Frequently asked questions (FAQ) about developing a purpose statement.
Why do I need to have a purpose statement?
What makes up a good purpose?
I have my daily plan/activities that bring me daily purpose.
I am a father/mother and that gives me purpose. I don’t need another purpose.
I believe in the afterlife. That is my purpose.
I have a job/career that brings me purpose.
Why do I need a purpose statement?
I have found over a dozen research studies that list the benefits of living with purpose. The benefits include a longer life, less hospital time, more fulfillment, an improved psychological response to setbacks, and being happier.
A good life purpose is one that brings meaning to you. It should inspire you. It should give you direction on what projects/experience to say yes to and what activities to say no to. It is not a career or hobbies. A good life purpose identifies how you want to bring your best self every day. A life purpose can be enhanced from time to time over the years, but applies to all of your roles and your whole life.
I have my daily plan that brings me daily purpose.
Yes, that is true. I call this small “p” purpose. Daily planning is a great way to have the benefits of purpose. A way to tap into even greater large “P” purpose is to set an overriding priority, focus, and values for your life. This overriding large “P” purpose gives you direction so that you know the best things to be planning daily. What if you came to the end of your life and found you were focused on the wrong priorities and that you didn’t respond to life experiences with the values you had hoped? Make sure your compass is pointed in the right direction when you plan your day. Choose the very best activities, not just busyness.
I am a father/mother and that gives me purpose. I don’t need another purpose.
Yes, agreed. There is tremendous purpose that comes from being a parent. The sense of responsibility and purpose is great. Let’s delve deeper though. What happens when your kids move out? What will your purpose be? Isn’t your purpose bigger than your kids? Another question: How do you bring your best self to parenting? Answer: Being purposeful, Being intentional. Having an overriding purpose statement allows you to articulate How you want to be the best parent.
I believe in the afterlife. That is my purpose.
Yes, and if eternal life is your goal and purpose, how do you plan to accomplish it? How do you bring your best self in order to achieve this goal? That is what an overarching purpose statement does for you. How can I bring my best self to my everyday living in order to accomplish my eternal goal?
I already have a great career that gives me purpose. Isn’t that enough?
Yes, and then what happens after you retire? How do you want to act and behave inside of your purpose? A purpose statement gives you a reference point to go to when you retire. It also tells you how to act and respond while you are working in your wonderful career.
The big question is how to develop a purpose that can help you with all your roles and goals.
The Triple 7 process. Go to ci4life.org and find a free pdf on how to develop your purpose.
Everybody is seeking to be happy, fulfilled, and successful! I call that your “best life”. What that means for people can be quite different and personalized.
I don’t believe it comes from just a bucket list of things you want to do and places you want to see. This obviously can be part of your best life.
I don’t believe it necessarily has to do with being the richest, most popular or most powerful. We all know very unhappy popular, powerful, and rich people.
I don’t believe “best life” means that you are perfect with no mistakes or setbacks.
I believe being your ‘best self’ means that you were intentional and fully engaged in the process of enjoying life and learning from it.
Here is a model with detailed information for living your best life:
Define your best life.
Plan to live your best life.
Enjoy the journey.
Define your best life.
What exactly is my best life? For 30 years, starting with myself and then helping thousands of others, I have been advising people how to define their best life. This is what I’ve found. Research by end-of-life nurses and other experts tells us it is not about working more. People who are dying were interviewed and often say they wish they would have lived their best life, not the life somebody else expected them to live.
The Triple 7 personal purpose development process
I have synthesized the process into 7 questions and exercises over 7 days with 7 journal writing sessions. At the end of this process, you will have a 50-word (maximum) personal purpose statement to help you define your best life.
The process begins with this defining question and exercise: How do you want to be remembered? Imagine you are visiting your funeral. What do you want people to be saying about you? Journal what you would like them to say and then start planning and executing that plan each day.
Chapter 4 of my book, “Live Your Purpose – A Step by Step Guide to Live Your Best Life”, shares the entire Triple 7 process. The book is sold on Amazon. Alternatively, you can go to my website, ci4life.org for more resources and methods to live your best life.
Plan to live your best life.
Many people have big dreams for life but lack the skills or the right processes to help them successfully accomplish those dreams. Or, many people work so hard for retirement and then expect to be able to accomplish their dreams only to be robbed by sickness, health, and other changes. Plan to live your purpose starting today.
Identify goals that will help you accomplish your purpose
Research shows only 20% of people accomplish most of their goals. Why? I believe that the majority of reasons have to do with not knowing the right process and having the right skills to live on purpose and live their best life.
Here is the 7-step process for successful goal accomplishment:
Identify all the areas you want to be successful in; e.g., health, relationships, work/finance, and spiritual/emotional well-being.
Pinpoint Specific and Measurable goals to help you live your purpose.
Make action plans to accomplish those goals.
Track those goals.
Have a weekly planning session to review past successes and learnings and to make new plans.
Establish Daily prioritized planning to accomplish those goals.
Share this process and the results with a trusted advisor on a monthly basis.
How can you accomplish 80% of your goals? Identify what your purpose is and then develop this goal-setting process. Be prepared to be amazed!
Enjoy the journey.
This may be the most important step in the entire process to living your best life. Real joy and happiness come from the process and the journey – not the arrival. I have heard people say, “When I graduate or when I get out of debt, then I can be happy.” Or, “When I lose 25 lbs. or when I go to Bali or when my son graduates…then I can be happy.”
I have known a Pilipino family for years that works very hard each and every day and doesn’t have a lot of extra money. What extra money they do have, they send home to their family back in the Philippines. They are the kindest, most respectable, and happy people I know.
Are you just born with this skill set to be happy, given any circumstance, or can it be learned?
I believe everything can be learned with the right mindset, skill set, and tool set. We may not be able to throw a touchdown pass like Tom Brady or drive a golf ball like Dustin Johnson, but with the right mindset, skill set and tool set, we can get better and develop any skill. We may not be able to be as content and happy as my Philippine friends, naturally, but with the right mindset, skill set, and tool set, we can improve.
What is the right mindset, skill set and tool set for enjoying the journey?
Gratitude may not solve all your problems, but it is the first thing that needs to happen in order to get your mind right to learn and improve and live your best life. What happens if you are not naturally a grateful person? What happens if your brain focuses on what you don’t have versus what you do have? Start with developing the skill of gratitude. It is like any skill set; it can be learned and developed. I developed a CI4life planner to help people develop this skill. On every planning page, it has space for gratitude lists. Start each day with writing down what went right and what you are grateful for. After you have finished your gratitude list, you will have the right mindset to learn and plan to live your best life every day!
Stay Present and Mindful. Have you ever gone through a day or week or year and it was just a blur because it was so hectic, busy or stressful? So have I. This is not the best situation or state of consciousness to live your best life. We get confused into thinking that busy is “best life”. That is not true. Being able to enjoy each day and be aware of your feelings and moments is how to respond and live your best life. Meditation is such a critical skill for you to stay present. Stop your mind from racing ahead or behind/past. Train your brain to enjoy the journey of each day through stillness and meditation.
Learn from Mistakes. Along the path to your best life, you will still make mistakes, have heartaches, and setbacks. The key is to have the right mindset and realize that this is part of the journey. Have a learning mindset about your setbacks. What am I supposed to learn from this as I progress? You have a choice when trials happen. You can let your mind get discouraged or give-up or get mad. Or, you can take the mindset of a learner. What am I supposed to learn from this as I progress toward my best life? The latter mindset is way more fun, enjoyable, and fruitful. What can you do if you get stuck in a downward spiral after a setback? Get help. Ask a trusted advisor for guidance. Read a book or watch a YouTube video that gets you pumped up and back to the learning mindset.
How well are you doing at developing and living your best life? Where are you on the continuum? What do you need to do to take the next step in your happiness, fulfillment, and success?
1st step to Living your best life: Take this 3-minute calculator quiz to determine your score and your next steps here.
Good luck on your journey. Enjoy it and you will look back on a fruitful life knowing that you did the best you could. It’s an incredible feeling of peace and contentment to know that you were intentional in executing your best life.
The January 2013 McKinsey Quarterly publication posted an article by Susie Cranston and Scott Keller called,Increasing the Meaning Quotient of Work. They argued that the most successful and best performing people have IQ (intellectual quotient), EQ (emotional quotient), and MQ (meaning quotient).
â€œWhile IQ and EQ are absolutely necessary to create the conditions for peak performance, they are far from sufficient, the authors said. (When a business environment MQ is low, employees put less energy into their work and see it as (just a job) that gives them little more than a paycheck.
Executives interviewed in the study said that when employees and teams have IQ, EQ, and MQ, they are five times more productive. Furthermore, when asked to locate the bottlenecks to peak performance in organizations, more than 90% of them chose MQ related issues.
Let's compare these findings with a survey I'm conducting on my website, www.ci4life.org, where so far, almost 1,400 respondents have completed it. The survey's aim is to identify the habits and characteristics of the happiest and most effective people. You may find the parallels interesting.
Overall outcomes of the survey
My premise has always been that it is happiness â€“ not productivity â€“ that leads to a life of success. The survey identifies key findings, key outcomes, key characteristics, and the key habits for this group cohort. Here are the findings so far on those identified as happier people:
Personal productivity: 14% higher
Effective relationships at work: 20% higher
Job satisfaction: 45% overall
Income: Double for the happier group
It's important to note that the data is suggesting that the happiest group earn more income, but that not more money means more happiness. It's the characteristics and habits of the happiest that lead to more income â€“ not the other way around.
This brings us to the next question: How and why does this happiness, productivity, and satisfaction happen? Let's break it down.
What are the characteristics of the happiest people?
I only mention a characteristic if it is a majority vote and if it is at least 25% greater than the comparison group:
Forgive and let go: 43% higher
Life purpose: 34% higher
Let go of discouraging events more effectively: 45% better
Content with life: 78% higher
For example: On the key question of comparing the very happiest to the below average in happiness, we find:
Seventy-eight percent of the happiest people have a life purpose, and the gap between the below-average happiness group is 34%. So, this means that the majority of the (above average) happiest people practice it, and this is greater than a 25% difference with the below-happiness group.
Personal habits of the happiest people
The same variable applies as above (a majority vote and if it is at least 25% greater than the comparison group of below-happiness people).
The personal habits of the happiest are as follows:
Regular exercise: 27% higher
Daily planning: 30%
Reading for personal improvement: 27%
Regular service to others: 26%
Financial savings: 32%
All of the characteristics of purpose, forgiveness, letting go, and contentment are what the McKinsey article highlighted – emotional and meaning quotient items!
What can we learn from these findings and what should we do?
On a personal level:
Understand that it's a combination of habits that contribute to higher levels of happiness and improved life outcomes. It's not just one habit.
Pick one of these habits to start improving on. Set a goal, track it, share it, and improve it.
On an organizational level:
We need more emphasis on an emotional and meaning quotient in personal development if you want employees with higher job satisfaction and effectiveness. More training and development in both areas is essential for businesses.
Let me share with you two application ideas for businesses.
Leaders, when you pitch your vision, make sure you share the why. Make sure and share how this creates meaning to your employees and your community.
My very first client as a young consultant was a sawmill supervisor named Greg. He was a great athlete and loved to compete and win. He and I spent a few night shifts at the plant trying to figure out how to advance performance there. Greg had worked at the plant for over 30 years and had advanced from supervisor to superintendent to plant manager. That plant went on to be one of the top performing sawmills of its category in North America. He did at least two things that were extraordinary: (1) He always had employee and management meetings. (2) He rarely skipped a weekly employee meeting and his monthly management business review in all those 30 plus years. Talk about consistency!
Everybody is always trying to create some stability and sustainability for performance in their business. Try learning this lesson from Greg. Never skip a performance review and business discussion. Become a great communicator on multiple levels of meaning (MQ). Greg talked to his employees about things that would draw them into the business and care about its performance. He shared the details of financial and production performance to the union employees on a weekly basis. As a result, the plant took great pride and meaning in trying to become the best sawmill. He tied in customer feedback into his meetings. He shared the good and the bad. He built pride, meaning, and loyalty to the site. I think it was one of the reasons he never left despite being offered other positions at other plants. My favorite line he ever said was in a weekly employee meeting when he passionately shared with his employees that they don't just make lumber. They provided shelter for those less fortunate and he would talk about progress with the Habitat for Humanity project in the local town that the company donated to. He talked about how their product helped people live their dreams of being a homeowner. Greg established a culture of meaning and pride by connecting the company's product to how it benefited society, the customers, and themselves.
Hire leaders with emotional intelligence. At RLG International, we do a lot of work with capital projects. All of our research including within the benchmarking firms called IPA (Independent Project Analysis) suggest we need more leaders with emotional intelligence to lead our large mega capital projects. The track record for mega construction projects is not good. Research is pointing to the difference leadership makes, and particularly leaders who have emotional intelligence â€“ those who are open and listening to all stakeholders' concerns. Some of these senior project directors are running projects with 20-40 billion-dollar budgets. They have thousands of contractors working the projects.
In one IPA study of 56 mega capital projects, only seven of the projects met project goals. Of the seven key characteristics listed in those projects was great leadership. One of the key characteristics of great leadership was emotional intelligence. You can imagine when you're working with seven to 12 different organizations and thousands of employees how much emotional intelligence weighs in. You have to be able to listen to various concerns and worries and deal with it in a mature and open way. But I know there are applications to all sectors and business, not just capital projects. The truth though is that we need more leaders from all facets of business with emotional intelligence.
I hope this has given you a few ideas on what you can do to work on your personal and professional meaning quotient and emotional quotient. Thank you to all of the respondents, and I'd love to get to 1,500 respondents and beyond. If you value this knowledge, please go to the website and fill out the survey. So far, the respondents have shared that taking the survey has given them ideas for their own personal development journeys.
Additionally, on September 15, 2020, my book, Live Your Purpose â€“ A Step-By-Step Guide to Enhance Your Meaning, Purpose, Fulfillment, And Happiness will be online for sale at Amazon.com. Please go to my website to subscribe, and I'll send you a link to download the book for free.
Until next time, live a life of sustainable Continuous Improvement.
Peak experiences are events that compel us towards success and help us reach self-actualization.
Abraham Maslow describes peak experiences as such:
â€œThe conviction that something extremely important and valuable had happened, so that the subject was to some extent transformed and strengthened even in his daily life by such experiences.”
What Is Self-Actualization?
In 1943, psychologist Abraham Maslow identified the now-famous Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Maslow argued that beyond our basic needs of food, water, and shelter, our highest need is self-actualization.
Maslow describes self-actualization as; “What a man can be, he must be, the highest-order motivations, which drive us to realize our true potential and achieve our ideal self. Purpose and compelling goals drive us to our true potential and our ideal self. According to Maslow, one characterization of self-actualization is having frequent peak experiences.
Maslow describes a peak experience as involving:
Feelings of limitless horizons opening up to the vision.
The feeling of being simultaneously more powerful and also more helpless than one ever was before.
The feeling of ecstasy and wonder and awe.
The loss of placement in time and space.
The conviction that something extremely important and valuable had happened, so that the subject was to some extent transformed and strengthened, even in his daily life by such experiences.
Sign me up for that! But how? How can we have frequent and intentional peak experiences?
Having a compelling purpose and compelling goals can help you have peak experiences and be self-actualized. Just like Chris Hadfield.
Becoming One of the First Canadian Astronauts
Chris Hadfield is a retired astronaut and was the first Canadian Commander of the International Space Station. When Chris was 9 years old, he watched Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin taking the first steps on the moon. At that moment, Chris set a goal to go to the moon. Everything he did in life was focused on achieving that compelling goal.
As an early teenager, Chris joined the air cadets. After high school, he mapped out a plan to beat the odds and become an astronaut, but at the time, Canada didn't even have a space program. Chris decided that becoming a fighter pilot and a test pilot would be the best path towards becoming an astronaut. So against all the odds, he made the fighter pilot program and strived daily to be the best he could be.
Years later, Chris saw an ad in the paper saying that Canada was taking applications for an astronaut program. He was among thousands of applicants for two available positions. Chris went on to be the space station leader for several months in 2012, and the first Canadian to walk in space. He also sang David Bowie's (Space Oddity) from space, which quickly went viral with over 75 million hits.
Chris's entire life was focused on a compelling goal. Interesting to note is that his dream was to walk on the moon, but people haven't been to the moon since 1972.
Was it a failure that Chris didn't accomplish his life's goal? No, because he has spent more time in space than most any other person. Look where his compelling goal made him reach and stretch to.
In 2019, I did a podcast with Chris on my Continuous Improvement 4 Life channel. Chris's life is inspiring, and he's accomplished so much because of a dream, because of a compelling goal. He is an author of 3 books, including An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth. Chris was named the top test pilot in both the US Air Force and the US Navy and was inducted into Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame.
Chris shared a great revelation on the podcast,(We are not algae, we are not born under a rock, we are growing, learning beings that strive to become better and drive for continuous improvement towards worthy goals every day. Wow, if that doesn't jack you up, what will? Chris Hadfield knows what it is to be self-actualized because of a compelling goal. The same goes for my former neighbor, Mike Schlappi.
Mike was accidentally shot by his best friend when he was 15 years old. Mike was no longer able to play the sports he was so passionate about. He lost his legs, the ability to play sports, and his girlfriend due to the accident. As a teenager, Mike seemed to have lost his entire world. Mike talks about a few months later as he was starting to settle into life in a wheelchair, and then one day in the gym, he challenged his gym teacher to an arm-wrestling contest. Mike broke his arm as a result. So now he was stuck with permanent loss of his legs and temporary loss of his arm. He only had use of one limb, which resulted in a lot of circles in his wheelchair for a few days.
One day, someone introduced Mike to wheelchair basketball, and he loved it. Playing basketball in the Olympics and representing his country soon became Mike's compelling goal.
After thousands of hours of practice and games, Mike represented Team USA in four Olympic Games, playing wheelchair basketball. He won two gold medals and two bronze medals. Mike later played for and now coaches the Utah Wheelin' Jazz basketball team, who compete nationally as a member of the National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA).
I've known Mike for many years now, and I've never seen him without a smile and a positive attitude about life. What impresses me more than the Olympic medals is how Mike conducts his life. He has overcome so many setbacks in life, including an unexpected divorce. Today, with his wife Tami, Mike lives a fulfilling life as a speaker, Wheelin' Jazz Coach, parent and grandparent, and a faithful member of the community and church.
Mike takes his dog, Kitty, for walks almost every day with a smile on his face. When he was in the hospital as a teenager, he complained to his mom about being shot and the awful hospital food. His mom looked him in the eye and said, (Mike, don't be a crappy Schlappi, be a happy Schlappi.
His mom's advice has stuck with Mike to this day. He tells me he does have down days; everyone does. I have seen Mike accomplish 3 compelling goals in his life: winning 4 olympic medals, building an amazing marriage with Tami (Tami has also overcome the death of her first husband to cancer and is an accomplished and compassionate person with a great attitude on life), and becoming a self-actualized Happy Schlappi!
Peak experiences don't happen by accident. They need to be planned and prepared for. Chris Hadfield used his downtime to build competency and earn more certifications to be prepared for his many peak experiences. Mike took what he was given and ran (rode) with it.
Do you want more feelings that something significant and valuable has happened so that you're transformed and strengthened? Start with this application exercise:
What peak experiences do you want to plan for?
In the next blog, we'll discuss how to set compelling yearly goals to accomplish more peak experiences.
“We should begin by recognizing the reality that just because something is good is not a sufficient reason for doing it. The number of good things we can do far exceeds the time available to accomplish them. Some things are better than good, and these are the things that should command priority attention in our lives.”
Dallin H. Oaks
Have you ever felt like the day just flew by?
Perhaps you were tired and overwhelmed; every minute seemed to be full. Days like this can feel fulfilling at the end of the day, but be careful.
Ask yourself how many of those activities were empty calories? Or how many were good calories but not the best calories?
Don’t let good activities rob you of great activities. When you look back on those busy days, how many of your goals did you accomplish?
The need to be busy is one of the worst addictions of our time.
One of the biggest regrets people have when they’re dying is that they worked too hard and didn’t pay enough attention to their central relationships. The other common regret is that they didn’t live their best life.
One of the reasons people don’t live out their purpose or reach their long-term goals is that they don’t have a system to organize their schedule. Most people have trouble staying focused on the most important tasks and relationships.
The busyness and distractions of the modern-day world are powerful and plentiful. The constant call for meetings and never-ending notifications on your phone are tough to ignore.
Marketing professionals and advertisers are getting more and more sophisticated. They are listening and sending you the ads that you’re interested in. These calls to action are also difficult to ignore.
So what do you do?
Weekly planning is a terrific way to stay focused on the important relationships and activities in your life. Planning your week is an opportunity to be intentional and get rid of the bad or even some of the good but not great activities throughout our day.
Weekly Planning Is a Super Power
Develop your weekly plan during a commercial free, interruption free, and notification free period. This is the most important 30 minutes of your week. Treat it as such.
Build in times during the week that you can go notification free so that you can focus on your number-one activities. Hide your phone, turn off notifications on your computer, and focus your mind on the most crucial task. You will feel an increased clarity and focus on what’s at hand.
I recommend investing in a weekly planning system to help you organize time around your purpose, roles, and goals. Doing so also helps you prioritize.
As you can see in the weekly game plan above, your purpose, roles, and goals are along the weekly game plan's left-hand side. These remain mostly static during the year. Each week you will identify the weekly activities that help you accomplish the goals you’ve identified. You must find a consistent time every week to plan. Consistency trains your brain to be prepared and ready for a productive planning session.
Here are four steps you can walk through for your weekly planning session.
4-Step Weekly Planning Session
Schedule your weekly planning session the same day and same time each week. For example, 7:00 p.m. each Sunday.
Review the past week. Start with reviewing the highlights of your week. What were you most proud of? What were your big successes? What did you learn from setbacks or wins? How can you apply what you learned this week?
For example, let's say you planned your reading/studying time during the evening, and you had four interruptions during the evening that prevented you from reading. Those interruptions came from important family and friends. What could you do differently to accomplish your goals? Perhaps you could do the reading another time. This week you can try switching your timing to when there are fewer interruptions.
Plan your most important activities. Look at your purpose, roles, and key goals and plan your key activities for the week. Plan the important non-urgent things. I never include scheduled meetings that are in my calendar unless they need a big planning component. If you include all of the urgent/planned things, you will overwhelm yourself. Plan to have 10-20 important non-urgent activities each week that are small steps towards your big goals.
Schedule your weekly activities. Try to schedule your 10-20 important items into your week. Use your calendar to plan these activities. For example, if you want to start 30 minutes of aerobic exercises five days a week, calendar it in at 6.30 a.m. every weekday.
Follow up throughout your week with daily planning. Each day as you plan, look at your weekly plan. You should complete a 3-step process for your daily plan.
3-Step Daily Planning Session
Put a checkmark next to the completed items. Have a mini celebration in your head for every activity you completed. Celebrating your wins gets some positive endorphins going inside.
Check and see which weekly planning items are already planned. Mentally prepare for those important activities.
Add items that were either not scheduled in or must be rescheduled because they weren't accomplished earlier in the week.
Other Tips for Weekly Planning
To develop this productivity superpower you need to:
Plan during the same time each week and day.
Find a place in your house for planning. Train your brain that this is the planning space. You can train your brain to recognize the time and place, and it will respond with increased concentration and efficiency.
Put your most important activities during quiet times—the times when you will get the least interruptions. Do not be afraid to update your calendar in the morning or at lunch to include key non-urgent activities in your weekly plan.
Plan in time and activities with those most important to you. I am still surprised after 40 years of using this planning system how many “highlights of the week” come from relationship activities. For example, a good talk with my wife Cheryl during our Saturday morning run always makes my weekly gratitude list. Exercise and connecting with your spouse is a double endorphin hit!
Pitfalls to Avoid with Weekly Planning
You are about to develop a motivation and productivity superpower. Be careful with your kryptonite:
1. Don’t over plan and get overwhelmed. Instead, start small. I believe that one reason people aren’t good at accomplishing goals is that they over schedule.
As Dr. Bob Maurer says in his book, Small Things That Change Your Life -The Kaizen Way, he describes a breakthrough he had while working at a hospital. Dr. Maurer learned that taking small steps led to the task getting done and then his patients were able to work towards more ambitious goals.
One example highlighted in his book is a patient who came in several times with high stress, weight gain and unhealthy habits. The doctors previously recommended the patient start exercising to lose 20 pounds, but she wasn’t able to get started. When Dr. Maurer asked her if she watched T.V. when the kids went to bed at night, she said yes. Dr. Maurer asked if she could do jumping jacks during 1 commercial break at night, and she said she would.
She came back the next week and reported success with the small task. As the weeks went by, Dr. Maurer asked her to do jumping jacks during all of the commercial breaks and steadily increased the amount of exercise. In six months, she reached her goal of losing 20 pounds.
Dr. Maurer learned this technique from Japanese Kaizen. Kaizen is a Japanese continuous improvement technique that trains employees to find small faults in their factories to continually improve. Dr. Maurer talks about how the limbic system gets fired up with fear when talking about big, daunting goals. But it stays quiet if you start with small goals. I highly recommend the book. If you want just a 30-minute version, you can listen to this podcast I did with Dr. Maurer here.
2. Be intentional but flexible. Little kids are the classic example of this. Kids don’t understand weekly and daily plans. Of course, you can coach them to honor your time, but you must be flexible and open to making changes. People are more important than tasks or efficiency.
3. Just because you are a super planner, your time isn’t more important than others. Please be careful with this one. Remember what and who is most important in your life. As you follow this plan you will become more focused, motivated, and productive. Close members of your family will see the pros and cons of this.
Just the other day my daughter Mackenzie reminded me that my time isn’t more important than hers. I was asking her to do a chore around the house so I didn’t have to worry about it and I could focus on writing this chapter in my book. “Dad,” she said, “it sounds like you’re saying your time is more important than mine.” I quickly apologized and thanked her for giving me honest feedback.
Do not let busyness rob you from doing what’s most important in your life. Don’t get sucked into the exhausting and empty calories that busyness can bring. Focus on what is most important in your life and then plan around it. A good weekly planning system can help you live with no regrets and live your best self! Start by accessing my free weekly planning system online, and schedule a free coaching session to help implement the system.
I've found that though the cultural philosophies of the Eastern and Western cultures are vastly different, they can coexist. If we take steps to bring these two philosophies together, we can find sustainable happiness.
Because the two cultures are so different, we need to take steps to help them coexist in our life.
Today I'm going to share about each culture's values and how we can take the gold from each and apply principles into our life.
What does the Western culture value?
Western ideals can be summarized in three terms: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Some of the central characteristics of Western culture include democracy, rational thinking, individualism, Christianity, capitalism, modern technology, human rights, and scientific thinking.
Western ideals lead to rugged individualism and the endless pursuit of happiness and success. We all know people who have climbed to the top of the career ladder, obtained massive success and wealth, but are still unhappy.
What does the Eastern culture value?
Eastern cultures, specifically Chinese Philosophy, draw from the teachings of several philosophical movements, including but not limited to Confucianism, Taoism, Legalism, Mohism, and Buddhism.
Buddhism, the most prevalent of the above schools of thought, is a religion, a practical philosophy, and arguably a psychology. Buddhism focuses on the teachings of Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, who lived in India from the mid-6th to the early 5th Century B.C. Buddhism was then introduced to China sometime during the 1st Century B.C.
The ultimate goal of Buddhist philosophies is Nirvana, which is a state of enlightenment one attains by coming to understand the Four Noble Truths: the inevitability of Suffering, the Cause of Suffering, the Relief of Suffering, and the way to end Suffering.
Another important value of Buddhism is mindfulness. Mindfulness derives from Sati, a significant element of Buddhist traditions, and is based on Zen, VipassanÄ, and Tibetan meditation techniques.
Mindfulness is the process of bringing your attention to experiences occurring in the present moment without judgment. Mindfulness is developed through the practice of meditation and other training.
Meditation is a fundamental technique in understanding the 4 noble truths and achieving greater mindfulness. The most important meditation practices taught by the Buddha are the Four Sathipattana Meditations. These meditations guide your mind to understand the reality of the mind and body connection.
How can the philosophies work together?
The Western ideals of dreaming big, working hard, achieving greatness, and individual success all have merit. But what happens when you don't achieve your goals right away or when setbacks happen?
What do we do then? Work harder? Manage our time more?
All of these are good, but how do we account for so much suffering amidst the Western philosophies? Depression suicide rates are at record highs in many Western countries.
The Buddhist philosophies of mindfulness, staying present, and letting go all sound well. Who wouldn't want to stop fretting about the future and losing sleep over the past?
How do we practically practice mindfulness and meditation in our busy world?
Not many people have the time to attend a 30-day meditation camp, or become a monk.
What if we were able to add the teaching of mindfulness to our Western ideals of working hard and striving?
What if we could have big dreams, live with purpose, manage our time effectively, and accept everything that happens, rather than judge or label everything a success or failure?
In my blog about Sustainable Performance Excellence, I share how these practices fit together. I recommend setting big goals, having big dreams, and planning for success every day. Then take time to sit back, observe, and accept everything that happens. Be grateful for the small blessings, and maintain a grateful heart, even before your goals are achieved. When we have setbacks, we can accept them, observe them, and learn from them.
Here is Noah Rasheta, a lay Buddhist teacher's explanation of acceptance. He compares acceptance to a game of Tetris.
I want to be completely clear about the concept of acceptance and again clarify that the Buddhist understanding of acceptance does not encourage or condone in any way resignation or disengagement. If you're in an abusive relationship, acceptance is NOT in any way an attitude of saying,(Oh well, I'm not going to do anything about this.) Or,(It is what it is.) Acceptance is simply recognizing,(Ok, this is the situation I'm in. Now what am I going to do with it?) It's seeing the new Tetris piece and immediately recognizing,(OK, this is the shape I have, now what do I do with it?) If you don't want to go through life in a state of constant reactivity (you know, yelling at the game(I don't want this shape.)) then you need to learn to accept what is and then you have the freedom to respond. So acceptance is the key to having the freedom to respond.
Meditation is a great way to be mindful and full of acceptance. So many times, our mind gets worked up after a busy day with work and family. A simple 10-minute meditation in the morning and the evening is a great way to connect to your consciousness.
This gives you time to ask yourself how you're feeling, where you're holding tension, and what you're grateful for.
I recently compared the top 3 meditation apps. I found the Calm app to be the best. I've been using it myself and give it a 10/10. The 10-minute meditations are fantastic to breathe, relax, and get grounded into how you are feeling.
The other morning, my ten-minute check-in began with deep breathing and had a very timely devotional about acceptance. Tamera Leavitt is the primary meditation specialist, and I find her meditations to be very useful in helping you with a relaxed check-in.
We don't often don't realize how easily we get spun up when something goes wrong. A short meditation can help you accept and recommit to your goals. After you accept the current circumstances and you connect with your emotions, you keep trying.
You choose to learn from your mistakes and missteps. You are not a failure. You might have failed to hit your goal, but you're not a failure. This is an opportunity to learn and move on. Get back up and try again. Stay fully committed to your goals and dreams.
Russ Harris, from The Happiness Trap, says it this way:
â€œYou can accept your thoughts and feelings, be psychologically present, and connect with your values all you like, but without the commitment to take effective action, you won't create a rich and meaningful life. This, then, is the final piece of the puzzleâ€”the piece that completes the whole picture.(Commitment,) like(acceptance,) is a frequently misunderstood term. Commitment isn't about being perfect, always following through, or never going astray.(Commitment) means that when you do (inevitably) stumble or get off track, you pick yourself up, find your bearings, and carry on in the direction you want to go.)
“The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
For the past few months, we have been dealing with change in one way or another. I recently talked with three different people who were dealing with big, unexpected changes in their life. Today I'm going to share those stories and strategies that help us walk through change and thrive in uncertainty.
I was coaching a COO as he was preparing for a big off-site meeting with his senior team. He had just reported to his investor group his quarterly earnings, and his revenue was down due to COVID-19. He was brainstorming how to get back on track. Together, we strategized about ways to help his team move forward despite the disruptions.
I was also coaching a CFO of a small start-up. He was in the process of selling his shares and moving to another company. The share evaluation came in lower than expected. He felt betrayed and at a loss of what to do.
I was having a conversation with my 85-year-old father recently. My parents were doing quite well through COVID-19. My brother and his wife were visiting and bringing the necessary supplies that would allow our parents to stay safe in isolation.
My parents are missing regular human interactions, but are doing quite well with all things considered. Unfortunately, in the last three weeks, my father experienced significant, undiagnosed chronic pain in his knee and foot. He started using a walker, and his steps were slow and gated for the first time in his life. He was struggling to deal with the change.
What do these stories have in common? They're all stories of transition and change. Most of us are experiencing significant changes personally and professionally during this pandemic.
Responding to Unexpected Change
What is the best way to respond to unwanted and unexpected changes in our life?
Some of us spend a lot of energy focusing on what we have lost. Of course, we all need time to vent and mourn our losses. But after the mourning, after the venting, what's the best strategy to deal with unwanted or undesired change?
Is the best strategy to work harder? Is the best approach to meditate more? Is the best strategy to connect more with others? Should I exercise more? Should I give my team a big pep talk?
All these suggestions are helpful, but how do I truly move on?
I love the Dan Millman quote I included at the beginning of the article. The best use of our energy is not to focus on the pains of change, or blaming the boss, your employees, the doctors, or God for the change. It might feel better in the short-term to complain or confess the sins of somebody else, but that won't help you move forward.
The best use of our energy is building something new. But how?
The first step to moving forward is to accept the change.
Accept, Connect, Take Action
I highly recommend Russ Harris's book, The Happiness Trap. He has some great tips to stop struggling with change and to start living. Russ shares,
“Once you acknowledged a story, that's itâ€”just let it be. You do not have to challenge it or push it away, nor do you have to give it much attention. Simply let it come and go as it pleases, while you channel your energy into doing something you value.”
The formula for effective change is:
Connect to your values
Take appropriate action
When we have a challenging or negative thought, Dr. Russ recommends asking, “Is this thought helpful? Does it help me take action to create the life I want? If it's helpful, pay attention; if it's not, defuse it.”
How does this apply to a business that's suffering from the pandemic?
The first step is accepting that the pandemic happened, and there are long-term changes associated with it. One of the saddest things I hear leaders say is, “I can hardly wait until the pandemic is over. Then I can fix my budgets, sales will go back to normal, and I'll start hitting my goals.” Or individuals who say, “I can hardly wait until the pandemic is over, then I can finally be more successful, lose weight, and start working on my goals again.”
Some of the effects of COVID-19 are here to stay. If you're waiting for things to get back to how they used to be, you'll be waiting a long time.
With the COO I mentioned above, we discussed an approach that allows his team to vent about the effects that the pandemic was causing on their sales. After that exercise, he coached his team to move on.
Then he asked questions like, How will this pandemic change business forever? How do we stay in front of those changes? How do we adapt faster than our competition? If our clients won't meet with us in person, how do we become the best remote sales team in the world? How would the best remote sales team do things differently now?)
These types of questions and exercises helped the team move forward and make new plans rather than waiting for things to return to normal.
How does this apply to undesirable personal changes?
Accept the change. Try to observe what is happening, be an observer of your own story in your head. After a day of venting and a night of sleep, approach the change with a new mindset. Accept what is. Find the learnings. Develop some small steps that will help you try new ideas to cope with the new reality.
The CFO mentioned above, the one who felt betrayed by a low share evaluation did vent for a day or two. He got over the personal hurt and started focusing on the facts. He disassociated with the personal loss or any personal slight he might have felt and negotiated based on his values of integrity, honesty, and fairness.
He shared the updated evaluation data with the other owners. He tried not to make it personal and eventually received an improved evaluation and an eye-opening lesson on change. If he held on to the feelings of betrayal, he wouldn't have had the peace of mind to negotiate based on his value system rather than anger or hate.
My dad is also doing better. He kept trying new things to fix his leg. He came to grips with the idea that this may be here to stay. He got more comfortable with others helping and serving him (which is not an easy change). Eventually, they did find the cure, and the pain has subsided.
Change is hard, no question about it. Having a plan can help tremendously. Remember to take things one step at a time:
Mourn the change and move on
Accept the change
Connect to your values on how you want to show up through the change
Develop small steps each day to deal with the new reality
Develop your plan to deal with change. Be ready to spend your energy on the new. I believe there are always new opportunities to build something new and thrive in business and life.
Every year, people set out to reach new goalsâ€”earn more money, lose weight, grow their business, and more. I've found that the best way to achieve your goals is by committing to a new healthy habit.
By definition, a habit is a regular tendency that's difficult to give up.
When you create healthy habits that are difficult to give up, you will inevitably get closer to achieving your bigger goals.
Today, I'm going to talk about the most important habits that you can start doing daily.
Are hard work and exercise the most important habits?
There is a good argument to be said that regular exercise is the most important habit. Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, calls exercise the keystone habit.
I agree that exercise is a cornerstone habit that leads to a better life. Even for a few minutes every day, a habit of exercise is a guaranteed way to become healthier and stay healthy.
On a similar note, people might argue that the best habit is hard work.
James Cash Penney, better known as the founder of JCPenney, once said,
â€œUnless you are willing to drench yourself in your work beyond the capacity of the average man, you are just not cut out for positions at the top.
No doubt, being diligent is a crucial attribute for success and happiness.
The most important habit: planning your day
I would argue that making a plan, specifically, a daily plan is the most important habit.
In 2019, I wanted to find out the characteristics of the most happy and productive people. I surveyed 500 people from across the globe. The results showed that 70% of those who said they were the happiest also said they had a habit of daily planning.
I've found that 15 minutes in the morning and evening to plan and review set up all other daily habits. It's during the quiet planning time of the morning and evening that you plan your exercise, work, and all your other good and worthwhile activities of the day.
The ancient philosophers called the Stoics emphasized the importance of morning planning.
Marcus Aurelius proposes to remind yourself in the morning (of what a precious privilege it is to be alive, to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.
Epictetus advises to rehearse the day in the morning, and then review your progress in the evening.
At daybreak, we should ask ourselves a few questions:
What do I still lack in order to achieve freedom from negative emotions?
What do I need to achieve tranquility?
What am I?, A rational being.
The purpose of this daily routine is to get better and step towards our goals every day.
I found that a morning planning meeting with yourself can turbo boost your day. When you get off to a good start to your day, the rest of the day will follow suit.
Waking up early to conduct your morning planning is essential because it's quiet, you can be still and free from interruptions. Early mornings are a time where you can connect to your soul and listen without worrying about the business of life.
What should my morning planning meeting look like?
Start with gratitude. Use your phone or a journal to list the things you're grateful for in that moment and yesterday. This is a great way to start your day with positivity!
Build your to-do list and calendarize it. Write your list in chronological order (as much as possible). A to-do list helps visualize the activities and helps with last-minute planning for each activity.
Mentally prepare for how you want to show up. Build an intention for the day. How do you want to show up for your spouse/partner and kids? How do you want to show up under challenging decisions or issues at work? A morning meditation practice is a great way to prepare for the day ahead mentally.
After your planning session, start your renewal activities. Build your emotional and physical capacity by planning and completing your exercise and spiritual practices. There are so many positive endorphins from morning exercise. Research shows that after exercising, you are highly productive for the next few hours. The spiritual/emotional activities after the planning session increase your emotional capacity. This is a time to set an intention for the day. Yoga, meditation, prayer, and scripture study are terrific habits to practice in the morning.
What should my evening review look like?
Start building your gratitude list for the day. Gratitude allows you to not focus on the one thing that went wrong and train the brain to focus on what went right. The other day I had 18 things to do on a Sunday. I accomplished 17 things and didn't accomplish my last goal of not eating sugar after 8 p.m. As I sat down for evening planning and preparation, I found myself focused on the one thing that went wrong. Has that ever happened to you? After my gratitude exercise, my mind started to focus on the 17 things I accomplished. The evening went so much better when I focused on what went right.
Review what you learned. What did I learn today? What did I do well today? What can I do better? Write the answers to these questions down. I love thinking about what I learned each day. Many of my blog posts and podcasts come from my daily learnings.
Practice acceptance. Acceptance of reality is a key that unlocks happiness. You can plan out your whole day, but usually it won't go exactly how you've planned. Expressing gratitude for what went well, and accepting what didn't go as planned is an attitude that leads to happiness. You will face success and blessings, along with disappointments and discouragement. We need to accept it all! I found a thoughtful article on acceptance from a psychotherapist and wellness writer, Megan Bruneau.
â€œNo one is suggesting you like, want, or support whatever it is that you're accepting. But by struggling against the painâ€”by resisting and rejecting itâ€”we create undue suffering. It doesn't mean that you've chosen or endorse what you're accepting. It doesn't mean you like your anxiety, want your chronic pain, would choose your body, or support an injustice that's happened to you or someone else. Rather, you're choosing to allow it to be there when you can't change it in that moment. To make space for it. To give yourself permission to be as you are, feel what you feel, or have experienced what you've experienced without creating unproductive shame or anxiety. The pain might still be there, but some of the suffering will be alleviated. Megan Bruneau, M.A.
Start your to-do list for tomorrow. Get a head start on tomorrow's plan. Carry over the items that you didn't get done from today but start with the same physical, spiritual, and emotional practices right after your planning session.
Finish your daily review with a short meditation session to relax your mind and prepare for sleep.
Performing these daily practices will help you to look forward to the sessions to reflect and learn. You will find an enormous amount of joy from checking off the items on your to-do list. I'm slightly embarrassed to admit how much I love checking things off my list.
When you build and maintain the discipline to plan every morning and every day you will accomplish your wildest dreams and aspirations. Step by step, you will be creating a practice of progress that becomes very self-reinforcing.
A Word of Advice
Remember to be patient with yourself, others and issues that throw off your plan. Relationships always take precedence over tasks. Be intentional in building relationships and connections as part of your daily routine!
It's an incredible feeling of productivity and success to be a good daily planner. I believe that daily planning is the most important habit for sustainable happiness and success!
Have you wondered why some people are motivated and others aren’t?
Can you increase or develop personal motivation? Why do some people experience all sorts of setbacks, tragedies, and discouragement yet still accomplish their dreams?
I was watching a movie the other night called Fighting With My Family. It inspired me and gave me some insight into motivation. The film is a true story about the WWE wrestler Paige (aka Saraya-Jade Bevis). Disclaimer: I am not a big wrestling fan, but I am a fan of people who accomplish their dreams and live with purpose. I will watch any movie about somebody achieving their goals.
Paige grew up in a wrestling family. Her dad, mom, and brothers owned a small wrestling business in Norwich, England. They all had a dream to become professional wrestlers in the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).
This dream was a long shot for sure. Paige's father, Ricky Knight, had been involved in gangs and served time in prison as a young man. “I'd done eight years in prison before I was 25,” tells Ricky. “Mainly [for] violence.” He said that he found himself at a crossroads in his life and could have gone to prison for a long time. Ricky credits meeting his wife and wrestling as a source of purpose which led him in a better direction.
One day the WWE had try-outs in London. Despite all odds, Paige made it and her brother Zak didn’t. Zak was devastated, but he encouraged his sister to keep their family dream alive.
Paige moved from London to America and began training on the Junior Circuit. She overcame several lonely years and discouraging times to become the two-time Divas WWE champion, among many other accomplishments.
Why was Paige successful in her dream despite the long odds and discouraging times?
The entire family was crazy about wrestling and dreamed of being successful in WWE. She worked hard every day and took her training seriously, and she had family members supporting and encouraging her every step of her journey.
What is the source of motivation?
I watched a YouTube video the other day by Mitch Manly called My Motivational Story Will Change Your Life. I can't be 100% sure that the story is true, but it illustrates a critical point that most people discover when met with a severe illness. Mitch tells a story about David, who at 30 years old, found out he had brain cancer that required intense surgery.
Mitch explains the discouragement and difficulties David had preparing for surgery and handling the difficult news. During the operation, David had a dream and realized he wasn't living his best life. David was living the life his parents or others wanted him to live. He was living a false self.
David survived the brain surgery and remembered the learnings from the dream. He wanted to live out his dream, so he motivated himself to change.
AARP research found 5 big lessons from people who almost died and what they would do differently. The number 1 lesson learned was: “I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
Many people come out of life-threatening surgeries and illnesses kinder and with a newfound clarity on their priorities. They begin living with a sense of urgency and purpose and no longer waste time on activities that don’t count.
People who have come close to death feel as though they have a new lease on life. The new outlook on life results in working diligently to make a difference and impact their families and those close to them. The trials bring motivation.
Do you have to have a lifelong family dream to accomplish excellence and high degrees of motivation? Not necessarily.
Does it take a terminal illness to become highly motivated and live your best life? Certainly not!
I believe there are three common elements for those who have extreme motivation:
Have big dreams and purpose
Systematize your motivation
Build a positive reinforcement cycle (PRC)
Have big dreams and purpose
We may not all have a family that dreams of fame like Paige had. And hopefully we don’t need to get sick to live our best life.
Steve Jobs and the top folks at Apple worked 100+ hour work weeks because they knew their products would change the world.
Elon Musk, the CEO and founder of Tesla, talks about how he hires and keeps the most talented engineers in the world: by promoting a great cause! Musk also said, “People work better when they know what the goal is and why. It’s important that people look forward to coming to work in the morning and enjoy working. And “People should pursue what they're passionate about. That will make them happier than pretty much anything else.”
What is your dream, cause, and passion? And how do you discover it?
Dr. Maurer asked a patient who struggled with her health and couldn’t exercise to start small—start doing short exercises during commercials at night. She started small and soon found motivation to eat right and lost 20 pounds. This significantly impacted her health and her life. See the full story here on this podcast.
Build a planning system to help you accomplish your cause and big dreams. Get excited about the process of accomplishing big things. When you build a weekly and daily planning system to accomplish your goals, it's easy to stay motivated and on task.
Make your system visual and regular. Here is a short demo of a weekly and planning system we recommend:
Here is a personal example that illustrates the PRC beautifully. When I started marathon training, I couldn't run a mile. A childhood friend had just run a marathon and invited me to join him on the next one (positive social incentive).
Today we have Strava and other apps to share our successes and find social incentives. I downloaded a training plan and tracked my progress versus that plan (progress monitoring), and I started feeling the positive rewards (positive immediate rewards).
I started to get in better shape, lose weight, and feel great. Of course, on race day, hundreds of people came to cheer us along the running route (positive rewards).
Building an internal positive reinforcement cycle
Your external cheerleaders won’t always be with you. Researchers know that the most motivated people are self-motivated or internally motivated.
You could be motivated by the dream or cause of your life. But you can also build practices into your life that create positive self-reinforcement. Regular exercise, gratitude lists, and other positive attributes build internal capacity to maintain positivity and focus on your goals.
When you're consistently living a busy lifestyle, you become vulnerable to burnout. I've found that taking a few minutes every day to relax and meditate helps maintain peace of mind.
When you're pushing yourself to accomplish goals and achieve success, the last thing you want to do is get worn out and unmotivated.
Usually I'd recommend taking a break from technology. However, some apps can help lead you in daily meditation and bring peace to your mind. I've been a fan of the app 10% Happier for a while and wanted to find out if there's something better.
(Note: I recommend reading my blog about renewal practices that help you reset when your high-performance lifestyle causes stress.)
What is the best app to use to quiet your mind? Taking the time to quiet our mind is a key that helps accomplish our dreams and aspirations. I tried out three different meditation apps to find out which one is the best.
Lebron James discussing an Intro to Mental Fitness
A plethora of contributors
Rate your mood feature and daily gratitude list
Library filled with premium meditations and courses
Breadth of topics and teachers
Daily calm meditation to do first thing in the morning on different topics
Wide variety of topics and teachers
Higher cost and Dan's podcasts can be too long
The app isn't as well organized and it's rating system isn't as useful as Calm
Overall Value Rank
Comparing these meditation apps was very enjoyable for me. I got to listen and learn from the best mindfulness teachers and practitioners over the last month.
Full disclosure: I came into this analysis as a long-time 10% Happier supporter. I came out with a clear decision that Calm is the meditation best app. Tamera's early morning 10-minute Daily Calm messages are fantastic, and I learned something new every day.
I found that every day was refreshing and helpful. Today's topic was on change, and yesterday was on acceptance. Tamera's voice is calm and soothing, making it a relaxed early morning listen.
I especially like Calm's rating systems. You can rate your mood at any time throughout your day, and then Calm will recommend which meditation to listen to. This simple, AI-based feature is a game-changer. I also love using the daily gratitude reminder in the morning and at night.
The icing on the cake for me was listening to Lebron James and his mental fitness messages.
Meditation is an important part of a healthy high-performance lifestyle, along with regular exercise, prayer/study, and gratitude lists. These are fundamental behaviors for a sustainable high-performance lifestyle.
Are you still trying to figure out what you want to be when you grow up?
Are you missing passion, energy, and real meaning in your work and life?
Are you working hard to climb the ladder of success, but are not any happier?
If you can answer, yes, to all or some of these questions, it's time to slowdown, sit down and write a mission statement for your life!
After all, you wouldn't run an organization without a defined strategy, so why would you run your life without one?
Victor Frankl the author of Man's Search for Meaning said, “Everyone has his (or her) own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated; thus, everyone's task is unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it.”
Stephen R. Covey, the author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People wrote, “Creating a mission statement is not something you do overnight. It takes deep introspection, careful analysis, thoughtful expression, and often many rewrites to produce its final form. It may take you several weeks or even months before you feel really comfortable with your mission statement, before you feel it is complete and a concise expression of your innermost values and directions. Even then, you will want to review it regularly and make minor changes as the years bring additional insights or changing circumstances.”
Did you know that Oprah Winfrey has a personal mission statement:
Oprah Winfrey, founder of OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network
“To be a teacher. And to be known for inspiring my students to be more than they thought they could be.
So where do you start?
Start by answering 3 questions:
What are you strengths?
What do you like doing?
How do you want to make a difference in the world?
Order this free Mission Statement development process to have help bringing these ideas into a concise statement for you to live by
For a free consultation to help you develop your statement sign up here
To see what to do after your mission statement is complete. See the blog on Sustainable Personal excellence here:
Live a life of sustainable continuous improvement!
Have you ever struggled with trying to meet your goals? Even for high achievers, life is demanding, the busyness never ceases, and success in one area is often accompanied by lackluster performance in another.
The continuous demands of a high-performance lifestyle can make reaching your goals seem impossible. What you need is a guide.
Below is a simple step-by-step process to help you identify, set, and achieve short and long-term goals.
1. Identify Growth Areas
One of the first steps to take is deciding where you want to grow. Your growth will start with your intention. You won't become healthier, wealthier, or smarter by accident.
Think about the areas you want to set goals in. Set physical, spiritual, mental, emotional, financial, professional, and relationship goals.
Preparing to set goals in an area doesn't necessarily mean you're doing poorly in that area of your life. You should always be seeking to improve yourself. Often doing good is what keeps people from doing great.
2. Identify Your Important Roles
Why set goals for your different roles? Have you ever met someone that is successful at work but at the cost of relationships and health and fitness? We can be successful in our careers and our personal life but we have to be intentional! What roles do you fill and wish you could be better at?
Take some time to think about little improvements that can make you a better leader, spouse, parent, friend, sibling, or son/daughter.
These improvements can start with one small, easy thing. Ask yourself what you can do today that will make you a better X. If you don't spend time thinking about what you want to grow in, you can easily go into autopilot and not reach any of your goals.
Once you've decided on the roles and areas of growth, you need to set goals.
3. Set SMART Goals
If you want to see improvement in your chosen areas of development and various roles, you need to set SMART goals.
SMART goals mean that your goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based.
Setting the right goals is vital in achieving your goals and growing as a person. If your goals aren't specific and measurable, you won't know when you've met them and can't track any progress.
SMART goals don't have to be complicated. For example, here are some SMART goals you can set:
Exercise 5 times a week for at least 30 minutes
Read 25 books per year
Save 10% of my take-home income
Pray each day
Meditate for 15 minutes 4 times per week
Connect with 1 friend per day
Make 20 sales calls per week
All of these goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-specific. You could easily track the progress you make and celebrate when you reach them.
4. Have a Weekly Plan
Take time every week to look at your goals and develop plans to achieve those goals. If you only think about your goals when you set them, you will quickly forget and not make progress.
Your weekly plan needs to identify small steps to accomplish your long-term goals. Add those activities to your weekly calendar.
If reading 25 books per year is a long term goal, you need to have a short term goal of reading for 15 minutes in the morning every day.
In this book, Dr. Maurer explains that taking small steps is the best way to circumvent our natural resistance to change and allows us to build new habits.
5. Track Your Goals
Keeping track of your goals and progress towards them is just as important as setting goals in the first place.
If you're not tracking your progress, you won't know if you're getting closer to achieving your goals.
Long-term goals can seem out of reach until you begin tracking your progress. We often look at our day-to-day progress and don't see any improvements. If you improve by 1% every day, that progress can easily go unnoticed.
On the other hand, if you can look at your monthly progress, a 25â€“30% improvement can't go unseen.
I designed the Weekly Game Plan to help you track your goals and make it easy to see your progress. The tracker helps identify weekly activities to reach your goals.
6. Conduct Monthly Reviews
You should be taking time at least once a month to talk with a friend or mentor about your goals. Take this time to celebrate your successes as well as develop action plans for improvement.
Monthly reviews are a time for you to analyze your goal tracking sheet, find any gaps, reassess your long-term goals, and discover opportunities to build a plan to improve.
You will find that reaching your goals becomes easier when you have someone you can be honest and open with.
Your monthly reviews should result in a clear action plan of what you need to work on. The plan should include what you will do and when you will do it.
If you have a plan to exercise more, your action plan needs to be clear about what that means.
Document your progress. For example, I might say,(This year I'm averaging 4 days of exercise every week. Last year I averaged 3 days a week. Now I want to set a plan to achieve my next goal of exercising 5 times per week. )
Don't just focus on weaknesses, make sure to celebrate the improvements! In the above example, I would be exercising 33% more this year!
During my monthly review, I might notice that Mondays are the day I usually miss my workout. My action plan for improvement may include running with my spouse or friend every Monday at 6:30 a.m.
When creating your action plan, try to add some fun. Include someone to keep you accountable to help reach your goals.
8. Apply Sustainable Renewal Practices
What happens when you don't accomplish your goals in a week or month? How will you handle the stress and anxiety that may come with setbacks in your life?
This step is the part of goal setting most people don't talk about. I've found that there's a need to practice how we deal with the anxieties and uncertainties of life.
I incorporate renewal practices into my schedule so I don't get off track. These practices include regular exercise, practicing daily gratitude, prayer, and meditation.
I know firsthand that this lifestyle is not easily built on your own. Having people who support you and help you accomplish your goals is necessary.
Investing in a mentor and coach is one of the best ways you can track your performance, create an action plan, and plan your next steps.
I have over 30 years of experience helping business leaders reach their goals, and one of my biggest goals is to continue providing value to people. Schedule a free assessment call with me to see how I can help.
I know that when you implement this step-by-step process, you will make progress and reach your goals.
Practices to reset when stressed by your high performance lifestyle
Change, even good change, takes its toll.
In a recent coaching session I had with a client, he expressed that a recent job change had introduced newfound and unwelcome anxiety in his life.
Overall the change was goodâ€”he was excited about a new opportunity that would help him achieve his professional goals. However, despite the excitement, he found himself dealing with an uncomfortable amount of stress in his new role.
His experience likely sounds familiar. Change, whether small or large, and even when that change is positive, brings excitement and stress, both of which can be exhausting. Working through his issue, we spent most of the coaching time talking about the importance of the principles of sustainable renewal to manage anxiety and uncertainty.
Sustainable renewal is the final step of what I refer to as Sustainable Performance Excellence (SPE).
SPE is an approach for achieving long-term, sustainable performance and it involves:
My client was doing fantastic on the first two elements: dreaming big and taking small steps towards big goals. Unfortunately, he wasn't taking the time out to practice renewal and found his mind harboring anxiety throughout his day.
Staying present despite anxiety
If left unchecked, the mind will often race on both the excitement and the fear of an uncertain future.
My client was suffering from both elements of excitement and fear. During our discussion, he framed his concern as follows: How do I stop my mind from racing?
The answer: Mindfulness through sustainable renewal practices.
What is mindfulness?
This term has gained popularity over the last few years, though the concept is by no means new.
A mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
Mindfulness sounds like a great place to arrive, but the key concern remains: How do you reach mindfulness when your mind is racing? How do you focus on the present moment when your mind just won't let you?
To achieve mindfulness, you need to engage in regular renewal practices.
Regular Renewal Practices for Sustainable Performance
On our call, I coached my client on 4 practices of sustainable renewal to manage the anxieties he was facing due to the uncertainty of the future. Here they are:
Write a gratitude list daily
Pray and ponder inspired literature
Write a gratitude list daily
Starting each day with an attitude of gratitude is a great way to teach the mind to stay focused on what is going right vs. what you feel is missing or going wrong in your life.
High achievers often have the bad habit of focusing excessively on what needs to change. Writing a daily gratitude list of 3-5 things is a great way to remind yourself of what about your life is already good and that you should celebrate.
What's the most transformative thing that you can do for your brain today? According to neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki, exercise!
In her Ted Talk, Suzuki discusses the science of how working out boosts your mood and memoryâ€”and even protects your brain against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.
Exercise is a keystone habit as Charles Duhigg suggests in his book The Power of Habit:
“Typically, people who exercise start eating better and become more productive at work. They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family. They use their credit cards less frequently and say they feel less stressed. Exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change.”
Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit
Here are my thoughts on exercise and keystone habits:
Pray and ponder inspired literature
Together with prayer, studying inspired literature like scripture has been proven to quiet the mind and slow down (mind racing,) among other mental health benefits.
“It's clear from the correlational studies within the epidemiology data that positive relationships exist between religious and spiritual practice and health outcomes on a variety of different conditions.
According to the Heritage Foundation:
“We have a logical reason why religion might influence physical health through mental health, through enhancing social support, through influencing health behaviors, all affecting physical health outcomes.”
Taking time to read and pray can get your mind more focused on something big than yourself and your life and put things into perspective.
I have recently found the benefits of short meditations to be quite powerful in managing anxiety. When your mind is racing because of uncertainty or a setback in your daily or life goals, try doing a short 10-minute meditation from the Ten Percent Happier app. Meditation works.
Consistency Brings Capacity
None of these activities stands aloneâ€”each one needs to be done regularly with the others to manage a high-performance lifestyle.
There is power in building capacity to manage your mind. When building muscles in your body, you know you have to do regular muscle building activities. Otherwise the muscle weakens.
The same principles apply to achieving mindfulness: You need regular practice to quiet your mind and stay focused on your goals and dreams.
Start practicing these 4 elements of sustainable-renewal today and start enjoying the journey towards sustainable performance excellence.
Have you ever met a person who is rich, maybe even famous, and not happy?
Have you ever met a person who is chill, seemingly happy, and not able to really achieve success in their chosen field?
Can we be both productive, successful, and happy?
Henry David Thoreau wrote, “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.”
Let's talk about the ROOT, the complete solution for a happy and successful life.
Some well-meaning, high-performance experts bring part of the solution, while few bring the whole and sustainable model for excellence.
1. Dream Big with a Clear Purpose
Robert Fritz, the author of The Path of Least Resistance, authored, “If you limit your choices only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is a compromise.”
Deepak Chopra, the author of The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success says, “You must find a place in yourself where nothing is impossible.”
Additional authors such as Jack Canfield, who wrote Success Principles, and Tony Robbins author of, Awaken the Giant Within, all preach about dreaming big and setting lofty goals for life.
What happens on the days, weeks, months, and years when you are not making progress towards your big goals and aspirations?
Studies have shown that less than 25% of people actually stay committed to their resolutions after just 30 days, and only 8% accomplish them. Don't be a part of that statistic.
Are the big dreams and big goals a false paradigm? Do big goals only set you up for discouragement? Is there more to the formula? How do you really know what goals to set? How do you find the clarity and motivation to accomplish your goals?
It Starts by Defining your Purpose
Victor Frankl, the author of Man's Search for Meaning, said, “Everyone has his (or her) own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated; thus, everyone's task is unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it.”
What is your unique calling? What are your specific strengths? What are your areas of passion and interest? If you can thoughtfully answer these questions, you can unlock your genius; you can unlock your energy. The answers to these questions may not tell you the specific job you should have, but it will give you insights on what career path to follow.
Have you ever been around somebody that works with a sense of purpose? How confident are they? How passionate are they? When you are clear on your purpose, you are clear on what to say yes to and what to say no to, in essence you are clear on your priorities.
Stephen R. Covey, the author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, wrote, “Creating a mission statement is not something you do overnight. It takes deep introspection, careful analysis, thoughtful expression, and often many rewrites to produce its final form. It may take you several weeks or even months before you feel really comfortable with your mission statement, before you feel it is complete and a concise expression of your innermost values and directions. Even then, you will want to review it regularly and make minor changes as the years bring additional insights or changing circumstances.”
“When performance is measured performance improves. When performance is measured and reported performance accelerates.”
Thomas S. Monson
When we set big goals for our life it is also important to have accountability and measurement systems to help us accomplish them. Set up a spreadsheet or buy an app that will help you set and track your goals. As you share those goals, and their progress with friends and trusted advisors, you will find increased motivation and desire to accomplish your goals, and you will develop new actions and behaviors to accomplish those goals. Learn how to set up your whole life goal setting systems.
2. Small Steps Planning System
Dr. Robert Maurer Ph.D., a recent guest on my podcast, (find the episode here), wrote a book called, One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way. This book shows research on how your brain reacts very positively to small steps towards a goal rather than bigger steps. He writes, “All changes, even positive ones are scary. Attempts to reach goals through radical or revolutionary means often fail because they heighten fear. But the small steps of Kaizen disarm the brain's fear response, stimulating rational thought and creative play.”
Dr. Maurer was struggling to help interns and patients in his training medical practice at a large hospital. By good fortune, he read an article on Edward Deming and what the Japanese did with Deming's philosophy on continuous improvement and Kaizen. Kaizen is a Japanese business philosophy of continuous improvement for personal and corporate efficiency. Dr. Maurer's breakthrough happened when he had a stressed out patient in his office again with no change to her personal health practices. She was supposed to start exercising and losing weight to improve her heart conditions and general health. Check-up after check-up the patient wasn't changing her behaviors that would lead to better health. Dr. Maurer on the next visit asked her if she watched TV at night to relax after the kids went to bed. She did. Dr. Maurer then asked her if she should walk in place during the commercials of her favorite show each night. She said she would, and she did. On the next visit the patient reported success, then Dr. Maurer asked her if she could do a little more and she said she could. In a few months she was running and lost, and kept off 20 lbs. and vastly improved her health. With small steps, she developed new habits that changed her life.
In my blog post from June 1st of 2019, By small and simple HABITS, great things come to pass, I wrote, “For every long-term goal, there's a daily habit you can develop to take action today towards that goal. Of course, consistency and discipline are key to success. Try starting every day with your most important routines. Wake up before everybody else does so you can start your day with your small habits that will eventually lead you to excellence in your chosen goals.”
We know that breaking down big goals into bite-size chunks works and is a key step in a successful practice of personal excellence.
But what about when you are still not hitting all your goals? Or even worse, what happens when you are hitting your financial and career goals and aren't happy?
What happens when your kids need things that are not in your daily plan?
Can you be happy, content, flexible and productive?
3. Renewal Activities for Acceptance and Sustained Commitment
Not all goals will be accomplished right away. We need practices in our life that help us deal with the day to day setbacks of missed expectations, tragedy and stress. We need to build capacity to deal with the successes and the failures. Renewal activities give you the mental and emotional strength to accept where you are at and keep learning and working towards your goals.
There are many good renewal practices. I recommend four regular practices:
I would argue that these teachings when applied interdependently bring the complete picture of true success. It is possible to be productive, successful, happy and content. As we install these three principles (little by little) we will experience success and happiness!
Dream Big and Have Purpose
Have a purpose statement.
Set a balanced set of goals in all areas of your life.
Set up a measurement and accountability system.
Small Steps Planning System
Identify the small steps that must be accomplished this week to advance your goals.
Complete your weekly plan.
Complete a daily gratitude journal for what you were able to accomplish.
Pray and ponder over inspired literature
These are the three principles of sustainable personal excellence.
Get started now: Self-evaluation questions
What has stopped you from applying the ideas of sustainable personal excellence (SPE) in the past?
What tools/ideas mentioned in this article has or will help you overcome your roadblocks with SPE?
What small steps could you do to start/continue your journey towards Sustainable Personal Excellence?
What financial investing teaches about Personal Development
As 2019 ended, were you able to look back and say to yourself, “I made significant growth this last year”?
If you were able to see growth, congratulations! You probably had measurable goals that you regularly followed up on, problem solved, and put actions into place to accomplish those goals.
If you found it difficult to perceive growth in your own life, then you likely failed to create a growth strategy for the previous year. Thankfully, now is a great time to do a reset and start building a growth strategy for 2020.
Creating a Growth Strategy
Lately I've been managing my own stock portfolio. Stock portfolios have highly measurable returns with clear performance benchmarks, which makes measuring performance simple.
As part of managing my own portfolio, I've aligned my strategy closely with the practice of growth investing, which focuses on identifying stocks with high growth potential so I can beat the market.
As I study about the strategies involved in growth investing, I can't help but think about analogous strategies we should be applying in our own lives. In effect, we each need to become our own best growth stocks.
Becoming Your Own Growth Stock
If you were a stock, would people invest in you?
Thinking of yourself as a stock might seem strange, but the analogy can expose some interesting concepts. Ask yourself the following:
Am I a growth stock?
Did I beat the market return of 30% last year?
Am I growing or am I losing value?
Would people want to invest in me?
This growth stock concept is as applicable in the financial performance of your personal or work life as it is for non-financial performance. Consider this: Have you achieved above average performance in the following areas of your life?
Physical. Are you healthier this year than last year? Will you be healthier at the end of this year?
Mental/Learning. Have you increased your knowledge over the last year? Will you do so in the coming year? Will your mental health be better at the end of this year?
Spiritual. Will you be more spiritually balanced at the end of this year? Has your spirituality grown over the past year?
Work. Are you providing more value at work this year than you were the previous year?
Relationships. Did the quality of your relationships improve from year to year? Are you finding more quality time to spend with loved ones? Are you increasing the quality of the time you spend?
These questions get at the heart of personal continuous improvement. Goals and the proper goal setting process are at the heart of becoming a personal growth stock.
In episodes 3 and 29 of my podcast Continuous Improvement 4 Life, I reviewed a 4-point system for setting and accomplishing goals. Even with the best goal-setting system, we sometimes find ourselves not accomplishing our goals. Sometimes we get discouraged and give up on our goals. Sometimes we just keep trying the same thing harder and expecting different results. I'd like to teach you a problem-solving method for getting any goal unstuck and back in growth mode.
A popular lean problem-solving method is the DMAIC framework. DMAIC (pronounced de-MAY-ick) is as follows:
Define. What is the business problem or project goal?
Measure. How can you measure current and future performance?
Analyze. What are all the factors that could be affecting performance?
Improve. Which factor should we change for the greatest net improvement?
Control. How can we embed the change and ensure sustainability?
Example: Applying DMAIC to Personal Investing
To see how DMAIC works, let's walk through the framework in the context of personal investing.
Define: What is the business problem or project goal? In the case of personal investing, I wanted a higher return on investment. Specifically, I wanted to beat the market by at least 20 points. This was my problem and opportunity statement.
Measure: What does the data say? What is my baseline performance? Last year my investments achieved a 28% return on investment. Here are the achievements of various index funds:
An additional metric of note was that over the last 20 years, the returns of the Dow were 7% and the S&P 5.9%. So last year was an incredible year for sure.
Analyze: What are the root causes? Why was my return on investment last year roughly the average of the most common stock indexes? The answer: I had over 200 stocks and ETFs in my portfolio, so my stock picks were so diversified I was destined to achieve market averages.
Improve: What can I do to eliminate the root causes of my issue and prevent future problems? My favorite way to approach this step is to ask, “What are the best doing that I can replicate or learn from?” For those investment firms that achieved over 50% last year, what are they doing differently from me?
For example, over the last 16 years, David Gardner of the Motley Fool has achieved a 621% return. What can I do more like Gardner to achieve similar results?
For me to achieve the right results, I started to apply lessons from the best advisors I've come to trust.
A key learning here is to become a researcher of your own performance. Be curious, be an objective observer. Analyze your areas of improvement as dispassionately as possible and put a plan in place to improve. If you can't analyze objectively, then get an accountability partner or coach to help you.
Control: How can I embed the changes to ensure sustainability? Now that I've identified qualified advisors, I've started reviewing their recommendations every Saturday in preparation to make the appropriate investment changes for Monday.
To beat the market by 20 points, I started to focus on the Technology and biotechnology sectors. They have been high growth areas of the market.
Also, I started focusing on companies that have double digit growth in sales and whose stock volume trading has been growing.
So far, this practice has returned a significantly higher return than the general market in just over six months.
I am not trying to become a professional trader but trying to prove a point: with the right mindset, toolset, and skillset you can achieve any goal in life!
Apply DMAIC to Other Aspects of Your Life
I encourage you to apply the DMAIC process to any area of your life. As I mentioned above, you can use DMAIC for the spiritual, emotional, physical, financial, work, or relationship goals you have in your life. You can problem solve using DMAIC with yourself or use a trusted accountability partner or coach.
At work if you were 20% off target, you would gather as a team to problem solve and implement new actions to improve. Why don't we do the same thing with our personal development?
Just ask, “Which area do I want to work on first?” Pick the area and run through the DMAIC problem-solving process. Review your solutions during your weekly planning process and you will achieve outstanding improvements and results in your life.
You can achieve any improvement in your life. You just need the right mindset, toolset, and skillset to analyze and improve.
I hope these tools and examples have inspired you to work on your own personal or professional continuous improvement.
Be a Personal Continuous Improvement Growth Stock!
With questions or comments, email me at email@example.com.
How did the best athletes and the best musicians become great? How did the captains of industry become the best? Were these individuals just born with their abilities? Did they come out of the womb as the smartest, the most inclined, the most capable?
Nope! Regardless of innate ability or circumstance, every individual who can claim any real success had to work for it.
Most masters of any domain meet two criteria:
They had expert teachers
They practiced more than others.
These three ingredients make up the recipe for being the best, with the second ingredient, practice, being the most important.
Practice Outpaces Aptitude
Consider Jerry Rice. Jerry Rice is the greatest American football receiver of all time. Was it because he was the fastest or the best jumper? Nope! He wasn't either. He was, however, the best at practicing. Rice worked out 6 times a week in the off season. He practiced the skills necessary to become a great receiver. He practiced much more than he played.
Consider Jack Welch. Jack Welch was recognized as the leader of the century during his reign over GE. He was often quoted as saying “No one would mistake me for a genius”, but he was able to find a mistake or opportunity in an income statement faster than anyone.
How did he do it? Did he have a specialized education? Yes, but in chemical engineering. Few would doubt that he was a sharp man, but what was it that made it possible for him to become so exceptionally nimble in his domain? The short answer: practice.
Talent Is Overrated
Geoff Colvin writes a terrific book titled Talent Is Overrated. In his book, Colvin asserts that deliberate practice is what makes world-class performers. One particularly salient example from his book is of Laszlo Polgar.
Laszlo Polgar lived in the 1960's and was a Hungarian educational psychologist. Polgar was absolutely certain that great performers were made, not born. In accordance with his belief, he advertised for someone to marry him, stating that together they would raise children from a young age to be world class chess players. His to-be wife Klara accepted the proposal, and the two of them raised three daughters (Susan, Sophia, and Judit) to become chess grandmasters.
How did Laszlo and Klara get their three-peat? Through deliberate practice from a young age. Laszlo didn't know anything about chess until the children began to grow, but he made up for lost time. The family was said to have 10,000 books on chess in their library. When Susan was 19, Sophia 14, and Judit 12, they competed as a team in the Women's Chess Olympiad and scored Hungary's first ever victory against the Soviets, becoming national heroes.
The learnings from Laszlo Polgar for personal and professional continuous improvement are plentiful and hopeful.
To become a great golfer, or runner or cyclist takes a lot of deliberate practice. Think back on Jerry Rice, who practiced more than he played. Couldn't you try that with your golf game â€” practice more and play less? Learn the skills and drills to become great.
Bring Practice to the Professional Setting
The lessons for professional continuous improvement are exciting. Consider your daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly meetings. Are they deliberate? Do you prepare so they can become great?
Take a second to gauge the successfulness of your meetings: What would you score your weekly meetings out of 10? If you are a 5 out of 10, then I suggest the following to become world class:
Identify what a great meeting looks like. Have experts help you identify best in class.
Share and agree on that expectation with your team.
Measure your success versus the ideal.
Get feedback from a meeting expert.
Course correct and adjust to become a 10.
You can see how this can apply to any skill or discipline. Do you want to become a great financial investor? Apply the following steps:
Identify what a great financial investor does.
Commit to practicing great financial learning and acumen every day.
Measure yourself versus your commitment.
Adjust and course correct with a trusted partner, creating some joint accountability.
Warren Buffet's story can shed some light on how experience and practice can open the path to becoming a great investor:
[Warren Buffet] purchased his first stock when he was 11 years old and worked in his family's grocery store in Omaha. His father, Howard Buffett, owned a small brokerage, and Warren would spend his days watching what investors were doing and listening to what they said. As a teenager, he took odd jobs, from washing cars to delivering newspapers, using his savings to purchase several pinball machines that he placed in local businesses.
Buffet then went on to complete a business degree before applying for additional graduate studies:
After being rejected by the Harvard Business School, he enrolled in graduate studies at Columbia Business School. While there, he studied under Benjamin Graham â€“ who became a lifelong friend, and David Dodd, both well-known securities analysts. It was through Graham's class in securities analysis that Buffett learned the fundamentals of value investing. He once stated in an interview that Graham's book, The Intelligent Investor, had changed his life and set him on the path of professional analysis to the investment markets. Along with Security Analysis, co-written by Graham and Dodd, it provided him the proper intellectual framework and a road map for investing.
Was Warren Buffet born with an insight to business or did he learn it from experts and then put hours and hours into studying charts and businesses? I suggest the latter. Mr. Buffett is now into his 80's and still shows up for work every day.
Good Practice makes Perfect
Receiving coaching from an expert is critical if you want to become world class. Tiger Woods had many coaches, starting with his dad then many others following.
Which exposes an important point: Fathers and mothers can instill in their children the importance of practice and should be their first teachers. Tiger Woods' first coach was his dad. Warren Buffet's first mentor was his father the stockbroker. Beethoven's father was a master teacher.
Find Someone to Direct Your Practice
Regardless of the relationship, or the age of the student, finding the right teacher is essential.
In his book Talent Is Overrated, Geoff Colvin continues:
[A]nyone who thinks they've outgrown the benefit of a teacher's help should at least question that view. There's a reason why the world's best golfers still go to teachers.
One of those reasons goes beyond the teacher's knowledge. It is his or her ability to see you in ways that you cannot see yourself.
A business coach is looking at the same situations as a manager but can see, for example, that manager systematically fail to communicate his intentions clearly.
It's apparent why becoming significantly good at almost anything is extremely difficult without the help of a teacher or coach, at least in the beginning. Without a clear, unbiased view of the subject's performance, choosing the best practice activity will be impossible; for reasons that may be simply physical (as in sports) or deeply psychological, very few of us can make a clear, honest assessment of our own performance.
As Colvin explains, we need teachers and coaches to give an outside perspective of ourselves. So if you want to create a step change in any skill or practice:
Hire a coach or expert to help you identify what great looks like.
Practice those newfound skills with quality and excellence.
Continue to adjust and modify based on the coach/expert's feedback.
Experience a step change in your skill and abilities.
You don't have to be a natural to become the best in your field. Just be willing to accept coaching from experts and then implement lots of deliberate practice to increase your skills and abilities.
What do you think of when you hear the term
Computers probably come to mind first. Computers' operating systems interface with their own software and hardware to make the capabilities of a powerful computing machine available to the average user.
You also may have heard of management operating systems (MOS), a system I see regularly in my profession. Based on the Plan, Do, Check, Act framework of continuous process improvement, the objective of a management operating system is to organize all available resources to monitor and execute on a process to steadily improve that process over time.
Both computers and businesses rely on structured operating systems for peak performance and continuous improvement. If a clearly articulated and developed operating system is so essential for your computer and your company, might not the same apply in your own life?
Developing a Success Operating System
A Success operating system (SOS) is the collection of tools, habits, and processes we implement in our own lives to foster continuous improvement towards peak performance.
Like many companies I interact with, you may feel that creating a SOS might be beyond the scope of your time and resources. We often tell ourselves that we're too busy to develop a clearly defined(way-we-work) strategy to direct ourselves towards success.
But if a clearly defined set of values, rules, systems, tools and behaviors are important for our best run companies, then shouldn't we take some time to slow down and develop our own personal operating system?
I know you're busy and may not want to become too over programmed. But how would you like it if your electronic devices or favorite company lacked a structured way to communicate and execute? You wouldn't, right?
My recommendation: start where you are. What are the behaviors, tools and systems you currently use to be your very best and achieve maximum levels of happiness and productivity? These are what you currently have to work with. Now here is how you can more formally structure that system.
Structuring Your Success Operating System
Purpose â†’ Goals â†’ Weekly Game Plan â†’ Daily Plan â†’ Learning
Your personal operating system starts with a clearly defined purpose or mission. All your goals and activities should be derived from your purpose (or mission/calling). I have written other blogs and published YouTube videos on this topic alone, but suffice it to say that to define your own purpose you need to find the intersect between the answer to these three questions:
What are your strengths?
What activities in the past made
you feel in the flow of peak performance?
What activities bring you the
Answering these questions can give you some principles or ideas to make your most important career and life decisions.
Identify your roles so that you make sure and have goals for each role. I encourage you to set life goals, not just work goals. I know too many people who are so purposeful and intentional at work and then just coast at home. Bring that same sense of passion and purpose to your whole life. Passion and purpose in your personal life will bring you true and sustainable joy.
A weekly game plan is the keystone habit that propels you toward your long-term goal achievement. You can click here to download a worksheet I have developed for conducting a weekly game plan. The worksheet has areas on the left-hand side for the mission/purpose and lifetime goals that we just mentioned. These long-term goals won't usually change. With this worksheet in hand, each week you can sit down and have a 30-minute planning session to plan the week and make sure you are accomplishing the important but non-urgent activities in your life.
Most of us work through a to-do list or a
task sheet at work and home. Now that you are planning your most important
roles and goals, you will find this daily task sheet is filled with more than
just the urgent items that have your immediate attention each day. At the
beginning of each day, open up your weekly game plan and plan your day from
your highest priorities.
The weekly game plan may be the most important
tool in your personal operating system, but the habit of learning is the most
important behavior and mindset.
Each day and each week take time to evaluate
your performance and learn from it. Ask yourself these 3 questions:
What went well?
What could I have done better?
How will I plan differently
tomorrow or next week?
went well? Make sure to celebrate and remember the
small victories each day. Happiness lies in the process, not the result. I can't
overemphasize this: The happiest people enjoy the journey, not the result. Be grateful for the little victories each day that
life affords you. This is were happiness and progress are nurtured.
What could I have done better? As you ask yourself this question, you don't need to be critical. Just give yourself an honest appraisal of your day/week. What could you have done differently? How could you have reacted differently to an interruption in your schedule? Maybe you could close the door during peak creativity or enlist help from family members or work colleagues to stay on task.
will I plan differently tomorrow or next week? As
you analyze what went well and what didn't, your mind will be inspired to
figure out ways to plan less or plan differently. Let your creativity work.
If you are constantly being interrupted,
try to remember which priority is more important. If your kids or your
colleagues interrupt your with an emergency, be flexible enough to recognize
the importance of the relationship and re-prioritize on the fly.
Take a learning mindset into your weekly
and daily planning. Be curious and observe yourself in the process. This is
where the magic happens, where creativity, curiosity and good planning
intersect. It's fun to figure out new ways to get things done given the
environment you find yourself in. Enjoy the process!
Starting the Journey
Psychologist David Watson teaches the value of the journey:
â€œContemporary researchers emphasize that it is the process of striving for goalsâ€”rather than the attainment per seâ€”that is crucial for happiness and positive affectivity.)
My wife Cheryl and I love to waterski. We have loved to waterski since we first learned on Montana lakes in our teenage years.
The other day, Cheryl took me for a morning ski on calm glass water at 7.30 a.m. Suddenly, while moving at 30 miles per hour, the boat abruptly tilted on its side. The jolting tilt didn't affect me behind the boat, but those family members in the boat were highly alarmed because someone could have been thrown out.
Thankfully no one was injured, but we were shocked that a boat running at 30 miles an hour could suddenly tilt the way it did.
As we arrived home, we found a letter in the mail telling us that the software on our boat needed an update and that its current configuration could cause the boat's trim tab (a little underwater wing that affects the pitch of our model of boat) to tilt at high speeds, causing serious injury or harm. Yikes!
The software update was an easy fix and the boat is fine, but we consider ourselves very lucky.
Above you see pictured two trim tabs for motor boats. Compared to a massive 23-foot, 6000-pound boat, the trim tab seems inconsequential. Yet these small sheets of metal can change the whole angle and plane of a massive boat at high speeds.
When a trim tab is working effectively, it can give you the perfect angle and run for your boat, turning your wake from bumpy for waterskiing to very little wake at all. For surfing behind the boat, the trim tab adds depth and cleans up the wake so the surf looks like North Beach in Waikiki, Hawaii!
I'm amazed at how such a small lever had such a big effect on performance.
Life's Trim Tabs
The above experience got me thinking about my research on habits, happiness, continuous improvement and productivity.
If something as small as a trim tab can have such a big effect, could there be an analogous trim tab for personal performance? What is the trim tab activity in our lives that can make the difference between a bad ride in life or a great ride?
Weekly planning is the trim tab activity for personal improvement and productivity.
A Return to Goal Setting with Weekly Planning
So many people give up on their goalsâ€”or don't even set them anymoreâ€”because urgency often wins over importance. Moving at 30 miles per hour, people will often address urgent, in-your-face tasks first, letting non-urgent but highly important activities get swept aside in life's wake.
Our lives are full of urgent requirementsâ€”to pay a bill, to respond to an email, attend various meetings, take kids to lessons and sports activities, and responding to phone calls. If we let every urgent task control all of our time, we'll never get any long-term but important goals done.
Weekly planning, our trim tab, can change that.
Filling the Gap Between Short-Term and Long-Term
Weekly planning serves as a bridge between daily planning and yearly goal setting.
Spending 20-30-minutes each week to calibrate your goals will set you on a happy and fulfilling course for the week.
Weekly planning is your game plan
You would never go into a competition without a game plan. Some of the best football teams script the first 10-20 plays of the game based on their game planning.
The need for a game plan is also apparent in industrial settings, where every hour of a maintenance shutdown is extremely costly for lost production. Great Shutdowns script out the first several days activity by activity to ensure a good start to the maintenance shutdown period.
Our time is precious, so why would we start our week without a weekly game plan?
Benefits and Requirements of Weekly Game Planning
The benefits of weekly game planning include greater ability to:
Focus on and accomplish the important but non-urgent activities/goals
Avoid getting sucked into the busy trap
Prioritize activities you have wanted to do but have been procrastinating
Feel satisfied from working on your most important life items
Here are some of the key factors of success when carrying out your weekly game plan:
Have your purpose statement and yearly goals in front of you when setting up your weekly plan.
Set your weekly game plan in all areas of your life, not just work. Specifically, set goals in the following areas: Physical, Spiritual, Emotional, Family & Relationships, Work, and Financial.
Establish the same time each week to develop your plan. Sunday nights are a good time to set up your week. Train your brain with a consistent time and place to weekly game plan.
Refer to your weekly plan during your daily planning sessions.
Measure your completion percentage on weekly planning. An 80% completion percentage says you're accomplishing a lot but maybe not setting too easy or too hard of goals for the week.
Don't get discouraged. Treat each day and each week as a learning system.
Honor what you did well! Learn from what you didn't get accomplished. Love the process!
Here is a sample weekly game plan:
Go to www.ci4life.org to download a weekly game plan sheet. Look for the “weekly game planning tool” menu button.
Send me your learnings and feedback to Rickh@ci4life.org
Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. (46.6 million) experiences mental illness in a given year.
Approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S. (11.2 million) experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.
Approximately 1 in 5 youth aged 13â€“18 (21.4%) experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life. For children aged 8â€“15, the estimate is 13%.
Many successful and rich people aren't happy. They have money and titles but happiness evades them.
Is happiness a product of success? I argue no. Happiness and positivity are more likely to breedproductivity and success than the other way around. In his book The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor shares:
“We become more successful when we are happier and more positive. For example, doctors who put on a positive mood before making a diagnosis show almost three times more intelligence and creativity than doctors in a neutral state, and they make accurate diagnoses 19 percent faster. Optimistic sales people outsell their pessimistic counterparts 56%. Students primed to feel happy before taking math achievement tests far outperform their neutral peers. It turns out that our brains are literally hardwired to perform at their best not when they are negative or even neutral, but when they are positive”.
– Shawn Achor, The Happiness Advantage
(BTW, I highly recommend this book. A great read.)
Insights like the above help us remember that happiness is the first goal.
But despite people's desire to be happy, there is so much that can get in the way of this simple pursuit. One of the most common obstacles to happiness I see is over-productivityâ€”being overly busy or just busy on the wrong activities. Or even trickier, being busy on good things but not the best things.
I've met many people who focus on being productive to the point that they burn bridges and lose happiness. They go to sleep exhausted, not any closer to true happiness than they were when they woke up.
This raises the question: Does productivity have to come at the expense of happiness?
I am out to find the answer to being bothâ€”productive and happy.
A few months ago, I started a survey to find out who are the most productive and happy people and what habits they've adopted in their lives. I am after the holy grail of being productive, successful and happy. You can read more about this idea in my post about being both full and hungry (striving and content) on this blog (www.ci4life.org)
For this survey, I'm still looking for more data, so please, if you can take some time and complete the survey below, I would greatly appreciate it:
I ask about 40 questions and the survey takes approximately 8 minutes. The goal is to decode the habits of those people who rank themselves at the very highest levels of happiness and the highest levels of productivity. Then, those of us that are not at the highest levels of happiness and productivity can learn from those on high! There are several questions about your habits, such as reading, exercise, meditation, eating, financial savings, scripture study, sleeping, etc.
Early results of the first few hundred respondents around the world are very telling.
Let me summarize the top 3 habits of the people who are the very happiest and the most effective:
100% of them say they serve always or usually.
92% say they always or usually plan every day.
75% say they exercise several times per week.
Let's dig into each of these habits.
Service Makes a Difference
Research has long determined that conscious acts of kindness help drive increased levels of happiness. Sonja Lyubomirsky, a leading researcher and author of The How of Happiness, has found that individuals told to complete five acts of kindness during the course of the day report feeling much happier than control groups and that the feeling lasts for many subsequent days, far after the act of kindness is over.
Daily Planning Helps You Avoid Being Busy for Busyness' Sake
The greatest accomplishment in today's world is not to be busy. Instead, it's to be busy about the right things. Hard work is important, but if you're constantly changing store-room light bulbs, you'll never have time to polish the lobby.
I like how Henry David Thoreau summarized this idea:
Exercise as a Keystone Habit
In his book The Power of Habits, author Charles Duhigg introduces a powerful concept of the keystone habit. Keystone habits are those habits that can drive success in many areas of life. He believes (as do I) that exercise is one of those keystone habits. He says,
â€œTypically, people who exercise start eating better and become more productive at work. They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family. They use their credit cards less frequently and say they feel less stressed. Exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change.)
– Charles Duhigg, Power of Habits
Service, planning and exercise are just some of the habits I hope to uncover in my survey. If you would, take some time to reflect on your own life and fill out the survey.
Fill out the survey listed above. Find out where you rank yourself.
What did you rank yourself on productivity and effectiveness out of 5? 1= low and 5=extremely productive)
What did you rank yourself on happiness? (1=very unhappy, 5=far above average)
Suggested starting point: Take 5 minutes first thing in the morning to plan your day. Include work, home and play activities. Take 5 minutes at the end of the day to review your accomplishments. Try including service activities (to family, church or those less fortunate) and exercise. (Hint: Be accepting and kind to yourself on whatever you get accomplished). Do this daily for 30 days.
At the end of 30 days, share your results with a loved one. a. How would you rank your happiness and productivity now? (Use the same scale as above.) What did you learn?
Send me the results and what you learned at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for the help!
Go to Podbean or iTunes podcast for a podcast on the topic of daily planning for teams and individuals. Search “Rick Heyland” or “Continuous Improvement 4 Life.”
A few years back, my colleague and good friend James Parnell showed me a video about a weekend cowboy named Ray Hunt.
James is a weekend cowboy himself, but as he showed me this video, I couldn't help but wonder why in the world was I watching a cowboy video at work. But it was worth it. Thanks, James.
James wanted to share with me what Ray Hunt had learned about behavior modification and reinforcement from spending time training show horses. Ray grew up in the west and was doing OK in his training profession until he learned a better way to train.
Ray started “Turning Loose” the horses, as he called it. Turning the horses loose meant that Ray stopped using force, coercion, and punishment as his main training technique and went to a more engaging, connecting and reinforcing style of training.
In effect, he started making the right things easy and the wrong things difficult.
For example, the old cowboy way to get a young horse into a trailer was to use many chokers, ropes, and whips to force the scared colt into the travel trailerâ€”a brutal process to watch, let alone participate in. Instead, Ray figured out that he could use one rope, one small whip and never hurt or punish the colt but simply make sure the colt knew which direction was the right direction.
By working this new way, and to others' surprise, Ray was able to train the horses in less time and the horses and trainer enjoyed the process a whole lot more. Ray went on to train several champions in his day. Many of his followers today still use his “turning loose” methods. See a short video below.
So what does this have to do with us if we aren't horse trainers?
I suggest at least 3 application areas for continuous improvement students:
Kids are like horses: If you force a child to do something, you usually end up getting bucked off or in a fight. But when you apply the principle of making the right things easy, you end up with endless creative ideas and methods.
My wife is the perfect example of making the right things easy with raising kids. Cheryl was the master at giving our children two good choices. She would ask questions like:
“Do you want your bath with bubbles or no bubbles?” This avoided the dreaded drag-your-kid-up-to-the-tub scene.
“Do you want peanut butter and honey or peanut butter and jelly on your sandwich?” Two good choices helped make the right answer easy and avoided turning lunch time into a restaurant.
I am sure you parents can think of many other applications of these ideas.
As a leader, how can you make the right things easy and the wrong things difficult?
Let's imagine that a few of your employees have a hard time making it into work on time. One option is to put expensive tracking systems in place. You could levy heavy discipline letters and “3 warnings and your out” letters. But that response is likely going to get you bucked and lose you valuable morale points.
How can you make the right thing easy? Instead of punishment, do a raffle at the end of each week and give out Starbucks certificates for those on-time all week. Have donuts out in the morning and put away after starting time. You get the idea.
How about for a more difficult task, like getting people to do their paperwork?
Every busy business I have ever known struggles with getting some of their employees to do timely and accurate paperwork. Whether it's a policeman filing a report or a sales rep updating their automated lead tracker or a machine operator who has to either track or hit a button to properly code downtime, the struggle is the same.
How do we apply this principle in this situation? How do you make the right thing easy for proper paperwork?
Make it fun. You could have random giveaways at the end of the week for the best employee. Or maybe the employee gets to pick the radio station for the week. Whatever your group thinks is fun, let them win.
Inversely, how do you make the wrong thing difficult but not too painful? When you have regular rule-breakers, talk to them in private without public embarrassment. Take away some simple perks until the paperwork is done properly. Think creativelyâ€”the limits are determined by how far your imagination can stretch between the bounds of too light a response and too cruel a punishment. Start with figuring out what is fun or enjoyed by the team and either add more or take some away but don't force too hard. You don't want to have your employees mentally buck you off!
The same principles apply for personal habits: Make the good ones easier and make the bad ones harder!
Suppose you want to improve your exercise habits. The goal might be to work out 4 times per week for 30 minutes and do it in the morning. Currently, you might procrastinate and find reasons to sleep in or do something else that needs to be done.
To fix your problem, we need to make the right thing easy and fun. Put your work-out gear in your bathroom or the place you go immediately when you wake-up. Give yourself a little shopping reward at the end of the week if you accomplish your goal. Find an accountability friend or partner. Make it so you have to meet your partner at 6:30 a.m. so you don't let them down. Think creatively, and you'll see how this can apply to other areas of your life as well.
What if you want to start a savings plan? How do you make it easy or fun? Use technology to take out your 10% savings at the beginning of the month automatically.
What about if you are trying to stop a bad habit? How do you make the right thing easier and the wrong thing more difficult? Addiction management is a huge issue in our society, whether it involves over-eating, TV, sex, pornography, drugs, or spending too much money.
How can these principles apply?
Let's look at over-eating. If you're trying to cut down on chocolate chip cookies, you probably shouldn't position them on the kitchen counter to greet you at every passing moment. Turning away from such a temptation is an incredible act of willpower that most of us don't possess, so don't have them there. Don't even have cookies in the house.
If you are struggling with pornography, make the wrong thing difficult. Don't have the source anywhere near you at your time of weakness. If at home under the cover of night is where you feel most vulnerable, take out the electronics and give them to a loved one.
Get an accountability partner to support you while you create your new habits or stop your bad ones. Make specific plans with that partner. Identify small rewards and punishments if you do or don't succeed.
Bad habits are very difficult to overcome on your own, so ask for help. Get somebody to give you reinforcement when you win. Them just knowing when you fail might be enough to change.
I know people who have signed contracts with their friends or family members with rewards and fines if they won or lost on their quest to stop a bad behavior. I know many people who text or call their accountability partner daily to account for their behavior. Make the wrong thing more difficult!
I also know somebody who quit drugsâ€”one of the hardest habits to kick. How did he do it? This person had to strip his life of everybody and everything that was making the wrong thing easy and the right thing difficult. He had to make new friends. For a time, he stopped carrying cash or credit cards. Life was tough, but he was able to drop the habit. Today he is a very successful man, husband, father, and provider today.
You don't have to be a super motivated person with incredible willpower. You just need to want to improve and then know how to make a new habit. And the way you make a new habit or stop a bad one is by making the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult.
Ray Hunt knew what he was talking about. The days of figuratively beating up our employees, children, or even ourselves are over. The best way to help ourselves or others change is by understanding behavior modification and habit-making. Everybody wins when you get out of the way of your ego, stop crucifying yourself, and make the right thing easy and the wrong thing more difficult.
Identify a habit you want to start for yourself, your team, or your children.
What would make this habit easier to do?
What would make this habit harder to do?
Who could be your accountability partner?
Go out and try it for 3 weeks and change your life.
Please comment below and let me know how you are doing!
Over the years I've met many people who
work very hard but don't seem to get ahead.
Take my friend. This friend held a master's degree in his chosen profession and worked three jobs to put his kids through school and university. He was successful at his goal, and I admire him for his efforts.
But could my friend have accomplished his goal of providing for his family with less work if he had worked smarter?
I can't answer this question for him, but in many circumstances in my life I've answered this question for myself, where working smarter trumped just working harder.
We all need to work hard. If you can only practice one of these principles (working hard vs. working smart), then choose working hard. But, to create long-term, sustainable happiness and financial security, you need to work smart.
Lessons from a First-Year MBA Student: Working Smarter as
Thirty years ago, I was in my MBA program and struggling to keep up with older, more experienced, more intelligent peers. It was at this time that I wrote a personal mission statement focusing on my passions and future areas of strength, which I've discussed in previous posts.
This personal statement helped me work smarter by directing my attention towards what was most important. In addition, during this first year in my MBA program, I strengthened my understanding of a second strategy for working smart: working together as a team.
Teamwork eases the load on any one person
In my program, the professors purposely
gave us too much homework and assignments that it was impossible to do it all effectively
if we worked alone. But one of the greatest assets they gave us for completing
tasks was our team.
In sports we had to learn this lesson of teamwork. For example, recently the NBA championship has been won by the deepest team, not the team with the one best player. In MBA school this lesson was taken to a new level for me.
I remember sitting down with my MBA teammates (Jim Clark, Bob Lumley and Sharon Johnson) and they each shared the sinking yet enthusiastic feeling that I had. By ourselves we couldn't handle the workload but together we could accomplish our collective goals.
So, we planned.
We figured out who would do the detailed research for which course based on their interest and expertise and then that person would present the findings to the team.
We built personal relationships with the professors and their tutors so we could better understand what was really important for each course. Each person had to still read each case, but I always went deeper in the cases for my assigned class in order to provide deeper insights for my team. These were valuable experiences in working smart and working hard.
To this day, thirty years later, I have fond memories of and deep feelings of gratitude for Jim, Bob, and Sharon and the important role they played in collaborating with me and working smart together to do well in our MBA program.
The same lesson applies in our careers today. Extraordinary teamwork can help you work smart and get ahead in your career. RLG International, the consultancy I have been with for thirty years (since MBA school), has this hanging in the main board room:
This acronym stands for an important lesson:
None of us is as smart as all of us.
This is a constant reminder that we are smarter together with the power of the team.
Working While You're Not Working
We only have so many hours in the day and we
can't do everything that needs to be done. Having our assets working for us
while we work (or play) is an important element of working smart.
This idea is obvious in personal finances. Having
your money work for you when you are asleep or on vacation is such an
incredible feeling of freedom and security. Having your debt work against you
and accruing interest while you sleep works in the opposite direction and is a
relentless task master.
The same principles that apply to money and
financial security apply to your career and life's work. Having your key
projects move ahead while you are asleep or on vacation is a fantastic feeling.
As an entrepreneur or leader of an organization, you will feel very overwhelmed if everybody and everything is contingent on your approval. If your goal is to work smart, you should rarely put yourself in a situation where everybody is waiting on you. While being constantly needed might feel like a short-term ego rush to show how important you are, this model is not scalable or sustainable.
Figure out how to properly delegate those tasks and projects that someone can do better than you so you can stay in your sweet spot. I learned this lesson when serving as a lay ecclesiastical leader for several hundred young adults.
My three-year service as a religious leader for young adults was one of the greatest joys of my life. I oversaw weekly church services, weekly activities and the spiritual counseling for 300 young single adults. This was a monumental chore when I first started.
Thankfully I wasn't doing it aloneâ€”I had two counselors who were also called to serve with me. Bruce Dayton, Nelson Glassett, and myself sat down from the beginning and tried to work smart. We applied two principles to work smart and effectively with these young people:
What are each others' sweet
What can we delegate to the
young people so they can run their own program?
We determined that I was going to focus on
the spiritual counseling of the young people and Bruce and Nelson were going to
focus on the administration of the various councils, each led by a young single
The system worked great. Nelson and Bruce were terrific mentors to each council and helped them coordinate their group activities and outreach. It was a terrific experience to watch Bruce, Nelson, and those young leaders run the program. I believe it taught those young people how to lead, an experience that will bless them for the rest of their lives.
For my part, I got to focus on counselling.
I read every book I could. Beyond that, I developed one-page summaries based on
those readings, outlining issues and solutions that were real for those young
people. I probably had 15-20 counseling interviews every week for three years.
During this time I was able to make a
material impact while staying sane and still running my day job and family. All
of this was possible because others took ownership of their delegated areas of
Nelson, Bruce, and I still stay close to many of the young single adult leaders. They grew in their assignment because we worked smart!
Hire People That Help You Work Smart
At RLG International I have had some incredible executive assistants that have allowed me to work smart. The trust that my former assistant Sarah Blizzard and now current assistant Queenie Tsang and I had and have has been so helpful over the years. We communicated regularly on priorities, and I had full trust they were acting on my behalf and setting up meetings and assignments that allowed me to stay in the $500/hour zone, instead of the $20/hour zone.
The $500/Hour Zone
I once had a client, Walter Pinto, that insisted we as consultants only did $500/hour work so we could be more effective to his organization. He didn't want his expensive consultants to be doing $20/hour consulting. Walter Pinto knew how to work smart! He hired people he could count on to work smart.
Work Is a Blessing
Work is a blessingâ€”even more so when you
I admire Tim Ferris' book and body of work
on the 4-hour work week. Every chapter talks about how to work smart on your
small business and your job. I really like the principles.
At the same time, I've noticed he works more than 4 hours a week on his books, podcasts, and angel investing because he enjoys working!
Work is a blessing, no doubt about it. But
having too much work (because you're not working smart in your sweet spot) can be
exhausting and overwhelming. Work smart and find joy in your work.
Application Idea: Create a Personal Advisory Council
Working smart is not an activity done in
RLG International and many top businesses
have experienced executives come in to advise them on future direction. These
executive advisory councils allow us to learn faster and instruct us how to be
more effective in the marketplace. They come with outside perspectives and a fresh
set of eyes to help us work smarter.
Wouldn't that be beneficial in our personal
lives? So why don't we have personal advisory councils?
The goal of a personal advisory council is the
same as an executive advisory council: to help us learn faster and be more
Who should be a part of your personal council?
Enlist your family or close friends and
experts to be on your personal advisory council. And don't ask just anyoneâ€”ask true
experts who have experience in the areas of your life you're interested in improving.
For example, to learn about finance, ask
the person you know that knows the most about finance to sit and advise you
twice per year. Take them out for lunch and ask for help. Everybody likes to
tell their story. Ask a million questions, learn a million things, and start working
Do the same thing with relationships,
physical fitness and spiritual development. Find people who you admire and are experts. Ask them for counsel. The
person doesn't necessarily have to be a paid professional. Who lives in your
neighborhood that you admire and has done well in one of these areas? Start there.
Go ahead and build your council. That's
Start Working Smart
There are so many application areas for working smart. I have only mentioned a few examples. To start, figure out how to apply the principles of working hard and working smart in your life. The below application questions can help:
What are my strengths? Where is
my $500/hour contribution? How can I focus my efforts on the areas where I contribute
How can I work more effectively
with my team? Can we delegate assignments so that we're working smarter together?
What needs to change about our team meetings in order to work smarter and build
trust more effectively?
How can I more effectively
delegate tasks so nothing falls through the cracks? (The market isn't sleeping.
The competition isn't sleeping. You must keep your initiatives moving ahead.)
Who could I have on my advisory
Keep working hard towards your life goals. Make
sure they are balanced goals in areas of work, physical development, financial,
emotional and spiritual. But also work smart.
Never forget these two principles: Work
hard and work smart.
You don't wake up one morning and become great. Neither do you wake up one morning and become a failure. Both success and failure are outcomes of everyday actions, habits.
If I could give one gift to my children it would be good daily habits, because, as Stephen R. Covey expressed:
“Our character is basically a composite of our habits. Because they are consistent, often unconscious patterns, they constantly, daily, express our character.” •Stephen R. Covey
Covey wasn't alone in emphasizing the importance of habits:
“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation.” •Aristotle
“You'll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” •John C. Maxwell
I'll repeat what I said earlier: habits determine outcomes.
Achieving Your Goals Every Day
We each have different definitions of success based on our life objectives. Every person has something inside of them yearning to be great in their areas of interest or passion. For some it's to be a great musician. Others a great athlete or a great writer.
What is your top goal right now?
You want to become rich? Then start with saving money every day. Spend a little less every day. Reaching your financial goals starts with your daily habits.
You want to get in the best physical shape of your life? Then start with exercising first thing in the morning. Even if you just do push-ups and sit-ups as you get out of bed. Reaching personal fitness goals starts (and ends) with your daily habits.
You want to become less stressed and less anxious? Then start with daily meditations and mindfulness for 10 minutes every morning.
For every long-term goal, there's a daily habit you can develop to take action today towards that goal.
Of course, consistency and discipline are key to success. Try starting every day with your most important routines. Wake up before everybody else does so you can start your day with your small habits that will eventually lead you to excellence in your chosen goals.
My current favorite book on habits is by Charles Duhigg called The Power of Habit. One of my favorite insights from his book is the following:
“Champions don't do extraordinary things. They do ordinary things, but they do them without thinking, too fast for the other team to react. They follow the habits they've learned.”
If that doesn't totally jack you up for change, I'm not sure what will!
Channeling the Hype
But now that you are hyped up, how do you translate that into change? How do you start a good habit? Or, maybe more importantly, how do you stop a bad habit?
To understand that, we have to understand the basics of human psychology. Psychologists like Aubrey Daniels, BF Skinner, and many others have emphasized a basic model to understand how humans form habits.
The model is about as simple as they come, but extremely actionable. It's called the ABCs, which stands for:
Activators,> Behaviors,> Consequences
The ABC Model Deconstructed
Let's break this down.
An Activator is something that is a cue or trigger to suggest to the mind to start an action (a Behavior). A Consequence is a reward or something that happens after the Behavior.
Whether we are aware of the ABC model or not, we experience it on a daily basis. By recognizing how we respond to different triggers (Activators), we can both stop bad habits and create good ones.
How the ABC Model helps us stop bad habits
Recognizing the flow of the ABC model in our lives can help us abandon bad habits because we can more consciously:
Remove Activators that trigger bad habits
Change the Behavior associated with an Activator
Recognize or adjust the Consequences to discourage bad behavior
How the ABC Model helps us create good habits
Similarly, the ABC Model can help us more consciously make good decisions towards good habits, by helping us:
Create Activators to trigger good habits
Add new positive behaviors to our repertoire
Recognize or adjust the Consequences to encourage good behavior
By the way, a positive immediate consequence (PIC) is the most powerful reward, because the consequence is directly connected with the behavior. And when I say powerful, I don't always mean good. Powerful and immediate consequences can be what makes kicking long-term development so hard.
Case in Point: The ABC Model at Work
Let's test the model out on developing good habits or stopping bad habits.
Smoking: Kicking one of the dirtiest habits
Why do people smoke? Smokers know it's unhealthy, yet they continue to smoke because there are many Activators.
Activators for smoking could be the smell or the time of day or seeing somebody else smoke.
There are also some positive consequences. The immediate Consequence of smoking is a relaxed feeling and even decreased appetite. I won't go into the long-term Consequences, you've heard them before. Even though you and I see negative consequences to smoking, the smoker feels PICs.
So to stop smoking we need to reduce the Activators (cues or signals) and increase the PICs for not smoking. For example, don't go hang around others at coffee break that are smoking if that was your cue. Instead, develop PICs for not smoking. Use the money you save to build your retirement savings. Or for something even more immediate, like treating someone to a shake. Your reward could be either tangible or intangible.
A not so dirty habit: Chocolate chip cookies
Let's consider something a little less sinister: chocolate chip cookies. Who doesn't love chocolate chip cookies? There are so many immediate and positive benefits for eating chocolate chip cookies.
But if I were going to try and stop eating chocolate chip cookies for some long-term health or weight loss goals, then I would use the ABCs.
First, remove the Activators. Don't stroll by the Mrs. Fields chocolate chip cookies on the shelf every day after lunch. Don't have chocolate chips in your kitchen or pantry. Take away the cues.
Second, build some positive Consequences, those same PICs I've mentioned. Buy yourself a small reward for every day you don't eat chocolate chip cookies. Weigh yourself every night or every morning seeing the daily benefits of not eating chocolate chip cookies.
Developing Keystone Habits
To start a new good habit, add cues (Activators) and add PIC rewards.
To stop a bad habit, take away those things that activate the behavior and create new positive immediate consequences for stopping.
Now, let's take it one step further and discuss keystone habits.
In his book, Charles Duhigg teaches the importance of keystone habits. Keystone habits are those habits that can drive success in many areas of our life. He believes (as do I) that exercise is one of those keystone habits:
“Typically, people who exercise, start eating better and becoming more productive at work. They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family. They use their credit cards less frequently and say they feel less stressed. Exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change.”
My own research shows that the happiest people exercise at least 2 times per week.
So how do we start a new exercise habit? Let's look at some potential activators and PICs.
Set your running shoes by your bed at night
Set out your exercise clothes in your closet
Write yourself reminders around the house
Plan to exercise with a good friend
Weigh yourself after every run
Reward yourself with ice-cream on Friday night if you have exercised 4 times that week or more.
You get the idea. Apply these principles to any goal!
Where to start?
Â Fill out this survey to self assess where you are on developing good habits for success:.
Is it possible to be full and hungry at the same time?
Is it possible to simultaneously strive for a goal and be content with where you currently are in life?
We say yes.
We propose that it is both possible and necessary to strive for continuous improvement in our daily lives, but at the same time be content and satisfied with our best efforts.
And even more, striving for worthwhile goals and being content with the results that happen each day are the keys to personal happiness!
If somebody has all the money in the world and doesn't have to work, this doesn't make him any more happy, content, and satisfied with life. You only need to look at our business billionaires and movie stars to discover the truth that money does not buy happiness.
Striving for excellence and improvement is a lifelong process. It's good for a person to have purpose and goals and to feel the satisfaction of a job well done. Having a powerful reason to get up in the morning is a blessing, not a curse. At the same time, very busy and very productive people are not necessarily happy and at peace.
One of the primary objectives of our lives is to balance the Happiness Equation, with ambition on one side and contentment on the other. While goals and good personal habits can fulfill the ambition side, the practice of mindfulness is necessary for feeling content and at peace with our lives.
Mindfulness is defined as “a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”
Much of the wisdom from the eastern hemisphere is centered around the idea of mindfulness and meditation. These teachings are available to all of us in the form of books and other materials. According Jason Gutierrez from the blog The Monk Life, here are the top 10 best mindfulness books:
Our favorite mindfulness book is number 8 on the list, called The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. The Power of Now is not a quick read, but is well worth investing your time. This is the type of book you may need to read over and over again. The concepts are transformative for a Western-trained mind that focuses on productivity and over-planned days.
Here are the top 20 lessons to learn from The Power of Now and becoming moremindful:
1. Say yes to life, accept challenges, and watch how lifestarts working for you.
2. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if we had chosen it. Make the present our friend, not our enemy. This will transform our lives.
3. Enlightenment is what we should seek for in life. Enlightenment is a state of wholeness, of being “at one, and therefore at peace.” Enlightenment comes when we free ourselves from the dictates of our mind. Enlightenment is not only the end of suffering and continuous conflict within (and without), it is the end of enslavement to incorrect thinking.
4. Being free (being separate from the dictates of our mind) is an important skill. Freedom and peace come with the realization that our thoughts are a separate process within us; we as individuals are not the thought generators. Our mind is a resource to us, and we can observe our thoughts. When we do this, a higher level of consciousness becomes activated, and we make better choices.
For example, if someone offends us, notice how the mind takes over and provides all sorts of negative support, such as, “I've never liked that person. They have the nerve to treat me like this,” and the negative ideas continue to flow. So we need to be alert that not everything our mind feeds us is for our well-being. We need to be separate from our thoughts, stand back, and observe them, rather than just accept them. We must be aware of them, and decide if they are helpful, peaceful, or if we need to let them go in order for peace and happiness to grow within us.
5. As we watch our thoughts, we can create a gap in our mindby simply redirecting our focus to the now, the present moment and what we arefeeling.
6. The single most important step toward enlightenment (wholeness) is learning to not identify with our mind. Every time we create a gap (a pause in our thinking to reflect) in the stream of ideas coming from our mind, the light of our individual consciousness becomes stronger. When wedisengage from our mind and focus on ourselves, how we are breathing and howour body is feeling, we are disengaging from our mind directing us.
*Important point: Once we achieve this state, we no longer take for granted that the content of our mind is always providing good direction, and thus our sense of self-worth does not depend upon what our mind tells us.
7. Love, joy, and peace cannot flourish until we are freedfrom mind dominance.
8. When we can look upon our mind as an observer, we can geta glimpse of true joy, true love, and a deep inner peace.
9. Cravings (like for things wrapped in chocolate) are the mind seeking fulfillment from external things, and thus they become a substitute for the joy of feeling whole.
10. Resentment, hatred, self-pity, guilt, anger, depression,jealousy, etc., even the slightest irritation are creations of the mind. Inother words, the unobserved mind can run our lives.
11. We must focus our attention on the feelings inside us.Stay present and continue to be an observer of what is happening to you. Thepower of NOW is the power of our own conscious presence of what is occurring.
12. Once we have understood the basic principle of being present in the NOW as a watcher of what happens inside usâ€”and understand it by experiencing itâ€”we have at our disposal the most potent transformational tool: we can let ideas go and not own them.
13. Anyone who is only identified with their mind is therefore disconnected from their true power and deeper self-rooted person.
14. We all have an ego mind, which is the deep-seated sense of lack, or incompleteness, of not being whole. The ego mind manifests itself as the unsettling and constant feeling of not being worthy enough or good enough. The ego mind identifies with external thingsâ€”praise, money, or position to make us feel better, instead of using our intended self-awareness or “enlightenment.
Let us share a personal experience with you illustrating this principle. I (Dale) recently resigned from a position in my church after 28 years. My mind was telling me on that last day, the Presidency will announce my release, and express their thanks or might even ask for a standing ovation (just kidding, but my expectations were high). Not a word was said, and my mind started to protect my ego. I immediately stopped the negative flow of thoughts by saying in my mind, “I know I did a good, dedicated job, and God knows I did.” Because I caught myself and separated myself from my ego mind, I have felt at peace, and even whole ever since then.
15. Stop living in the past (whether positive or negative) or looking for happiness in the future. NOW is the most precious time. NOW is athing that will take us beyond the confines of our mind.
16. Assessment is one of the keys to living in the NOW. Are we always trying to get somewhere other than where we are? Is fulfillment just around the corner or confined to short term pleasures such as food, drink, drugs, or some form of excitement? Do we believe that if we acquire more things we will become more fulfilled, good enough, or psychologically complete? Or are we waiting for someone to make us happy and complete?
17. Forget about your life situation for a while and pay attention to your life and who you are.
18. Having a problem means we are dwelling on a situation mentally without the intent or possibility of taking action now, and thus we unconsciously make it part of our sense of self. This can lead to discouragement or depression.
19. If there is not joy, ease, and lightness in what we are doing, we are covering up the present moment, and making life a burden and a struggle.
20. Pay attention to the actions you are taking. Paying attention should bring peace and happiness.
The best indicator of our level of consciousness of who we are is how we deal with life's challenges when they come.
Go ahead and dream! Go ahead and set lofty goals for the future! But don't be a slave to them. Accept what is. Rejoice in what you accomplish. Stay focused on the now. Don't let the past or the future destroy your present.
The key is to train the mind to stretch and to be satisfied. Strive but be content. Being full and hungry is the key to lasting happiness!
Please share with us your feelings about this blog. How do you strive and be content at the sametime?