Summer with Einstein

July/August 2013


Summer is the time to slow down.  As demands from work ebb, you can carve out some “me” time – whether it’s a trip to the beach or simply reading a novel in your backyard. Indulgent as these long, lazy days may feel, summer vacation also provides a huge opportunity for personal growth.

Nothing else but vacation affords you the time and distance to reflect upon where your lives – both professional and personal — are going.  So, as you head off to the cottage by the sea or cabin in the woods, consider this quote:

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

­­­Albert Einstein

Since we were kids, we’ve headed into September with a vision of what the New Year will bring (Admit it. Don’t you still think of September 1 as the real New Year’s?). Starting with “I’ll get straight A’s” to “I’ll finally start my own business,” our vows are crystal clear.

Yet, once the calendar picks up, that clear vision begins to fade into the backdrop of our daily lives.


As Einstein aptly points out, it’s probably got to do with your thought process. Maybe you’re following the same laundry list of to-dos. Or perhaps you’re telling yourself the same story about “Why I Can’t.”  That old pattern of thinking is what got you here in the first place.  Unfortunately, old patterns, or habits, die hard.  That is why real change requires a fundamental shift from the inside.  Shifts are not easy, but they are definitely possible.

To make a real change this September, here are a few tips:

1.  Start with a goal that is SMART: Specific, Measurable, Action oriented, Realistic and Timely.

  •  For example, the goal of “I will consider whether to look for new work” is not SMART.
  • The SMART version is: “I will spend three hours per week, until October 31, 2013, to do the following: research and record ideas and opportunities; take strengths/personality/career assessments to understand what fits best with who I am; have weekly coffees/drinks with contacts, and create a detailed spreadsheet of my contacts, my experience, and interests.

2.  Prioritize your SMART goal.   Make it the first thing you do in your week, unless you absolutely must do otherwise.  Make no exceptions about this, and do what it takes to block off that time.

3.  Recognize what has not worked for you in the past and do the opposite.  Set goals that are out of your comfort zone.  Suspend all of your regular assumptions for 30 days and see what happens.

4.  Make a list of your top 10 values and set an intention to say “yes” to only those actions that are aligned with a specific value. Identify the value before you say “yes” or make any decisions.

  • For example, a client of mine recently said “yes” to an opportunity at work, and then immediately regretted it.  When we discussed the situation, she realized that the regret surfaced because her initial response was driven by fear (of disappointing her employer, of not being a team player), and not her values.  After checking in with her values of achievement, contribution, and physical health, we planned other actions she could take that would satisfy her employer and see her achieve her goals at the same time.

There are always ways to make changes, but it often requires a completely new thought process.  I train my clients on a new language that is designed to ensure that your decisions are made from your vision, your strengths, and your priorities, not your fears or perceived limitations.

It is much easier to make changes when you are confident they are aligned with what you need out of life – from there, you experience a different view of the world and the plans, the structure and the accountability can fall into place to get you to your next destination.

Let’s not head into September like last September or the one before.  Take a cue from Einstein.  After all, he was able to get a few things done.

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