationships are superficial, weak or strained, collaboration issues arise.
Relationships do not grow by themselves. They need stewarding. I always recommend that time be set aside at the early stages of teaming to connect people, build trust, and foster interdependence.
Like beginnings, midpoints provide an excellent opportunity to examine the state of personal or professional relationships. At the half, there is enough experience of working together to see how people fit and how relationships can be improved and deepened.
It is also useful to take stock of relationship problems, strains or dysfunctions. Good leaders address the issues before they become toxic and undermine progress.
Three questions can help you take stock of the quality of relationship at the midpoint:
- What's working well in our relationships and how do we ensure that it's reinforced?
- What requires strengthening, softening, opening or deepening in our personal and professional relationships?
- Where have there been impacts or injuries and how can we restore trust and openness?
Midpoints are wonderful times to recognize two things: what is working well and what needs improvement.
Recognizing what works well — and acknowledging it — supports sustainability. Actively searching for the positives in people, situations, and activities reinforces what's working.
It's amazing how effective this practice can be, especially when we publicly acknowledge both the contributions and their authors. This practice energizes projects, teams, and workforces.
In many organizations too much time is surrendered to what's not working. The Cyclops of mythology was "a savage one-eyed monster." That is an apt description of the impact of seeing only the negatives about people and situations. If positive acknowledgement is fuel, being overly negative has the opposite effect– it's draining and destructive.
That doesn't mean that it's not important to recognize where improvements are necessary. That is a valuable contribution when it is done with a ballast of recognition.
Three questions can help with continuous improvement at the midpoint:
What is working that can be improved? How can we accomplish it?
What is not working. What can we do to address this situation?
What is missing in what we're doing or how we are doing it?
Monotony and routine can suck the life out of just about anyone and anything. Injecting some fun and play into our lives — at work, at home, and in the community — is restorative.
Fun comes from deep engagement in activities that we love. Fun also comes when we are relaxed, spontaneous and in good humor. The word humor means, "to moisten."
Laughter, a product of fun, prevents us from getting dried up and brittle. A good laugh, shared between friends and colleagues, is refreshing. It restores a sense of proportion and balance to our lives.
Fun and laughter provide stress release, boosts the immune system, releases endorphins, and improves circulation and the functioning of the heart. Sounds like a health care plan to me!
They also boost the team, organization or community immune system. In an environment where work is fun, enthusiasm improves, creativity circulates and organizational spirit thrives. Resiliency is the outcome.
The midpoint of the year is an excellent time to rest and reflect. Taking time to recommit, reconnect, recognize and recreate isn't slacking off. It's wise management.