Alignment

What do I mean by alignment? Let’s dig a little deeper.

For the purposes of the posts on this site that are in the alignment category I mean that all the motivations, desires, wants, needs, hopes, understandings, and interests are pointing (at least roughly) in the same direction.

Two examples to try to illustrate what I’m talking about: contracting to add on to our home (aligning in a relationship) and dieting (a relatively common self-improvement goal).

In a relationship

We wanted to do an addition on our home. An accessory dwelling was the term that was being used – a separate entrance, kitchenette, bedroom, bathroom, and small living space. The first person we talked to was a close family friend. Someone we’d grown up with. Someone that we trusted completely. He had some lovely ideas, but most were beyond our means. But, he knew our limits and tried to work within them.

His usual way of charging for such a job (some design, some building) would be as a percentage of the cost of the project. We discussed trying to come up with an alternative fee structure to propose to him. Something where he would share in the savings if he could come up with something that gave us everything we wanted, and nothing we didn’t, if the final cost was lower than our absolute maximum cost. Align at least one of his motivations (maximize profit for work done) with one of ours (stay under budget, as far under as possible and still get what we wanted).

We never proposed an alternative fee structure. Seemed like too far out of the norm, among other things. It also became clear that he was not the person for the job – no matter how close we were or how much he wanted to help. Another of his motivations was to design something he could be proud of, that he thought of as elegant. Our budget wasn’t going to make that easy (or doable).

In that particular endeavor, we were misaligned. No problem. Except we didn’t want to be misaligned with someone we cared about. So, we got misaligned with someone else – because often, in business arrangements, the alignment is not perfect, or even great. If the salesperson (or contractor, or builder, or stock broker…) is getting a percentage of the final bill or money spent, it is in their interest to make that bill as high as possible. No matter how ethical, wonderful, or caring that person is. Humans are, well, human. There is an inherent misalignment of purpose, of need, of desire.

Oh, and our friend wouldn’t have been aligned himself with this job. He was looking for beauty. For elegance. He was also looking to do right by us. We didn’t have the money to spend on a project of that size to result in a project he could love.

Is there a way to build better alignment in relationships? Professional and personal? Something to think about.

Self-Improvement/Dieting

The goal: lose weight. So many different possible diets, diet plans, or “habit changes.” And, a person who is on a diet or following a plan is, by definition, motivated to lose weight. So, why is it so hard? Why do we fail so often to lose the weight we want or need to lose?

Any self-improvement is difficult if we’re not in alignment. We might, generically, want to lose weight, but if it’s not happening yet, we’re probably not in alignment or the plan we’ve chosen doesn’t align to our needs. How could this be?

Maybe I want to lose weight, but…

  • I think it takes self-control and I don’t think of myself as a person with good self-control, or
  • I’m generally concerned with “value” and a part of me thinks that I don’t get full value out of a meal if I don’t finish everything I’m served, or
  • I grew up thinking of eating sugary foods (sweets, baked goods, etc.) as a way to treat myself, especially when I’m not feeling well or when I’ve earned a reward, or
  • I, and others, have a perception of me as the jolly, chubby guy, or
  • perhaps something else.

So, I struggle to lose weight, diet after diet, because the change I’m trying to make is misaligned with at least some of my other thoughts.

To get aligned, I may need to want to lose weight and:

  • pick a program that helps with the self-control or requires I exercise my self-control less often,
  • change my understanding of value – perhaps value isn’t getting everything possible out of every experience but instead is getting the highest quality of what I need,
  • alter what I consider a treat (can I change it to mean giving myself the freedom to engage in some enjoyed physical activity?), and
  • commit to the persona of the healthy, relaxed guy as opposed to the happy/jolly persona.

Maybe not easy. But, how much more difficult to try to meet one goal (weight loss) while being at odds with other goals, motivations, or self-perceptions.

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Lucky to Acknowledge Luck

The first in a series about alignment.

The big picture: life, relationships, habit formation, and meeting goals are easier if you, and they, are in alignment. What does that mean? We’ll explore that over the course of our alignment posts. For now, let’s say simply that if all, or most, of our needs, motivations, interests, abilities are pointed in the same (general?) direction, we’re more likely to get stuff done and do it relatively smoothly.

In his article, Lucky Breaks: A Cornell economist who studies luck says the more you acknowledge good fortune, the better off you are, Robert H. Frank (Econ professor at Cornell) argues that luck has much to do with our successes and, just as important, acknowledging the luck you’ve had makes you even luckier. Or, at least helps make the kind of person on whom fortune is going to shine (happier, better liked, someone with whom others would like to work).

He sums up:

In short, it’s often in your interest to acknowledge luck’s role in your success—if only because people will think better of you for having done so. Evidence also suggests that being grateful for your good fortune will make you feel happier. And by making you a more attractive potential teammate, you’ll also be more likely to prosper.

If you’re looking for success (and who isn’t?), align with luck – recognize it, acknowledge it, and share your appreciation for the role others played in your previous successes.

Thanks Quartz, for pointing us in Frank’s direction.

 

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