Several Little Things

We’ve all seen stories about people who achieve a remarkable feat like living to 100 years of age, being married over 50 years, building a successful business, or a number of other worthy accomplishments. Invariably, these people are asked, “So what’s the secret of your success? What did you do to achieve what you have?” Usually people respond with one or two things that they attribute to their success.

I don’t think that’s quite accurate. Very rarely is success achieved by doing just 1 thing. Success in any venture is often the result of consistently doing several little things.

Here’s what got me thinking about this…

Earlier this week I went to see the doctor for my annual physical (Good times!!). Everything looked good and my doctor told me I was doing a good job with regard to my health. At one point he asked me what I do to maintain good health. I responded with something like exercise and drink water. After I left the doctor’s office I realized that good health is achieved by more than just exercise. In addition, it’s important to also:

  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs
  • Get the proper amount of sleep every night
  • Avoid excess sugar consumption
  • Fill your mind with positive content
  • Reduce wasting significant time with your face buried in a computer/phone screen
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Spend time with people who charge you up
  • Spend time reading instead of watching TV
  • Continually learn new skills
  • Regularly get out of your comfort zone
  • Do some physical activity every day

And that’s just the start!

It’s not just one thing that causes people to be successful. It’s the discipline to consistently do the little things that move you toward success.

Is there something you’d like to achieve in your life? If so, the best way to make progress is to consistently do the little things that seem to have no immediate impact. Begin doing those little things as part of your daily routine and you’ll be amazed at the progress you can make in a month, year, decade, or lifetime.

What Can I Bring?

It’s a common question to ask when you’re invited over to someone’s house for dinner, a barbecue, or any other get –together, “What can I bring?”  When we ask this question, we’re stating that we want to contribute something to the event that will hopefully make it better and enhance the experience for everyone in attendance.

Have you ever thought of asking that same question of yourself in the context of:

  • Your work
  • Your marriage or relationship with your significant other
  • Your family
  • Your closest friendships
  • Your community
  • Your life

Just to be clear, I’m not talking about what you can bring in the form of snacks or something to eat.  I’m talking about what you can bring of yourself to your life, and the lives of others, that will cause them to be better because you showed up and brought something.

Take your work, school, or community; can you bring leadership, perspective, or vision?

What about your family, friends, or significant other?  How would your relationships change if you brought love, encouragement, compassion, grace, or maybe forgiveness?

And how would your life change if every day you decided to bring to it a positive attitude, a sense of humor and adventure, and an eagerness to learn,  grow, and apply what you’ve learned to positively impact the lives of those around you?

For me personally, I’m eager to find out!

We all have something good we can bring to our life and the lives of others.  Be aware of what you have to offer the world and constantly ask yourself, “What can I bring?”  Then once you have determined what you can bring…BRING IT!

There are untold lives waiting to be positively impacted by what you bring; most importantly, yours.

What Football Can Teach Us About Goal Setting

With 2014 drawing to a close, many people have begun setting goals for 2015.  I like setting goals for the coming year.  It provides direction, purpose, and focus for the next 12 months.  However, sometimes it can be frustrating when we don’t see immediate results, and it feels like we’re not making progress as quickly as we’d like.  When this occurs, I think we can gain great perspective and encouragement from the sport of American football.

The objective of American football is for the offense to advance the ball down the field and into the end zone for a touchdown.  What’s interesting, from the standpoint of pursuing goals, is the process for advancing the ball.  In its simplest form, the offense:

  1. Huddles up to hear the play (the plan) that will be run on the upcoming down
  2. Lines up and executes the play
  3. Examines the results, makes any necessary adjustments, and runs another play

That’s so similar to the process of pursuing a goal we’ve established.  While pursuing a goal we:

  1. Create a plan for achieving our goal
  2. Execute our plan
  3. Examine our results periodically, make any needed adjustments, and continue forward with our plan

We continue this process until the year is up or the goal is achieved.  In either case, we continue the pursuit of our goal, or define a new set of goals and advance toward their achievement.

It’s pretty uncommon in football that the offense will throw the ball all the way down field and score a touchdown every time they have the ball.  Likewise, our big goals are rarely achieved on our first attempt.  They usually take time and consistent effort, as well as an occasional tweaking of our plan, rather than one quick heroic effort.  That’s how the majority of touchdowns are scored and how goals are achieved.

As you set your goals for 2015 and create plans to achieve them, remember the following: they will take time to achieve and adjusting your plan is part of the process.  If you stay committed to the process, I have now doubt you’ll achieve the goals you set.

Art and Artists

A couple of months ago my wife and I were on vacation, hiking in Southern Utah.  While we were passing through the small community of Bluff UT, we stopped in at Comb Ridge Coffee for lunch.  While we were there, I bought a tumbler created by one of the local artists.  I was captivated by its shape, colors and feel and have enjoyed drinking ice water from it every day since arriving home.  Not only is it a functional beverage container, it is a beautiful piece of art.

Tumbler

At first, it seems strange to refer to a beverage container as art.  Usually when I think of art, an image of a painting usually comes to mind, or a song, photograph, or statue.  However, art can be broadly defined to include anything done to an exceptional level or an extraordinary degree.

With this new art paradigm, my boundaries of what art is just exploded!  Now, I see so much art around me.  Things I never would have considered art before.  Things like:

  • Quality relationships
  • Exceptional marriages
  • Extraordinary parenting
  • Superior leadership

In addition to my expanded definition of art, I also now see myself as an artist.  Not as one who always creates exceptional or extraordinary results, but as one who is simply striving to do so.

It’s easy to tell ourselves, “I’m not an artist because I can’t draw, paint, sing …”, but that’s no longer true.  This new paradigm, where anything done to an exceptional level or extraordinary degree is art, grants all of us great opportunity to become artists of our own lives.  No longer is our form of artistic expression limited to paint, canvas, or clay.  Now we can be artistic with the words we use to communicate, the care we take in building and cultivating important relationships, or the method we use to learn and explore the environment around us.

Today, begin seeing yourself as an artist and your life as the medium for creating a beautiful work of art.  The world needs the beauty of the art you are capable of creating.

Where are Your Decisions Leading You

Think about the all the small decisions you make on a daily basis and project those decisions out 1, 5, or 10 years into the future, and ask yourself:

  • What kind of physical shape will I be in?
  • Will I have improved my thinking, learning and personal development?
  • How will my relationships with the ones closest to me look?
  • What kind of spiritual condition will I be in?
  • How will my financial health look?

All of these areas of our lives matter and they are influenced by our daily decisions.  Our choices, whether good or bad, may not have an immediate impact for days, months, or even longer, but eventually the compounding effect of these decisions will become noticeable.  For example, if every day we’re making unhealthy decisions, a health related crisis is coming that will demand our attention.  If however, we’re taking care of our bodies and making wise choices regarding our health, we can look forward to a healthy body that will serve us well in the years ahead.

Small daily decisions yield significant results over time.  Where are your daily decisions leading you?

An Opportunity to Practice

When I think of someone practicing, I think of a golfer going to the driving range, or in musician dedicating time to practice with their chosen instrument.  But what if you want to work on your human relations and communications skills, or develop some personal habits to live a healthier lifestyle?  How do you practice those skills?

Suppose I told you that you could practice skills like these during the course of your day, without setting aside a specific time to do so.  Interested?  Read on.

Every day we have untold opportunity’s to practice a behavior or develop a habit, simply by actively seeking out opportunity’s to do so.  For example:

  • Do you have a co-worker you struggle to communicate with? See every interaction with that person as a practice session to try a new techniques or method and improve your communication skills.
  • Are you trying to overcome shyness? Look for opportunities to practice overcoming shyness by starting up a conversation with a new person each day, or simply up start by saying “hello” to someone new.
  • What if you’re trying to lose weight or eat healthier? Look at each meal, snack, or craving as an opportunity to practice a healthy alternative.

What personal skills that you’re trying to develop would benefit from more practice?  Have you identified it?  Good!  How look for opportunities in your everyday routine to practice those skills.  However, if you really want to speed up your progress, seek out multiple opportunities every day.

Once you start looking, you’ll find numerous opportunities to practice the habits and behaviors you want to improve.  Before you know it, you’ll find yourself more competent and growing ever-closer to becoming the person you strive to be.

Just Pick One

Have you ever been overwhelmed by a large number of choices available to a decision you had to make?  I have.

I can remember, several years ago, when my wife Mickey and I trying to decide what color to paint some rooms in our house.  There were so many choices at the paint counter.  Who knew there were 10,000 shades of brown to choose from! We couldn’t decide which color would be “just perfect”, so we ultimately put off the decision until the following year, where we would again repeat the process for a few more years.

The same thing has happened in selecting travel destinations.  There are so many great places to go that Mickey and I, in the past, had a hard time picking a destination.  As a result, we’d put off a decision and wind up not going anywhere for the entire year.  We missed out on a lot of opportunities to travel and see new things as a result of the indecision caused by being overwhelmed with choices.

Here’s something I’ve learned through these experiences:  It doesn’t matter that you pick the “perfect” color or travel destination.  What matters is that you make a choice and move ahead.

It helps to realize that for a large majority of the choices we have to make:

  • There isn’t just one, single, perfect choice.
  • If we make a bad choice, we can always re-evaluate and make another choice later.
  • The most important thing is to make a decision and take action.

Is there a decision you need to make where you’re overwhelmed with a large number of potential choices?  If so, realize that there are likely several great choices you can make, versus only a single, perfect choice.  So make a choice and take action today.  You can always make a different choice later.  However, you’ll probably find that the choice you initially made was indeed a good one, if not great or even perfect.

A Compelling Why

We give up way too easy.  It’s simple to begin a new pursuit or activity, but often, after the fun and excitement wears off, we abandon our efforts and give up.

Perhaps we do this because there are so many things competing for our attention.  As soon as we discover something new, we’re captivated by something else that has caught our attention.  More likely, when we’re faced with actually doing the work, we quickly find out how committed to we really are… or aren’t.

I’ve struggled with starting new ventures and not following through, usually due to 1 or both of the reasons described above.  Now, before I begin a new pursuit, I determine:

  • If I has a compelling reason why I want to do it
  • If I have the commitment, as well as the time, to daily do the work required to achieve success

I’ve decided that I must have a compelling reason; a compelling “Why”.  A reason why I want this?  Without a good answer to that question, it’s too easy to quit before starting or when things start to get tough.  So, without a compelling “Why”, I move on to something else.

Once I’ve decided to start, I gauge my commitment by thinking of the acrostic FOCUS:

Follow

One

Course

Until

Successful

 

This reminds me that it is not about starting new things, but about following through on those things I’ve started until successful.  I find that if I don’t adopt this mindset, I’ll often start a bunch of new ventures but achieve success in few, if any.

 

So what about you?  Do you tend to start ventures and fail to complete them?  It could be you started without a compelling “Why” or even the commitment required to be successful.  If that’s the case, start being aware of why you’re doing something and whether you’re committed to seeing it through to success.  If you are, GREAT!  It’s time to get started.  If not, that’s great too.  Just keep looking for something where you have both a compelling “Why” and the commitment.  Then when you find it, dive in and give it your best.

How to Get Unstuck

Sometimes I get stuck.  Occasionally, I’ll have a goal I’m working toward, but then I find myself getting stalled out and not making minimal to zero progress for a few days or even weeks.  It’s frustrating! What I’ve discovered recently is that there is an actual force that keeps us from moving forward.  That force is called resistance.

Resistance is anything that distracts us and takes our mind and effort away from moving toward our goals.  Steven Pressfield field wrote a great book about resistance titled Do the Work.  I read this book last week and it was eye-opening to see the role resistance plays in my own life.  The biggest take-away from this book was to be aware of when resistance is blocking my efforts.  When I’m aware of the presence of resistance, I can recognize it for what it is and begin to take steps to push through.

Pushing through resistance is actually fun, as well as motivating, because when I do, it feels like I’m making real progress toward my goals.  The following are some ways you can push through resistance:

  • See the big picture.  Know where it is that you want your goals to take you and have a clear picture of what that looks like.
  • Know why you want to achieve your goal.  Are you frustrated by your current situation, or feel like you need to be doing something better suited to how you are geared?  Whatever the reason, be mindful of it.  Always know the why behind the goal.
  • Understand the cost of not taking action.  Know that nothing will change until you cause something to happen.  No action = no result!  Are you OK if nothing changes?
  • Determine what steps you can take today.  It doesn’t have to be a large step.  Even a small step in the right direction is still a step in the right direction.
  • Just do something!  Commit to taking action every day, whether you feel like it or not.
  • Be motivated by the progress.  After you’ve strung a few days of successful progress together, look back to see how far you’ve come.  Be motivated by the progress and commit that you will not break the chain of daily progress.  You are not required to do everything in a single day, just plan on doing something every day.

It’s now time to punch resistance in the face with clear vision and by taking action on a continual daily basis.  What are you waiting for?  All that separates you from your goal is a thin veil of resistance.  Start punching through today.

 

How Are You Growing?

What do you look for when you set goals for your life?  What are their attributes?  Are they:

  • Easy to attain?
  • Within your comfort zone?
  • Not too challenging, so as to be assured of success?

If these were the types of goals I had set, or if I hadn’t set any goals at all, the question I’d be asking myself is, “If I’m not challenged, how am I growing?”

Part of growing and getting better at something, or getting better at life in general, is to do things that challenge us.  When we’re challenged by a new thought, goal, or idea, it causes us to do things differently than we have in the past.  That difference often causes discomfort, and that’s good.  While this discomfort is not always enjoyable, many times it is what leads us to the greatest growth and positive change we experience in our lives.

Take getting into shape, for example.  You can go to the gym and keep lifting the same light weights you started with and do the same light-level cardiovascular workout you’ve always done, because it is easy and you know you can do it, but how are does that help you grow in your strength and endurance and cause you to become the healthy individual you desire to be?  Where’s the challenge?  Where’s the growth?

Knowing that when we are challenged, growth occurs, where in your life could you stand to be challenged?  What challenging goals can you set for yourself today that will cause you to grow into the person or life you seek?   Once you’ve set those goals, decide in advance that you’ll persist through the discomfort that will occur when you are challenged, and know that doing so will result in rapid growth toward the person you’re striving to become.