Sometimes we wait for someone to give us permission and other times we take the initiative. Waiting for permission is a way of limiting ourselves, not living to our potential.
There are times to wait. We wait at a red stoplight even in the middle of the night when we don’t see any traffic. We might raise our hand before speaking in a group. We wait for our manager or customer to activate a project start. There are times not to wait. For example, seeking peer approval of a group of friends or work colleagues before we start on a goal of personal importance or acting on matters of values and principles.
Take the initiative. Jump in because we think we have the plan or “the answer” or we have confidence in a special skill. Permission implies we are waiting for “authority”. Leadership requires some risk taking. We can lead even if we are not the “top person” by rank. Mastery, experience and wisdom have value.
Some would say it is better to choose to act then ask for forgiveness later. It depends on the situation. Of course, judgement is required. Some actions don’t have easy responses and so we plan, think and even pray. The key point is just being aware of our choices. We must live intentionally and purposefully.
Are you leading or following? Are you timid or do you have courage? What are the items on your Vision or Goals that require initiative?
Do you work better with self-imposed (internal) deadlines or those that come externally? Let’s start with some examples:
- You want to update your resume so that you can apply for a new job (this is internal because no one else is telling you to do it and you have a choice).
- A customer or your manager requires you to complete a project by a certain date (this is external, you don’t have a choice).
- You are planning a big birthday party for someone in your family (probably a blend of internal and external).
External implies little or no control of the situation; you must do it. Externally imposed deadlines usually get done because there is a consequence. The consequence could be positive (an incentive exists) or negative (fear of losing a job or peer pressure).
Deadlines are the pretty much the same as goals. A life skill in goal accomplishment is personal accountability including motivation, planning and discipline (and avoiding procrastination). The insight is to use these same skills for self-imposed goals too.
If the goal is long-term, e.g. successfully transition to a new job by January 2019 then Vision is needed too. Don’t forget to make goals and deadlines SMART: specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and timed.
An interesting discovery when I looked at the definition of deadline when I found this: “a line drawn around a prison beyond which prisoners were liable to be shot”. Now that is a consequence.
We each have a uniqueness and specialness to our lives. I am convinced that we are born with some (all?) of it and that it is even God-given. Knowing it is part of the purpose journey because there is power and energy from seeing life-long patterns. Specialness includes ways of thinking, talents, nationality and more. The “world” (parents, school, work, society) causes us to lose it because it doesn’t want us to be too “different”. The world doesn’t seem to like people who live outside of a framework…and so we conform (or get bullied). Specialness must be (re)discovered.
When we are very young there are less boundaries on behavior. But then we go to school and immediately we “must be quiet in class” or study specific topics in certain ways. Socialization starts with our parents but becomes more obvious in a big school system or at work. We conform and lose a little bit of ourselves, sometimes reluctantly and sometime unknowingly. As we progress through life we assume other life roles. Our company culture, society’s expectations for men and women and our religion are all working on us. What is the cost to our soul?
I presume that socialization is unstoppable and even necessary. When we are young we are not equipped to challenge these forces. As adults we can rediscover our uniqueness. Do you know and embrace your specialness? Can you think of the earliest time in your life when it first became evident?
The patterns of our life seem to get fixed and remain that way. We are on auto-pilot when we stay in the same job, eat at the same restaurants, sit in the same chair, watch the same TV shows. It’s comfortable. Rhythm and routine are important but it’s a fine line between comfort and no growth. The problem starts because we live unconsciously, on auto-pilot.
Do you know what you are thinking about in this very moment? Consciousness is stepping back from our mindless thoughts and operating at a higher level…simply being aware of our thoughts and our current circumstances. It is being mindful and fully present to the moment with all of our senses.
Are your thoughts in the past or the future? Are you intentionally single-tasking or multi-tasking? Did you somehow drive home from work and not recall the trip? These are the times our thoughts are less than focused, maybe unconscious to us in the moment. These circumstances happen but it doesn’t have to be that way, at least not all the time.
We must “choose to choose” rather than just be carried through the current of life. What are some new decisions or behaviors you might choose? Brainstorm first and allow yourself a moment to chart a new course. Pick one thing that takes you off auto-pilot. Consider slowing down or journaling or reading. Don’t keep doing the same things and expecting a different result.
Take one small (or big) step each day consistent with your SMART Goals and you will change your life. Align your goals with your Vision…heart, mind, body and soul. These steps form a process to live a life of potential. The image above shows an example.
Action must be preceded with ideas, choices and planning (and don’t minimize these). We only have a limited amount of time and should use it wisely. This “thinking” work focuses our action so that we execute well and allows us to do “right things right”. Action is directed to family, relationships, career, personal development, service and more. This helps us to become the best person we can be (and choose to be).
Your life plan deserves requires regular attention. Start by defining your ideal life (Vision). Review and update it weekly because we become what we think and believe. While the introspection is important, you can’t stop there. Action is the accomplishment of the goal-related tasks and this Action must be daily. It is the consistent accomplishment of Action items that builds confidence and self-worth.
It is too easy to waste time on the little things such as e-mail or house work. They are necessary but insufficient. We deserve downtime and fun too; these modes are necessary but still insufficient. Avoid procrastination and “eat that frog”. Don’t confuse busy-ness with productivity or progress. We have 24 hours per day and a little bit spent each day on purposeful Action will change your life.
Thoughts pop into our head all day long. Some come and go and others linger. Some make us happy and others accumulate into unnecessary stress. Thoughts get compared to beliefs and might turn into emotions. These emotions can work for us or against us…toward our vision and goals or away. It can unfold in seconds or linger for days. Let’s look at the process.
- Thoughts. A thought pops into our head. We are not fully mindful.
- Beliefs. These thoughts get compared to intrinsic beliefs. These beliefs are “truth” for us but not necessarily everyone else because we tell ourselves “stories”.
- Emotions. Emotions instantaneously emerge from these thoughts and beliefs. Some accumulate into unhealthy stress.
- Actions. Finally, we choose to react or respond. Reacting is what we do without thinking and sometimes gets us into trouble. It’s usually better to take a deep breath and respond with your mind engaged.
Here is an example. You agree to host the holiday dinner for the extended family for the first time. Your thoughts go to planning…what to buy and where to sit. You believe (hope, pray) that it is an event that should go without incident. You want to show you can do it with excellence. Emotions emerge as things go slightly wrong…a drink spilled or a casserole burned. You say something (the action) that you later regret.
Pause for a moment to check what you are thinking. Don’t judge it; just acknowledge it. This begins the journey of mindfulness.
Living to our potential includes elements of attitude and aptitude. Put together, they help us soar to new heights in our personal or work lives. It starts with choices: positive thoughts, supportive relationships and new skills and abilities.
Attitude emerges from our thoughts and belief systems. Ideally, it is the positive belief that you can do something and even the thought that you should do something rather than procrastinating. It is also the belief that others are trying their best too. It is the spark of motivation, often hidden from our conscious thought. It can be fueled by a clear personal Vision and related Goals. It can be lost in a moment of despair or crisis.
Aptitude is related to skills and abilities and includes ongoing growth-seeking learning and experiences. There is a desire to get better at something, even master it. You must choose where to focus growth. It may be in managing relationships, leadership or a technical skill. Let your passion guide you.
Both are important, but I have a belief bias that attitude is THE essential ingredient in life and career. Belief in yourself is powerful. Internally, it takes some significant experiences to develop this confidence and belief. Externally, it helps to receive encouragement from others, to have family, friends and managers that believe in you and make an “investment” in you.
Altitude is the outcome and up to you…up, down or flat. What new heights do you seek? Are you in touch with your attitude and aptitude?