At the core of personal mastery is self-understanding. This is where real growth takes place. Growth is first and foremost an inside job. Transformation is about dealing with fundamental motives and causes rather than simply dabbling with symptomatic issues.
Following are 5 “self’s” that will help in your quest for personal mastery.
1. Self-Awareness. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses is not as easy as it sounds. To understand our personal surpluses and deficits is not an option on our journey to personal greatness. If we want to drive our performance, then we must be able to manage our emotions in ways that energize and direct that drive. The research is plentiful that I.Q. accounts for about 20% of a person’s success. Moods account for much more. If we are not aware of our moods then they can end up controlling our behavior in ways that are counterproductive. Self-awareness means we are growing in our ability to read our emotions accurately. This gives us the ability to self-regulate or self-manage destructive moods and attitudes. Mood mastery is necessary for personal mastery.
Be self-aware instead of self-conscious.
2. Self-Affirmation. We know it’s not healthy to speak against or gossip about others. It becomes even more destructive when we use words to speak against ourselves. Self-affirmation is a matter of choosing what we focus on. If others talked to us the way we sometimes talk to ourselves, we would avoid them. It can become easy to degrade ourselves – sometimes subliminally. Use the power of the word toward yourself in the direction of truth and love. Instead of letting other people and circumstances decide what you will focus on, make it your choice. Attitudes that asphyxiate? “You’re no good…lousy…incompetent…unable …ordinary…worthless. Attitudes that affirm? “I am lovable…forgivable…capable… have strengths…am multi-talented…have purpose.” The world can be a negative place. You must counteract toxic noise.
Be self-affirming instead of self-degrading.
3. Self-Motivation. If you are waiting to be motivated by someone else, personal mastery will elude you. Always giving your best is an inside job. Some days are better than others, but each day you give your best. Anything less leads to a “thin” life and ultimately, regret. Motivation is the underlying reason why a person does or does not do something. The “stick and carrot” incentive is not nearly as powerful as a person’s own innate interests. This raises the level of personal productivity and individual engagement. It’s about knowing how you are hardwired and drawing on your natural sense of intrigue.
Be self-motivated instead of self-absorbed.
3 Ways The Search For Meaning Impacts Your Life
“Strange is our situation here upon earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to divine a purpose”. Albert Einstein
Perhaps you’ve seen this picture of our Milky Way Galaxy.
Our galaxy is 100,000 light years1 across. It takes our solar system 250 million years to orbit once around our galaxy (a galactic year). And it is only one of hundreds of billions of galaxies. The image is daunting as you read “You are here.” We are one tiny speck in this vast cosmic seashore.
Think of it. You are 1 in 7 billion people – a tiny speck of dust – living on a speck of dust, in a galaxy that’s a speck of dust in this vast universe. We find ourselves in a seemingly endless ocean of nothingness.
In our own galaxy we live on the outer edge as an imperceptible speck. We are both fragile and special at the same time.
When we do a fast microscopic collapse of this universe down to our individual lives, we get hit at a deeper level with deeper questions. You and I have been given a life consisting of moments. These moments are precious and they matter. What is the meaning of life? And so we intuitively turn the question “you are here”, into………….
“Why are you here?”
Theologians and psychologists have brought it down to our deepest question of meaning. We phrase it in different ways, often referring to it as “our true north.” We are programmed to seek the answer. The ancient sages wrote, “eternity has been placed in our hearts.” And our technological advances have only deepened that question and made it more relevant.
Here are 3 ways the quest for meaning impacts our life.
1. Meaning impacts our purpose – our need to do. We are programmed for accomplishment. Purpose is our need to live for something bigger than ourselves. It’s our innate need “to make our dent in the universe.” It’s difficult to grow beyond the size of our purpose. You cannot have a peak performance without a peak purpose. We have a need to move, to seek, and to find our place in life. There is risk involved, but all the risk comes from doing. So we choose risk over stagnate living. Rooted in our core is the need to do, to grow, to become more than we are. Ambition is in our DNA. Aspirations energize us. We have dreams, and these dreams keep the future personally alive. When the present gets hard, our dreams are there to comfort – “It will get better.” It makes transcending the difficulty easier. So it’s in our very nature to do. But to do what?
2. Meaning impacts our significance – our need to make sense. Sense-making is unique to humans. We look at things and ascribe meaning to them.
We have this innate need to make sense out of life. The only way to avoid this is to numb ourselves with the anesthetic of minutia. It’s impossible not to attempt to find meaning in our lives. We connect thoughts, patterns and events. We are constantly mapping. Our desire is to create a powerful meaning that becomes the ultimate sense-maker. The sense usually includes others in a shared future. We do it individually, but not in isolation.
YOU CANNOT GROW WITHOUT DISCOMFORT
“If you let fear of consequences prevent you from following your deepest instinct, your life will be safe, expedient and thin.” – Katharine Butler Hathaway
Without personal growth our lives can feel thin. Thin is another word for shallow. We intuitively know there is more. Somewhere between “I know” and “I don’t know” is where real learning takes place. This is where we discover our unique personal line between success and failure. It’s the spotlight that grows bigger as we stretch our circle of comfort. It’s a buffer zone called “risk.” So there we are – moving from “what I know” and “what I can do” into that free fall zone of “what I don’t know” and “I’m not quite sure how this will turn out.”
Staying in the comfort zone results in no progress. It’s like sitting in your car and moving the steering wheel while the car is in “park”. There is lots of busyness, but no progress. The key is to go forward and learn along the way. You are in the stretch zone, and in doing so you are expanding your circle of comfort. Be prepared to hear the voice of fear trying to outshout the voice of confidence. Know which one to mute and which one to heed. The best way to mute it is to move forward.
Here are 4 road signs to pay attention to as you make progress.
1. It’s closer than you think. Push against the tendency to quit too soon. Most people quit before they should. This is the only difference between those who succeed and those who don’t. Most quit right before the breakthrough. The darkest part of the morning is right before sunrise. The Donner Party was only 5 miles from civilization when they did the unthinkable act of cannibalism. Remember when it gets really tough that the breakthrough is close.
2. Your “next step” is where learning takes place. So don’t be afraid to cross that line. That “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure” zone is the point where ignorance is decreased. Understanding is expanded. Insights penetrate our core. It’s just a little further to get what you want. Is it risky? Yes. But not as much as you think. Risk is an essential part of progress. In baseball you can’t get to second base without taking a lead off first base. That’s the stretch zone, where you expand your circle of comfort. You can stay close to first base and wish you had longer legs, but it doesn’t work that way. The fruit of the tree is out on the limb. Wishing for longer arms doesn’t work. You have to go get it. Take the next step.
3. Get out of your own way. We often cause ourselves to get stuck. Getting unstuck allows the real you to get on its way. Avoid the negative thinking. By pass the fear of the unknown. Ignore those thoughts of failure. These are all emotional vampires that suck the energy right out of you. Consider that life is full of surprises. That’s what stretch zones are all about. You will not grow beyond the size of your dreams. Negative thinking, fear, and failure don’t like to go there, so I suggest you leave them behind. They’re baggage that’s useless as you cross the line. It’s all about learning something new and they don’t care. It’s what Zig Ziglar called “stinking thinking.” Give yourself a “check up from the neck up”, get out of your own way, and take that next step.
3 Ways Brief Encounters Promote Growth
“Being a leader is like running a cemetery. There’s a lot of people under you – and nobody’s listening.” – Bill Clinton
Are you creating the best place, where the best people, can do their best work? Building an organization that’s fit for the future cannot happen without building an organization that’s fit for human beings. This kind of caring culture doesn’t start big. It starts small – in those everyday encounters with the folks you come in contact with.
Busy people tend to sidestep these moments. Our to-do lists are long, and people can seem like an obstacle to productivity. At least that’s the way we feel. Leaders must have the balcony view of the organization. That’s the larger, big picture view. As important as that is, it’s only part of a leader’s focus. There is also the basement experience. This is the human side of the organization. It’s the up close and personal view. One is a see it view, and the other is a feel it experience.
This is where those small and brief interactions become highly invaluable.
Here are 3 ways these interactions promote growth.
1. Brief encounters help us understand the organization. Before you can lead an organization you must understand it. In reality it’s an organism. Now there’s no such thing as an unorganized organism. Even the simple cell is organized. And the larger the organism, the more complex the organization. But it’s first and foremost an organism – in this case – made up of people.
As leaders we strive for alignment throughout the organization. Yet the effective leader also takes a deep dive as an active participant. She/he feels the humanness and the messiness that accompanies every complex organism. She/he understands where resistance to change is lodged. Conflicting needs are spotted. Both growth and stability are combined that leads to innovation and change. Those in charge see (balcony), and feel (basement), the tension which better equips them to lead.
2. Brief encounters give us the opportunity to be authentic. Authenticity means connecting with yourself and with others. Authenticity is often misunderstood. It’s not an individual sport. It’s a team sport. It’s not self-centered. It’s other-centered. It’s being true to yourself while at the same time bringing out the best in others. Saying whatever is on your mind might be spontaneous, but it’s not necessarily authentic. Being rude does not usually reflect what we say we value at our core. Being authentic is not “shooting from the hip.” If mutual respect is important then controlling our responses is acting authentically.
Authenticity and effectiveness go together. And it’s both personal and social. In the book Why Should Anyone Be Lead By You?, the authors talk about what it means to be authentic. “A leader has to be many things to many people. The trick is to pull that off while remaining true to yourself.”
3. Brief encounters become touchpoints that add value. Many interruptions are touchpoints in disguise. In his book Touchpoints: Creating Powerful Leadership Connections in the Smallest of Moments, Douglas Conant, former CEO of Campbell Soup, says that “small everyday encounters define your impact on your organization and your reputation.” These touchpoints are the multiple interactions we have everyday. What we think keeps us from our real work could be the real work. What if they were turned into opportunities to communicate vision, values, and culture? A time waster becomes a strategy enhancer.
As you touch people and add value to their life, you add value to your organization. Maybe it’s celebrating a success, discussing an issue, or answering a question. It cuts across all leadership encounters – teaching, coaching, parenting, managing. Look for ways to improve on those moments. As you listen, frame, and advance the conversation, your leadership comes to life.
Turning interruptions into interactions helps you understand the organization from the balcony to the basement – you see it and feel it. It affords you the opportunity to deploy your best self – your authentic self. It provides you with an opportunity to add value to others – turning the touchpoint into an impactful encounter.
6 brief encounters everyday adds up to over 2100 potentially powerful interactions each year.
That little moment is no small matter.
3 Ways To Set Tripwires In Those Important Areas Of Your Life
A tripwire is a passive triggering mechanism. It’s a cord, string, or wire that is attached to some device for detecting or reacting to physical movement. It’s an early warning system that some choices have to be made.
In the book Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath, they use the concept of a tripwire as a tool to make better decisions.
A tripwire is something that triggers a call to action. It tells you to pay attention. It could be a weight trigger that sets off your mental alarm to watch what you eat and start exercising. It might be a trigger that calls attention to the inattentiveness toward your loved ones. It could be a pre-established marker in your business that triggers the need for some important choices and actions.
The point? It’s harder to make a decision if you don’t know one needs to be made. That’s where tripwires come into play.
Since most of our day is on autopilot, we are prone to miss those little decisions that have a disproportionate impact on our lives. Tripwires serve us well. Rather than saying, “should I or should I not buy this product?” we can say, “if x, y, or z happens I will (or won’t) buy this.” This is much more productive than impulse buying, and it will help eliminate buyer’s remorse.
I have a friend who has a tripwire when attending parties or social events. His tripwire is 2 drinks and then bring on the sparkling water. He knows the results of having more, so the number 2 is the tripwire in his head. It reminds him of an important choice he must make. If he was on autopilot he would float right into the “land of Oz”.
Autopilot behavior in any endeavor – when communicating, driving, showering, eating, working – goes unexamined. This is not all bad. These are routines that don’t take up a lot of thinking. It frees our minds to consider other things. But when more scrutiny is needed, autopilot behavior ceases to serve us. When driving a car autopilot works just fine – that is until it’s time to change directions. The same principle works in the routines of our lives.
For instance, someone you know has always wanted to go on a particular trip. Yet year after year they keep putting it off, waiting for the right time. But putting it off becomes habitual. The only trip they ever take is to that fantasy island called “someday I’ll”. They need a tripwire. It could be a financial number that’s put aside for their trip. When they hit that number, they have a choice to make. The tripwire could be their health. How many years of great health do they have left? Pick a reasonable age, and when it comes – Go! The trap is to slowly drift into a stage of health that prohibits robust travel. A tripwire can help.
Tripwires are also helpful when it comes to relationships. Autopilot becomes an ally of denial. A tripwire can break the spell and force a decision. We’ve all heard the statement, “My boyfriend is disrespectful. He’s not treating me right. But hopefully he will change with time.” The wait and see attitude is the same as autopilot. A tripwire would alert you to act at choice points if certain behaviors don’t change. Being late, disrespectful tone, interrupting, changing the subject, etc., all become tripwires.
Here are 3 ways to set up tripwires in those important parts of your life.
1. Establish built in alarms at choice points. As stated earlier, it could be a weight on the scale. Maybe it’s a certain number in your checking account that sounds an alarm. Perhaps it’s a personal attitude. When you express it, there is an alarm that causes you to take note. I use this one when I’m driving. When I feel anger over someone’s driving behavior, an alarm goes off in my head. At that moment I catch myself and (usually), choose to respond rationally. I’m reminded that it’s my choice.
5 Ways To Overcome Your Fears
“Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.” – Francis Chan
Fear is a fact. We all experience it. When I talk about fears, I’m not referring to the phobias that people have or the adrenaline that explodes through our body when our safety is suddenly threatened. The first needs clinical help, and the second recedes as the danger passes.
I’m talking about those fears that keep you stuck in some area of your life – where you cheat yourself and the people who will benefit from your gifts.
It’s easy to say that fear is not real – that F.E.A.R. stands for “False Evidence About Reality”. And there is truth to that statement. We might regret the past, but we don’t fear it. The present isn’t what we fear either. What we are anxious about and fear (these are closely related), is the future. And since it hasn’t arrived, it is not real. It’s also true that many of the things we fear will not come to pass.
Yet fear persists. It distorts our ability to make decisions. It impacts our relationships, our health, our work, and our spirituality. In short, it prevents us from experiencing the “good life”. The more we buy into its control, the more we forget about our strengths, brilliance, and resilience.
Our fears can become the barrier to the life we truly want. Do you fear rejection, going broke, living alone? Who hasn’t had these fear-filled thoughts at some point? The problem is when they are isolated, amplified, and take control. When that happens, you have bought into the illusion. When you act on the illusion, at that point it becomes real. It acts as the escort of your terror – the irrational thinking, anxiety, and worry. Along with that come the side effects of a speeding heart and sleepless nights.
What actions can we take to move out of our fear and into greatness? The following are 5 ways to overcome your fears and take back control.
1. Be specific about your fears. Is it fear of loss, failure, risk, change, or even success? Hiding them gives them energy. By bringing them out into the light of day you decrease their power over you. By identifying them you begin to take back control. Rather than being haunted by them you are now dealing with them.
2. Change your perception. Listen to the stories you tell yourself about your intelligence and strengths. Your self-worth is just that – worth you ascribe to yourself. Expect to succeed. You can expect the best or the worst. It’s your choice, so why not expect the best. Your thinking will snowball in the direction you choose.
(5 Ways To Simplify And Get Back Control)
Clutter creates confusion. It is a threat to mental and emotional clarity. Life has enough complexities without adding fuel to our chaotic fire. Peace of mind – some call it flow – often eludes us. Ever so slowly our minds can drift into a state called “clutter tolerance.” We get so busy dodging the debris that our vision is clouded. Our sense of well-being is absorbed by all the litter in our mental and emotional landscape.
How do we release the stuff, reduce the noise, and reconnect with ourselves. The habit of clearing our spaces frees us to experience who we truly are.
Let’s dive a little deeper. Clutter is stuck energy. It impacts us like an unresolved issue that is let to linger. When you clear things out – whether it’s a wallet, drawer, old news items, the closet, desk, or even the refrigerator – you are clearing energy that is stuck and creating space for something new. Clutter clogs the flow. Uncluttering the space has the same effect as taking care of an unresolved issue.
Do you want your living space energized, your closet useable, your priorities clear, your desk under control, your day maximized? Here are 5 tips that will help you simplify your life and take back control.
1. Start small. If you are like me, you are not sure where to begin . So you don’t! Pick one spot on that mountain of stuff and begin. Don’t look at the whole elephant. Zero in. Mark Twain said, “Eat that green frog. That’s the hardest thing you will have to do that day.” Maybe it’s your desk. Clear it. Is it your closet? Organize it. It could be your email inbox. Empty it. Stick with just one thing until you’re done. I guarantee you will feel a freedom and a motivation for the next “small” project. Try doing too many things at once (multitasking), and everything will end up incomplete. Set one goal – and achieve it.
2. Work smarter. There’s a place for everything. It’s called a home. Make sure your stuff gets home. Putting things on your desk or the kitchen counter only adds misery to your life. It’s easy to shortcut the “put-it-where-it-belongs” principle. The result? We create piles that end up making no sense. Investing a small amount of time putting something where it should live will come back 10 fold. Turn it into a routine. Make it habitual. We schedule other important disciplines. Schedule this one as well. It’s a sure proof way to ward off the clutter gremlin. Work smarter, not harder.
3. Sort it out and throw it out. 2 areas to start sorting and throwing are your mailbox and your closet. With mail, don’t wait! Sort the junk from the personal…quickly. Then separate out the bills. Put them in a “bills to be paid” basket. When it’s time, pay them at one sitting. Beware of the magazine monster. If you aren’t going to read it soon, toss it! Be as drastic as possible.
Here Are 7 Ways To Be Intentionally Influential
“You can have everything in life you want just by helping others get what they want.” Zig Ziglar
Influencers? We hear how important they are and why we need them, but where are they? Better yet, what are they? According to The Free Dictionary “influence” is “A power affecting a person, thing, or course of events.” It operates without any direct or apparent effort. In that sense it’s different than manipulation or even control. It’s the capacity to be a compelling force. An influencer produces an effect on the actions, behaviors, and opinions of others.
But don’t misunderstand. You don’t have to be a person of influence to be influential. The truth is that the most influential people in my life are probably not even aware of the things they’ve taught me.
It’s easy to fall into the snare of thinking that influence is a matter of position, money, or personality. Everyone has the potential to influence others. The art of influence begins by realizing you DO have it. Everyday you can add value to others. You have the ability to influence up the chain of command as well as down that same chain. The biggest influencers in my life were those that added value to me. The result? My life appreciated in value.
Here are 7 ways to be intentionally influential in the lives of others.
1. Influential people celebrate the progress as well as the accomplishments of others. The journey is as important as the destination. There are times when folks can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. So light the candles in their hands to illuminate the area around them. Help them see the steps right in front of them. The end light will eventually be sighted, but in the meantime you can add value to their life by cheering their efforts – one step at a time.
2. Influential people expect the best and give others the benefit of the doubt. People tend to live up to the positive expectations of others. Wanting the very best for people and showing this in tangible ways is a great motivator. By expecting the best in others we help them follow their good intentions. They may not reach the top, but they will have reached higher.
3. Influential people have a mission and are motivated by values. As you identify your own needs, hopes, and values, you are influencing others to do the same. Research (Daniel Pink) shows that one of the major intrinsic human motivators is purpose. When others observe this in you, they are internally driven to do the same. It was there all along. You just stoked the fire.
5 Benefits Engaged Millennials Bring To The Workplace
“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence. It’s to act with yesterday’s logic.” – Peter Drucker
Many organizations are rethinking, re-imagining, and reinventing the workplace. They are doing so for a number of reasons. As they look at current trends, they become better at understanding future demographics. They are not looking simply to cope with the changes, but rather to use them as a backdrop for proactive learning. The changes have become a catalyst rather than a roadblock.
A learning organization is made up of learning individuals (Peter Senge). That starts with the right questions:
- How can we improve what we are doing?
- What is the best way to grow our business in a 24/7 nonstop global community?
- How could the changing demographics in our workplace make us faster and better at delivering services and products?
- What needs to be changed in our processes and procedures to make us more viable?
- How do we leverage this new generation in light of our future needs?
These organizations know that by 2020 the global talent shortage will be in full bloom. Future employees (mostly Millennials), will expect their workplace to reflect certain characteristics. And proactive organizations see them as advantages.
Here are 5 benefits organizations are gaining by engaging their Millennial workforce.
1. A move toward “distributed” decision making. In traditional organizations decisions are made by central command because that’s where the information collected. But today, with the entrance of the internet, there is a pipeline of information available to everyone. The skills for great decision making need to be diverse, dynamic, and ever-evolving in order to keep up with rapid change.
Distributed decision making happens when leadership rises organically. A chain of command can act like a bottleneck slowing down this highly engaging system. Millennials have worked in groups collaborating with each other their entire lives. The person with the most relevant information takes the lead. It’s organic and unfettered by a hierarchical system.
Millennials demonstrate high collaboration skills which allows for distributed decision making. Pepsico does this well (www.pepsicoblogs.com). They encourage two-way dialogue. They understand that a company must support bottom-up-decision-making power.
2. A need for work flexibility to meet talent shortages. Yes, there are places where virtual work doesn’t add value – mining, construction, manufacturing, etc. But the virtual work list is growing larger and larger (in spite of Marissa Mayer’s recent kibosh on offsite workers at Yahoo).
Talent pools are not always in convenient locations. They shift overtime. So recruiting, training, and retaining talent is partly solved by having flexible working arrangements. The attachment of certain skills to a company’s location is not as strong as it used to be. Companies are now able to exploit employee’s skills from a variety of places. Organizations who engage the best of this new generation understand that they have a workforce that’s wired, plugged in, connected, and empowered.
3. More “premium” time spent on work-related issues. We know there are negative risks to being freed from the 9 to 5 cubicle. But companies that are open to the process have a different way of thinking. It’s a natural tendency for an organization to focus on waning loyalty and excess socializing in the office. Yet consider this. If Boomers hinted at work-life balance, then Generation X pushed for it.
Not so for Millennials. It’s all fused together — more of a work-life blend. The lines for both work and life are blurred. In our research we use the term blend, which in reality isn’t the best term for what they do as much as a result of what we see. We observe a blend of both work and life. They just do life, which includes work. They might well be working at 10pm somewhere away from the office. That becomes premium time.
Here Are 5 Ways To Develop It
“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” – Albert Einstein
We live in a target-rich environment. As a result it’s easy to get distracted from a strategic life and chase after so many things that seem important. This can lead to behaving like a puppy in the park – chasing after everything that looks interesting.
Yet the other extreme is that we can become so goal oriented and focused that we lose our curiosity. When it comes to learning, curiosity is the lever that starts the process as well as the energy that keeps it going. The best learners are naturally curious. I will confess that my curiosity can lead to impulsive behavior. So I must manage it, but not eradicate it. That comes with practice.
We know through studies of the brain that curiosity is associated with learning, memory, and motivation. The flipside is that when there is a neurodegenerative disease (eg. Alzheimer’s), curiosity levels seem to drop in the same proportion.
So we can simply define this complex word as “inquisitive”, “eager to learn”, “arousing interest.”
Curiosity has scared people down through the centuries. There has been a bias by some to shut down this basic innate emotion. There are pundits and philosophers who have denounced it as a trait leading to moral decay. And who hasn’t heard the phrase, “Curiosity killed the cat.” Research would show that the opposite is true.
If you own a cat, do some observing. A cat displays curiosity around 80% of its waking hours. Most domestic cats live between 12 to 14 years. So it wasn’t curiosity that lead to the cat’s end. With the amount of curiosity behavior displayed, cats wouldn’t live past a few months!
The reality is that curiosity has a bias towards survival and achievement. It also has some cousins that stay close by. Their names are patience, perseverance, resourcefulness, imagination, and problem solving. They assist curiosity, perpetuating health and promoting life.
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