Friday, January 28, 2011

The Big "D" --Without this we flounder

So, January is pretty much over and 2011 is now well underway.  As I reflect on my life so far this year and the changes I am trying to make I find myself just about every day asking:

  • How is it going? 
  • Are you on track?
  • Is this going be your year?
  • Are we there yet?
  • Why is change so hard?
  • Is it really worth it?
  • Why don't I have more discipline?

I have always had a strong desire to achieve greatness in all the roles I play in life: husband, father, professional, entrepreneur, athlete, and child of God.  I was born with this desire and sometimes I worry that it is a curse because when I don't feel like I have reached greatness in any of these roles I get impatient and restless and wonder what the heck is taking so long!  And if I am not careful I find myself questioning either the merit of becoming great or whether greatness is even possible.  I realize that it is at these very times I run the risk of quitting--or stopping my daily pursuit of greatness--and I become aware that if I don't reverse this line of thinking I may only ever fully achieve...mediocrity!

Maybe you are like me and feel similar feelings from time to time, or maybe all the time.   I have discovered something really useful in overcoming this human tendency to flounder or give up on the difficult path to greatness.  (By the way, few people get past this point of difficulty and that's what gives greatness its true value.)


Stephen Covey captured what I am talking about when he wrote: "When we find purposes we truly wish to pursue, half-hearted commitments are not enough.  Successful quests come only through steady, paced, every day efforts--practice after practice, night after night, step after step."

The good, no great, news is that if you go boldly enough in your quest to become your best you will feel a fire start to burn in your heart that will keep you focused and steady in the inevitably difficult road ahead.  That fire of boldness will be your best weapon to conquer distraction and fear and display the necessary discipline to stay on course.

If you want to be great--define it as you like but I define it as consistently exerting effort and getting results in line with what I know to be my real potential--then you probably regularly set goals for yourself that will get you closer to your vision, or dream, of what you want to become.  On any given day we actually work on making that vision a reality.  But how many cotton-pickin' times do we feel the tug or resistance of life pull us back to the launching pad??!!

If happiness is knowing that we are getting closer to realizing our vision for ourselves--by actually doing the daily work required and overcoming obstacles then we owe it to ourselves to be disciplined.  Conversely, if a lack of discipline distracts and derails us (and it will!) then we will find ourselves fading back to the launching pad, or never lifting off at all, and we ultimately will accomplish less than we know we could.  This results in regret and sadness.

Before you (or I) feel overwhelmed at the prospect of living a constrained, no-fun, boring life of nothing but discipline remember that if you find that bold dream and commit to it you will very likely find the passion you need to overcome whatever difficult things await you on the path to achieving your greatness.
One brief but important personal example.  My wife, Wendy, has always loved to sleep.  Her body has been through the ringer over the years and she has often needed more sleep than others, like me.  However, she has always wanted to serve people in the healthcare profession.  Six months ago she became a certified phlebotomist and promptly was hired at the local hospital on an on-call basis.  This means that she now regularly gets up at 3:30AM to start her morning rounds at 4:30AM! Every morning when she wakes me up (unintentionally I'm sure ;-) with the lights or the blow dryer I am still amazed and proud that she has been able to make this hard change she needed to realize her dream of helping people.  In the context of choosing more sleep or boldly living her vision to reach her full potential the choice seems obvious but how many of us have connected with that bold vision? 

What gets you out of bed in the morning?  What convinces you to turn off the TV and get to work--whatever that work may be?  Is your vision for yourself bold enough to enable you to find the discipline needed to stay focused, to work hard and make it a reality?

Dream boldly enough and the discipline will come.  When discipline is present in our lives greatness follows!

Go be great! One disciplined day at a time.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Year for the Bold...and the Resilient

Ahh New Year's Day!   What is it about this day that compels most of us to make "resolutions?"  Is it guilt from eating, spending and relaxing too much over the holidays?  Perhaps. How many of these "new" goals to eat better, exercise more, i.e. lose weight, save more money, stop smoking, be nicer, etc. will be given up on by Groundhog Day??!!  That is the fallacy of this so-called resolution cleansing process that almost always leads to disappointment and another year of roughly the same level of personal performance.

Here's my take:  I am absolutely all about reflecting on our lives and setting or re-setting goals to ensure we are on the right path and moving forward.  In fact, this weekly review is something I teach in Bridges and is absolutely key to effecting lasting change in our lives.

That said, but for the once-a-year opportunity to straddle the past year and the upcoming year New Year's Day is really just another day.  And we kid ourselves if we think that by making our goal an official "New Year's Resolution" that our ability to actually accomplish it is somehow magically enhanced. It's not.

So, in order to make the most of this tradition this time of year make, or re-make, your New Year's goals with the following keys in mind.
  1. Go bold. If you dig deep enough into your persona you will very likely find that you know what you really want to and should do this year (is it really all that different than that past ten or twenty New Year's?) but fear, self-doubt and conformity hold you back. The world gets no better when people shoot for average.  Do we encourage our kids to stop just short of the line of greatness??!! No!  We say blow right past it.  Why should it be any different for ourselves?? I contend that setting bold goals is what gets us closer to being great than nearly anything else.
  2. Write down your goals and review them weekly.  What sounds great on New Year's Day can often lose its luster--or be totally forgotten--by February or March if we don't take the time to write and review our goals regularly.  If you are serious about making change--not just talking about it--then a weekly review is a must.
  3. Feel great about the fact that you are even thinking about setting resolutions/goals.  The prospects of accomplishing your goals this new year and of becoming more than you were on December 31, 2010 are raised significantly as you put forth the optimism and energy it takes to combat the natural complacency and laziness we all face when trying to make change.   When you decide to change and actually do something about it you are entering rare air.  Good for you!
  4. Be ready for the "hardness" that comes when your goals meet the rhythm of your current life and you feel like quitting.  This very moment is when we get to choose to change and be great or do what most people do and simply stay the same.  This is where change happens and resilience--a fierce commitment to your goals--is what makes it a reality.

Last note: Bold doesn't have to mean big or crazy, it means doing things that are strategic or key to your life-long pursuit of improvement.  This pursuit happens one step at a time and without a bold goal to pursue we may find ourselves bored or tired, or both, and end up becoming less than we are capable of becoming.  My example for 2011: I want to run a marathon in less than 4 hours.  I have never even run a marathon but am sure that if I keep that as my ultimate goal and maybe even register for one this week for later this summer I will stay focused on the day-to-day training and habits that will help me accomplish this bold idea for me.

I say, go bold or don't go at all.  But if you do go bold be prepared to be resilient and literally fight through the myriad things that will try to prevent you from becoming your best.

If you are ready for change then consider this: Compared to today, it will always be harder to start making changes tomorrow, or next New Year's. Don't wait.

At the very least resolve to keep an eye on what we are doing here at Bridges and practice what we preach.

Today, indeed every day this year, could be your day.  It's up to you!