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.
“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.)
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!
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.)
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!
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?