In part three of my series, “Your Sales Culture Is Killing You,” I may have taken this to a literal extreme, as I discuss something that affects each human being on this planet; death. So, what does death have to do with sales and sales leadership? Everything.
With the insatiable drive to achieve aggressive results and the obsession over what’s next, every company needs to start focusing on the biggest miss of all; the very thing that will determine your success and your failure. The Present.
Managers are wired to be the Chief Problem Solver, fix things and consequently, approach practically every situation looking to offer a quick solution. They are conditioned to focus on their sales targets, look for what’s wrong and provide directive feedback.
Unfortunately, this very mindset comes at a great cost. If you are focused on the problem, the result or what’s next, then you are not focused on what’s now. And what is happening now? Your people, your process, your actions and your choices.
When delivering my leadership development and management coach training program, here’s a story I share that illustrates this point and the importance of engaging in the moment.
Not to be morbid but death is a part of life. Unfortunately, I’ve been to my share of funerals. Maybe you have too. And wherever I travel, wherever I go, regardless of where you are from or what religion you practice, at some point during a funeral, friends and family members will talk about the person who passed.
When this happens, every human being has two general reactions.
Especially if it’s an elderly person who died, your first reaction might be similar to this. “Wow, I didn’t realize what an impact this person had made on others. I had no idea how much this person achieved in their life.”
The second reaction is more commonplace. That is, you start thinking about your own life. You begin to reflect on your mortality. When this happens, you experience a physical as well as an emotional reaction. There’s a tightening in your chest. You’re pulse quickens. You notice your breathing becoming slightly irregular. Your heart feels heavier than it normally does.
At first, there are a few tears, then you begin to sob. Initially, you may find your behavior surprising, even uncomfortable; for it may not be the typical way you behave. But then, you experience a sense of relief. You’re acknowledging and reflecting upon something that’s been growing inside you, taking up space. This internal conflict that many successful people struggle with. The eternal battle between honoring your core values, your priorities and your life, with the unyielding obsession to win and achieve more. Your competitive nature consumes you and engulfs your time, while simultaneously challenging your integrity; the very thing which makes you authentically complete, puts your life in balance, and tells you whether or not you’re being true to yourself.
You reflect further, “Am I making the right choices? Am I making too many personal sacrifices in order to get ahead in my career or make more money? Have I given up too much of my life for what I perceive to be a means to an end? Am I doing what I want to be doing? Am I relentlessly driven by the right reasons and the right goals and if so, at what cost? Am I truly happy?”
As you experience this normal emotional reaction, you notice that your tears are not only for the grief stricken family who just lost a loved one or for the person who passed, but for yourself.
Immediately, you look back upon your life; where you were, where you are today and where you may be going. For a moment, you are covered by a blanket of regret, of things you wish you did, things you wish you did more of, and things you wish you didn’t do.
But then, you realize something. You realize that you can change things. That you are in control of your life. That the game is far from over. And so, you start thinking about what you need to change that would make your life more fulfilling, more worthwhile, more meaningful. You think;
“Life is too short. I need to spend more time with my family and my friends. I need to spend more quality time with my kids. I need to take better care of myself, and the people in my life who I love. I need to do more of the things that bring me joy; that inspire and fulfill me. I’ve got to stop working so hard. Life is so fragile. There’s no dress rehearsal. I need to make the most of it now. I need to put my priorities in perspective. I need to focus on my core values and what matters most. I need to change. Life is way too precious.“
For that defining and intimately honest moment during the funeral, your mind is quiet.
The stars are aligned.
You have clarity.
Your priorities are in check.
You’re clear about your values.
You appreciate that life is so fragile, so precious. You acknowledge that life is a blessing.
You know what you need to do to start treating every day, every moment like the gift that it is.
You feel connected, partially in a spiritual sense, to yourself, to others. This self reflection provides you with an invaluable perspective, as you place a higher value on your time and how you invest your time, than you ever did before.
Everything makes sense. You’re finally at peace. You feel fully present and engaged in the moment.
Then, you leave the funeral, and your phone rings or you get the next text – and you’re right back to living in the future, focused on what you need to do next; the next project, deadline, sale.
The defining moment you experienced, that sense of clarity is gone and you’re consumed with ‘reality;’ the pressures and challenges of the day that pull you away from peace, that pull you away from being present.
That sparkle of brilliance; that insight; that glimmer of a moment in time which you felt was perfect the way it was. Gone.
But don’t lose hope. Ironically, it’s a lifelong journey to be to be fully present and focus on what’s now. It takes a conscious effort to be mindful of the goals, fears, pressures or situations that pull us back into the past or propel us into the future and take us away from what’s really important.
To be clear, I’m not suggesting that living in the present means that you have to abandon your goals or your vision. Having a clear outcome in mind and achieving measurable, worthwhile results is still important! However, we need to balance both, so be mindful of the two conflicting truths that co-exist simultaneously. Be mindful of the future, while engaged in the moment.
Unless it’s through the eyes of a child, living in the present moment is challenging. We are all challenged to be present every day, especially when so much is being thrown at us. There are so many priorities competing for our limited time, dragging us in different directions.
Yet, instead of looking at life through the lens of a child, where everything is new and exciting and every situation is a conduit to growth and learning, we become hardened by our experiences. We use our experiences to define us. We form our own truths that we fall in love with and forget we need to continually challenge them to see if they still serve us best. We take our past experiences and project them into the future, assuming our prior experiences are an indication of what will happen.
What’s missing? The present.
Let’s be real. Your daily pressures, responsibilities and challenges aren’t going away. Your business objectives and aggressive sales targets are a reality. There will always be something in front of you that can pull you into the future, distract you from the present and your priorities and take your eye off what you really value.
Yes, we are all victim of our own culture. I’m not referring to where you live or your geographic culture but your result driven company culture. This environment forces you to focus on and live in the future and the sad part is, it’s costing you your life.
However, now you have a choice. And I’m not suggesting that you can control the outcome or you’re able to choose how things will turn out. I am saying that you are always at choice around how you respond to each person, challenge and situation.
I’ve been fortunate to live by a universal law that determines the quality of your life. That is, it’s not the events in your life but how you choose to respond to them that defines who you are and creates the quality of your life. It’s our greatest power and greatest secret. Our power to choose. Have you truly tapped into it?
So, how has this story affected you? What can you learn from this? How effective are you at living in the present and being fully engaged in what is happening now while balancing what is happening next?
Being present is something we have to work on every day and we will continually be tested throughout our lives to see if we actually got the lesson. I vote to get the lesson now, before it’s too late.
Now, it’s up to you. What choice are you going to make today?
Photo Credit: familymwr