There’s a System for That

Do you suffer from any of the following:

  • A cluttered house
  • Forgetting important dates or events
  • An out of control email in box
  • Not knowing what you need when you’re at the grocery store until AFTER you get home
  • A car full of junk
  • Not knowing where you put your keys
  • Forgetting the login and password you picked for a specific website

If so, it may be the result of not having systems in place for certain areas of your life.  What I mean by a system is simply a set of behaviors you regularly perform for a specific situation.  Here’s what a system might look like in a real-life scenario.

Let’s say my house is always cluttered and messy, which causes me to feel frustrated.  A system for keeping my house from being cluttered would involve adopting and maintaining behaviors like:

  • Assigning a specific place for each of my items
  • When I’m done using something, instead of laying it on the first convenient place I can think of, I will put it where it belongs (e.g. Dishwasher, laundry bin, closed, garbage, recycle, closet, etc.)
  • I will regularly go through my things and get rid of anything that I no longer use so that my house stays free from unneeded items.

A system like this identifies clear behaviors that will yield the outcome you desire.

When I don’t have systems in place, or don’t follow the systems I do have, I tend to do what’s most convenient at the time.  Operating by convenience rather than by established systems tends to cause parts of my life to feel out of control and chaotic.  Without specific systems in place, anything goes!  Clothes go on the floor, dishes stay in the sink, and important things become forgotten or left undone.

Do you have areas in your life that would benefit from some new systems?  If so, start with just one area you’d like to improve and do the following:

  • Envision the outcome you want
  • Create a system of behavior that will achieve that outcome
  • Work the system

Chaos and disorder are almost always the result of a system that needs to be put into place or a bad system that needs to be revamped.  Start adding systems to your life to remove chaos and disorder and begin enjoying a less stressful existence.

 

 

What a Difference A Week Makes

My wife and I got a new cat 2 weeks ago.  We named him Chewy.  The 1st week was rough!  Chewy had a traumatic introduction to our house and also destroyed a piece of furniture via bodily functions.  I was extremely frustrated.  All I could see was a future of destroyed furniture and a cat that didn’t like being in our home.

In an effort to start over, we moved Chewy into the spare bathroom with his food, water, litter box, bedding, and toys.  We also spent time in there with him every day and re-started the slow process of building trust.

Since being in his own space, and coupled with our consistent effort, Chewy has become very comfortable and affectionate with us.  He is adapting well and is a totally different cat than he was a week ago.

This experience reminded me of other times when I have been in frustrating situations, or ones that were not what I was expecting.  In those moments, it can be hard to see past the present situation and into a brighter future.  However, I think being able to have a long-term perspective while in the middle of a bad situation is crucial.  Keeping a longer-term perspective helps us stay motivated to take the necessary actions today that will lead us to the brighter future we envision.

As we all know, not every difficult situation is rectified with a week.  Some situations require a longer timeframe.  Others require much longer timeframe.  But nothing happens, nothing changes our situation, when we fail to take the necessary action to move us forward.

Today’s frustration can be distracting and, if we lack a long-term perspective, that frustration can keep us from doing the work required to pave the path to our better future.  That’s why it’s so important to see beyond our current situation.  For it is multiple days of consistent effort in the right direction that will one day cause us to look back and say, “Wow!  What a difference a <insert timeframe> makes!”

How Will You Live Them?

According to the World Health Organization, the overall life expectancy in the United States is 79 years.  That’s a long time!  What’s encouraging to me is no matter what our life expectancy, we get to choose how we live our years.

Think about that for a moment.  We get to choose:

  • How we will spend our time
  • What areas of interest we will pursue
  • What we will study and learn
  • The skills we will develop
  • The attitude and world view we will adopt
  • How we will treat others
  • Our level of intellectual development and learning
  • Who we will spend time with
  • What contribution we will make in the world
  • The experiences we’ll have
  • Whether or not we will stretch out of our comfort zone

What a significant and exciting responsibility!  We get to choose what we do with our years and how they will shape us, now and in the future.

Last Sunday, my pastor was preaching on a similar topic regarding life expectancy and what we do with the years we’re given.  During his sermon, he made the following statement:

Don’t live one year 79 times.”

That got my attention.

The statement reminds me that as we get older, we are not required to grow, develop, discover, learn, and get better with each passing year.  That’s optional.  It is something we get to decide to do, or not.  I am also reminded that growth is not automatic.  Getting better as we age doesn’t just happen; rather it takes intentional action from us.

What is automatic is being exactly the same at the end of a year as you were at the beginning.  Unless we decide, and take action on how we will spend our years, we can be assured we will be exactly the same this year as we were last year.  And so on, for as long as we choose not to be intentional with how we spend them.  Without intentional effort, the current year will look just like the previous one.

What are you looking forward to in 2016?  Is there anything you’d like to attain, learn, experience, or become this year that you didn’t in 2015?  If so, start planning specific actions you can take throughout the year to become better this year than you were last year.

Seventy nine years is a long time, but it sure feels like they go quick; and even more so the older we get!  Let’s decide today to learn, grow, and become better as we get older.   Aging and getting better doesn’t always go hand in hand.  If we’re not intentional about getting better, then age comes alone.

Cultivating Good Ideas

I started this blog 153 weeks ago with the goal of consistently posting one entry per week.  So far, I haven’t missed a week yet!  What’s amazed me most about this journey is how every week I find a new idea to write about.

I like to post my entries on Saturday, but on Sunday, 6 days prior to posting, I usually have no idea what I’m going to write about.  It isn’t until I start going through my weekly routines of reading, having conversations with people, and listening to positive content that an idea for a topic pops into my mind.  These ideas burst onto the stage of my mind without any warning.  It’s an amazing process that I’ve really enjoyed over the past 153 weeks.

Ideas don’t just happen.  Whether it’s ideas for writing, planning, or myriad other forms of creation, I think there are certain disciplines we can practice to greatly increase our likelihood of coming up with good ideas.  Those disciplines include the following:

Expect that you can and will come up with good ideas

Henry Ford stated it well when he said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”  Pay attention how you talk to yourself regarding your ability to come up with ideas.  Instead of telling yourself you’re not good at coming up with ideas, change the internal dialog and state how capable you are of coming up with not just one, but several good ideas.

Consume positive content

Positive content, in the form of conversations, reading, podcasts, or any other method, is the fertilizer that helps grow new thoughts and ideas.  Your ideas will come out of whatever you have been putting into your mind, so be mindful of what you’re allowing in.

Set a deadline to come up with good ideas

For me, I imposed an artificial deadline of generating a blog post every week.  This created a sense of urgency that forced me to generate an idea.  So far it’s worked out well.

Practice cultivating good ideas

Every day, write down 10 good ideas on any topic.  It can be anything from ideas for generating extra money to titles for a make-believe TV show.  The objet here is to just get in the practice of generating ideas.  The more we do it, the better we can become at coming up with ideas.  James Altucher says that this is how you stretch your “idea muscle” and become and “idea machine”.

Set yourself up to be a generator of good ideas by following the steps above, or share some of your own ideas for generating ideas in the comments below.

Ideas are the starting point of all new adventures.  If you want to have a more adventurous life, you only need to start having more ideas.

Goals Alone Won’t Do

Everyone likes to have goals.  There is something exciting and encouraging about looking to the future and envisioning how it could be.  However, just having a goal is not enough, at least if you want your goal to become a reality.  The setting of a goal is easy.  Creating a plan of action to achieve your goal can be challenging.

I was listening to Jeff Haden on The Learning Leader Show podcast talk about the importance of having an action plan with steps you can take that will move you closer to the attainment of a goal.  This was information I’ve heard a zillion times, but this time, it was like hearing it for the first time.  It’s weird how that works!

Like most people, I’ve been guilty of setting goals and not following through with them.  I love the end of the year because I focus on what I want the next year to look like and write down a number of very specific goals.  Some I achieve, and others I lose track of or don’t make the progress I’d like to.

Upon hearing Jeff’s message, I realized that in all the goal setting I’ve done, I have never actually written out the specific action steps and timeframe to accompany the goal I’d like to achieve.  No wonder several of my goals are unattained or forgotten.  If I don’t identify what I need to do to attain them, it’s largely just wishful thinking.

It got me thinking, in order to help me reset my existing goals, and get a jump on the system I’ll use for next year’s goals, I think I need to integrate the following concepts:

  • Describe the specific goal
  • Determine the action steps I’ll need to take to achieve the goal
  • Make a plan to take these action steps on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis
  • Revisit this plan at least weekly

In addition to the above concepts, it also seems important to break up large goals into a series of smaller goals that take less than 90 days to achieve.  Larger goals that take 12 months to achieve can feel overwhelming or breed a false sense that they can be started later since they won’t be realized for quite some time.   When broken down into a series of smaller goals we increase the likelihood of building momentum having early success.

If goals are worth having, then we should have a process in place that ensures the greatest probability of seeing them fulfilled.

The next time you’re setting goals for yourself, try integrating these ideas.  The only thing that stands in the way of where you are and where you want to be is the actions required to get there.

You Already Know

My wife has been traveling for work a lot lately, so she’s interesting in looking for tips to help her pack lighter or more efficient.  After she had looked up some tips on-line I asked her, “So what did you learn that you can start applying?”  Her response was, “Nothing I didn’t already know.”

That response got me thinking.  How many things do we already know we should be doing, that we aren’t?  My guess is that in the gap between where we are and where we want to be, we already know the steps we need to take to get there.  At a minimum, we usually know the specific step we should take right now.

The real question then becomes; what’s keeping us from doing what we already know we should be doing?  There are several potential reasons, such as:

  • Fear – of all sorts
  • Indecision
  • Lack of confidence
  • Lack of focus
  • Laziness
  • Maybe we just don’t feel like putting forth the effort

So there we sit, where we’ve always been because we know what we need to do, but don’t do it.

Think about that.  When we already know what we need to be doing to achieve a desired outcome, and fail to act, the only thing standing between us and our goal… is us!

What do you already know you should be doing, that you currently aren’t?  Do you already know what you need to be doing in order to:

  • Improve a relationship
  • Get in better health/shape
  • Manage your finances better
  • Advance your career
  • Improve yourself intellectually or spiritually
  • Live the life you desire

If you answered, “Yes”, then starting today, get out of your own way and do what you already know you need to be doing.  You are not only the biggest obstacle to overcome in achieving your dreams; you are also the greatest force to bring them about.

This is What Discipline Looks Like

I used to play the drums when I was in high school.  Although it was fun to sit at my drum set and play, I was never very good.  What held me back was my unwillingness to put in the disciplined practice to master the fundamentals and hone my skills.  Eventually, I gave up the  drums to pursue other interests.  Looking back, I wish I would have stuck with it and been disciplined in my practice.

Since I’m familiar with drumming, I’m always interested in watching really good drummers perform.  Earlier this week, I came across a video of a performance by Neal Peart, the drummer for the band Rush.

This guy is awesome!  When I first saw the video, I was amazed at how easy Neal made playing the drums look.    As I continued watching, it became apparent that he has also spent thousands of hours mastering his craft.  He was obviously both willing and disciplined to pay the price to achieve mastery. His performance was a striking example of what the results of discipline look like.

Is there a craft or skill that you want to master or hone?  If so, realize that it will take time and effort.  However, most important, if it’s something you really want, commit yourself to its disciplined pursuit.  Be willing to put in the time required.  Neal Peat didn’t become an excellent drummer in a single day.  Neither will you achieve mastery of your craft in a single day either.  Like most things that are worthwhile, it will take time.

Be willing to put in the time.