Who you are in your personal time directly affects who you are professionally.
You either have the discipline of consistently adding value and energy, or you don’t. If you are an Energy Drainer with family and friends, it’s unlikely you are an Energy Leader in your work.
By “your work,” I don’t just mean your occupation, but any way in which you contribute value to the world using your available resources. This, of course, includes every task you do and project you engage in, but also every time you encourage someone else or contribute to a relationship, every instance in which you make an effort to grow your skills or develop your mind, or every time you go the extra mile even though you are exhausted. Your body of work comprises the sum total of where you choose to place your limited focus, assets, resources, time, and energy. For the purpose of this book, I will define work as any instance where you make an effort to create value where it didn’t previously exist. ~ Todd Henry, Die Empty
One of the best ways to develop the consistent discipline of adding energy is to be aware
and take advantage of opportunities in your daily life to create a perfect moment.
What Is a “Perfect Moment”?
A couple years ago, I read Michael Hyatt’s description of the perfect moment, which is essentially an informal, unspoken purpose or goal for time spent with friends or family. Michael had learned the “perfect moment” principle from Eugene O’Kelly’s book Chasing Daylight.
According to O’Kelly, a perfect moment is an experience with others when time stands still. It is a time full of the present, when the past is left behind and the future is set aside. It is a special time of focused attention and heightened awareness. Interruptions and distractions are consciously excluded. Cell phones are off. Hearts are wide open. All that matters is this moment—the people I am with and the conversation we are having now.
At first, I thought it seemed overly “Type A” to set a goal for what you want to accomplish with leisure time with friends and family. But upon reflection after a many of those occasions, I noticed that several of them were rather … blah. Sometimes, I had been too focused on having a good time myself, or monopolized a conversation, or made too many jokes at someone else’s expense, or created negative energy by complaining about little problems like the slow restaurant service we were receiving. Aren’t those times with family and friends worthy of being intentional … don’t they have the potential to be truly precious on a fairly consistent basis, rather than taking a hit-or-miss approach and hoping the time will be well spent?
Putting It into Practice
At first for me, striving for a perfect moment often seemed forced and artificial – as if I were applying specific tactics to what should simply be a relaxed time of authenticity. Over time, however, it simply became an ethic for me, and I didn’t need to think about it as much – I simply became more likely to notice when I was acting contrary to my ethic, and then tried to correct myself.
For example, recently I spent a few days with my in-laws. The setting was imperfect; most of us were tired from traveling (nearly everyone had spent at least a full day reaching the gathering place), several of us were coping with mild illnesses, young children were bouncing off the walls, and the wide range of ages and interests meant frequent disagreement on what the group wanted to do at any given moment (Go out for dinner? If so, where?). Sometimes I was tempted to write off the time as simply a moment to endure, or I was tempted to give in to frustration, boredom, or distraction into my smartphone. (OK, I’ll admit to the smartphone).
And in case you didn’t catch the key word in the paragraph above, I’ll repeat it: in-laws.
But guess what? Over those few days, I ended up experiencing several perfect moments. I discovered that my two brothers-in-law and I have a mutual interest in history and biographies; I never knew that we could talk for hours about books we had recently read. My sister-in-law and I talked shop, comparing experiences from her law firm and from my consulting firm. From my mother-in-law, a professional musician and music teacher, I learned the music theory behind the famous five-note “alien communication” riff in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (parodied 30 years later in a scene that I delighted in explaining to my kids in 2009’s Monsters vs. Aliens). I re-connected with my wife’s aunts, uncles, and cousins, and I noticed for the first time how most marriages on that side of the family have thrived for 20-40 years or more. I told one of the teenage kids about a personal frustration, and I was blown away by the wise response I received. And I was surprised to see how all the kids had grown so smart and personable since I last saw them.
Take the Moment
Don’t wait for the perfect moment. Take the moment and make it perfect.
Here are six keys that help create a perfect moment:
- Stay in the “now.” Be fully present with the people you care about. Don’t let your mind wander to yesterday’s regrets or tomorrow’s problems.
- Focus on adding energy. Be an Energy Leader, not an Energy Drainer. However, this does not mean you need to act like Pollyanna, avoiding charged topics and presenting yourself as perfectly happy.
- Be real. Breezy small talk and fake positivism don’t create real connections. Author and executive coach Akim Nowak recommends being willing to reveal something intimate about yourself, if you have a hunch it will advance the conversation and allow others to be authentic too. And be comfortable discussing controversial topics, he says, because “having the confidence to disagree, explore points of conflict, and learn new points of view elevates the quality of our relationships.”
- Be curious. It’s amazing how much energy and connection is created by asking genuine learning questions.
- Be helpful and generous with your attention and energy. As the saying goes, “It is more blessed to give than receive.” Focusing too much on creating a perfect moment for yourself is a one-way ticket to regret and unhappiness. Unless you’re in solitude, a perfect moment is always experienced mutually. As Erin and I trained our kids to ask themselves when they were playing together, “Is everyone having fun?” (This is not to suggest that you are responsible for the happiness of everyone in the room; this is simply a lens to guide your interactions with the people around you.)
- Lighten up. Some people reading this might start stressing at every social interaction that seems imperfect. That’s already a sign that you are focusing on yourself. I’m talking about creating perfect moments, not about being perfect … this is just about being intentional with your time, energy, and focus. Enjoy the people you are with!
What “perfect moment” have you experienced recently? Was it purely a random thing? If not, how did you or others take the moment and make it perfect? I’d love your thoughts!
Quick note: For other ways to be a leader in every area of life, you may be interested in my free e-book.
Jesse Lahey, SPHR, is the host of the Engaging Leader podcast and managing principal of Aspendale Communications. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. If you know anyone who would benefit from this information, please share it!