Diamond-Cut Life is about how to be rich in the things that matter, like health, financial solvency, dynamic relationships, and peaceful coexistence. Last week I named my first seven ways to add value to any situation. This post completes the two-part series, and draws from my background in counseling psychology (I have an M.S. in that field).
Set a boundary. A boundary clarifies to others what’s off limits, i.e. what you won’t accept. Accepting things that we shouldn’t, like abusiveness or dishonesty, often seems easier in the moment than assertively drawing a line. But when we passively accept the unacceptable, we create boatloads of dysfunction and suffering over time.
Sometimes people respond right away to a boundary that we verbally set. But sometimes, as every parent in the world knows, boundaries only work if there are consequences for breaking them.
In the course of our ten-year marriage, my husband Thor and I have each reached points where we stated we could not continue in the relationship without a positive change from the other. (He was suffering from my angry outbursts, and I was suffering from his criticisms of me). We got help, both individually and together, from counseling and a course in nonviolent communication, and we resolved the problems. We’re both clear that boundary-setting improved our marriage.
Boundaries add value by creating respectful behavior in our households and workplaces. Respectful behavior makes us richer in what matters. Note: with rare exceptions, set boundaries in person or via phone, not via email. I made the email mistake last year. I won’t do that again.
Create order. Remember that creative people need order, too. Research says that people who have cluttered desks spend 7 ½ hours per week looking for items. That doesn’t begin to count the time wasted looking for unfiled emails, or at home looking for misplaced possessions. Taking time out to create order adds value, no matter what we do for a living. It’s an example of slowing down to go faster. If you or someone close to you has unusual trouble with possessions and creating order, see tips on hoarding, and ten ways to help a hoarder.
Make your work-breaks physical, rather than electronic. Most of our lives suffer from way too much screen time, and not nearly enough physical time. Physical activity makes our heads clearer and our hearts calmer. Take a walk, climb the stairs, do sit-ups or push-ups. I’m a failure at push-ups, myself, but I can do the plank pose for 70 seconds! See how to cure sitting disease.
Name the elephant in the room. Doing this without blaming or criticizing others is one of the fastest ways to add value. Is a meeting based on an incorrect assumption? State the correct information, and invite the room to incorporate that into its thinking. Are you or others clearly unprepared for the situation you are in? State your concern, and suggest some preparations that will create the desired outcome. Is too much money being spent (a common elephant in the room)? Add value by asking for clarification of the budget, or the plan for repayment.
Last summer solstice I climbed Mt. McLoughlin with three other people. I’d trained diligently for it, but still found myself gasping for air at high altitude, and climbing much more slowly than the others. I felt embarrassed, because I’m usually faster. I finally said to my hiking partners, “I’m feeling self-conscious because I’m slowing the group down.” It broke the tension. Karen made a joke, Colleen said she was enjoying looking at the scenery, and John said encouragingly, “Breathe more!” If I hadn’t named the elephant of my slowness, tension would have just increased. And tension can lead to impaired judgment — not what you want on a climb.
When in doubt, say something that’s true. That’s a quote from my novel Revelle.
Do a completion. That report you never revised . . . not calling when you said you would . . . . the question you left unanswered . . . not doing the dishes when it was totally your turn. Loose ends left dangling deplete our relationships and our careers. They lead people to not trust us, and they lower our trust in ourselves. Completing things adds value. The difficult completions also remind us to stop over-committing. See the next item.
Own up to a commitment you cannot keep. Sometimes completions aren’t possible. The item you promised to replace is no longer being made. The phone call was to be a continuation of a relationship that you now know is wrong for you. The report’s information is so out of date as to make you look like an idiot.
Some commitments need to be renegotiated, as in changing the deadline. Others need to be cancelled, in which case we need to apologize (a value-add covered in Part I.). Embrace the fact you cannot keep a commitment, and tell the person you cannot. I did this recently. Soooo much better than avoiding the situation. Accept the embarrassment. It will quickly fade.
Be a giver. Giving adds value. Giving what is most needed in a given situation adds the most value. Our attention and our interest, for example, are often the most valuable things we can give others on a daily basis.
Giving material resources, including money, is a key way to add value. Hear me out. Never before in U.S. history have so many people been so poor or financially marginal, and never before has there been so much extreme wealth in the hands of a few. While we badly need a national/political solution to this, I believe in never waiting for leaders, but rather, acting like leaders, ourselves. If you’re hanging out on the internet reading this you’re probably like me: not marginal, and not a one-percenter, either. That means we have the capacity to give.
My husband Thor and I give 5% of our annual gross income (before taxes) to organizations like Mercy Corps, which create economic development in the wake of disasters. That’s up from 4% last year, and I want us to keep increasing what we give every year. We also do volunteer work that brings us face to face with people who are dollar-poor. Contrary to my first tip on the importance of setting boundaries, the boundaries between rich and poor in our culture are things that need to be broken down.
See yourself as a person who likes to give. Be a giver at every opportunity, in one way or another. Ask someone you trust to help you become a better giver. Giving blesses the recipient and blesses you. Blessings are the ultimate value-add.
Which of these techniques have worked for you, or not worked for you, in adding value? What do you most like to do that adds value? What value-adds do you most appreciate from others?
I will never share or sell your email address.