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Are You Choosing Greatness or Just Settling for the Crumbs?

So many times in the past, I have seen both individual as well as corporate clients bemoan their circumstances and simply settle for the crumbs of life.
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Some readers may welcome this week's more personal set of insights and thoughts, some may not. If you already know that you have no patience for the personal, here's a great spot to click on something else.

For me, this has been one incredible week. I have had the opportunity to come face to face with lessons that I have been teaching for many years now. In my line of work, we are often fond of saying, "Be careful what you teach, because you will be tested in great measure." Or, as I learned in grad school, "We only teach that which we most need to learn."

As you may know, if you have been following these columns for some time, I have a new book coming out in early January. In fact, I will put up a column in the near future on how the publisher came to me earlier this year asking me to write the book based on the columns I have been posting for a couple of years now. I was dumbfounded, but more on that later.

What has been striking about this past week has been my range of experience, somewhere between living in Grace and living in stress, all in the same breath. As I have been all too willing to point out to others, the difference between living in Grace and living in stress often comes down to a simple choice: how do you choose to frame the problem? Or in my case, how do I choose to frame the problem?

So what's the problem?

My book, "Workarounds That Work: How to Overcome Anything That Stands in Your Way at Work," poses an implied question: how do you deal with the frustrations, roadblocks and difficult situations that are increasingly common in everyday life?

Indeed, most of us are somewhere between overwhelmed and discouraged with all the trauma of the past couple of years. It seems that as much as we have lost jobs in the current economy, the amount of work needing to be performed has only increased.

Paradoxically, as work dropped away, the amount of work I have needed to get done has increased. Have you noticed?

And that has placed incredible pressure on virtually everyone. Pressure can show up just as easily in terms of how you respond to the increased demands you are facing if you are fortunate enough to still have a job as it can if you have lost income and lost your job. I know the experience and consequences of that pressure can be very different, but if you're the one experiencing the pressure, it's still pressure. And fear.

Having never been fortunate enough to publish a book before, I thought the tough part was going to be writing the book. It turns out that that was the easy part. Now that it is written, there's an entirely different world of promoting the book.

This past week has been one of 5 a.m. starts to the day; multiple phone calls, conference calls and hundreds of e-mail messages each day; and a seemingly endless to-do list. Oh, and then there's the business of trying to keep my regular work going, as well.

Countless times this week, even each day, I have found myself bouncing between the euphoria of, "Wow, I have a book coming out," and, "Ohmigawd, there's so much work to do." Curiously, the "wow" experience vs. the "ohmigawd" experience turns out to be not much more than how I choose to view what's in front of me right then and there. If I look at all the incomplete work and the volume that keeps piling up, I can easily move into a sense of being overwhelmed, followed shortly by stress, irritability and then more stress. Just ask my wife. She has definitely seen this one. I'm very, very sorry.

When I look at the opportunity that is being presented with each new to-do, be it a conference call, and e-mail to create or any of dozens of other tasks, then I am filled with the experience of Grace, of fun and of "wow."

As I review the week gone by and look forward to the week about to emerge, I am impressed yet again with how much the quality of my experience has been and will be shaped by how I approach what shows up.

Indeed, I have seen over and over again that the same set of circumstances can be experienced on a continuum from great down to something to be tolerated or endured. It really just comes down to how you choose to perceive what's present. Any given set of circumstances can be used to create something good, to move into your own greatness, or to simply be endured.

So many times in the past, I have seen both individual as well as corporate clients bemoan their circumstances and simply settle for the crumbs of life. In fact, almost exactly one year ago today, I posted an article about resisting life and settling for what I called "the weavily peanuts." And at right this very time, I find myself being presented with the same choices every day: I can bemoan the work in front of me or I can embrace the opportunity to move forward.

It turns out that it is really nothing more than a choice. If I go into moaning, I get all that comes with it. If I focus on the opportunity, I get two fabulous outcomes: the first and most immediate is the opportunity to experience a greater sense of well-being, and the second is the chance to translate the opportunity into even greater success.

For me, I'm going for the greatness. Not that I'm anywhere near great at it yet, but without the focus, the willingness to choose and the willingness to do the work necessary, all I'm left with are the "weavily peanuts."

This week will undoubtedly be even greater than last week, and I'm sure that I will have the opportunity to slip into some of those limiting perceptions and limiting behaviors, as well. However, that's all part of the process, kind of the old "two steps forward, one step backward" kind of deal. For me, it's just about keeping on keeping on.

How about you? What kind of week, month, year and life would you life to create? What are you willing to do about it? And if you don't choose to move forward, who will?

I would love to hear from you about your ideas, about how you have chosen in the past or what you are focusing on as you look ahead. What do you want, really?

I'd love to hear from you. Please do leave a comment here or drop me an email at Russell (at)


If you want more information on how you can apply this kind of reframing to your life and to your job, about a few simple steps that may wind up transforming your life, please download a free chapter from my book, Workarounds That Work. You'll be glad you did.

Russell Bishop is an educational psychologist, author, executive coach and management consultant based in Santa Barbara, Calif. You can learn more about my work by visiting my website at You can contact me by e-mail at Russell (at)