For the last several years I’ve been in the habit of exercising first thing every morning. This is a much easier habit in the summer when it’s already light out when I wake up. In the winter, however, the mornings are dark and rainy, which causes my mind to think of all sorts of reasons to skip the gym and stay in bed.
I never realized how good I am at presenting a compelling argument when I’m half asleep!
Fortunately, I’m even better at looking at all the good reasons to get out of bed and hit the gym, regardless of the conditions outside or how I may be feeling on the inside.
Isn’t it easy to come up with all sorts of seemingly good reasons (let’s call them excuses) to avoid doing what we know would be good for us to do? It’s almost automatic. The excuses leap from our minds with little effort. And, if we listen too closely to them, we find ourselves likewise giving little to no effort toward those activities that could yield significant positive impacts in our lives.
So what can we do to combat the rapidly accumulating list of excuses that we use to hold ourselves back? There must be a better way, right? Fortunately, for us, the answer is, “Yes”!
Here’s how I fight excuses, but be warned, it takes work.
When the excuses tart flowing in your mind, realize the excuses for what they are, take control of your thinking, and come up with some good reasons to engage in the activity.
Here are some examples:
|Activity that’s good for you that you’d like to do…
||Excuse not to…
||Good reason to engage…
||It’s too dark, cold, and rainy.
||If I skip working out today I won’t feel as energetic as I will if I go to the gym.
||I’m too tired and I’d rather just watch TV.
||If I spend 30 minutes a day reading that’s 3.5 hours of reading per week! I can get a lot of books read by doing that.
||I’m too tired to cook. I’ll just wing by <insert name of fast food restaurant>.
||If I eat healthy I likely won’t be so tired. Plus I’ll be improving my health in the weeks, months years ahead!
The trajectory of our life and our personal development all starts with our thinking. So what will you fuel your thinking with: excuses to hold back or good reasons to engage?
When it comes to leadership, one of my favorite people to read about is legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden. Aside from his prowess at building championship caliber basketball teams, he seemed to be even more skilled at building championship caliber people.
If you want a great read on Coach Wooden’s teaching, check out his book, “The Essential Wooden”. My favorite parts in this book are the recollections from his players about what they learned from Coach or how he impacted their lives. The common thread that runs through most recollections I hear of Coach Wooden is how he left people better than he found them.
Coach Wooden inspires me, because I think that most people would like to have a similar impact in the lives of others. I know I would. And although most of us may never coach a Division I basketball program to multiple championships, we all have the capacity to be a positive influence to those around us.
Begin the habit of looking for opportunities to leave the people around you better than you found them. This could be as simple as offering a smile or kind word to someone, or more involved like mentoring, advising, or providing a listening ear.
Whatever you have to offer, the opportunities to do so are abundant. We only have to be willing to engage.
I recently heard some colleagues taking about a potential new hire they had just interviewed. During the conversation, one of the team members turned to their supervisor and asked, “So, are you going to hire this person?” To which the supervisor replied, “You tell me.”
From a leadership standpoint, I loved this supervisor’s response. In those 3 short words they conveyed to their team that:
- This was a decision the team would make, not just the leader.
- They valued the team’s input.
- They trusted the team to know best whether someone would be a good fit.
As leaders, it’s important to seek input from those we lead when their insights can aid in the decision making process. When we do, we not only help our organization make better decisions, we also increase the likelihood that those involved in the decision making process will buy in to the decision as well.
It’s easy to put a plan together when you’re the only person creating the plan. As soon as you get another person involved in the planning, it gets even more difficult, because the other person has their own thoughts and beliefs about how the plan should look. And you can be assured that their plan is not 100% like yours.
The larger the group, the more challenging it becomes to reach agreement because there are so many different ideas, beliefs, and perspectives that are shaping each person’s idea of what an ideal plan or strategy should look like. This gives me an appreciation for the work required of a large group to come to an agreement. And by “large group”, I’m referring to any group with greater than 1 person.
Being aware of differing ideas, beliefs, and perspectives in a team environment reminds me that just because someone has a different idea or plans than I do, doesn’t mean that they’re against my plan or ideas, or that they “just don’t get it”. Rather, it reminds me that they likely have a perspective that I don’t or a belief that I don’t hold. Whatever the case, they are bringing a proposal that aligns with how they see the problem, and also how they believe it should be solved. And that’s good, because without their input, I would not have considered their perspective.
The next time you’re in a group of people that are trying to create a plan or make a decision, resist the urge to become frustrated when people don’t come to the same conclusions that you do. Instead, see it as an opportunity to understand how another group or person might view the situation. Who knows, you might even have your own perspective changed.
“You can’t give blame until you take responsibility” ~ Craig Groeschel; Pastor, Life.Church
No one likes looking foolish, stupid, or like a failure. I think this is the primary reason people have a tendency to blame others or circumstances when something we’re responsible for doesn’t go as planned.
In an effort to avoid looking bad in front of others, we almost automatically seek to place the blame someplace, any place, other than on us. The paradox is that when we always place blame instead of taking responsibility, we actually do look bad in front of others, which is the very thing we’re trying to avoid.
What if the next time something we’re in charge of goes sideways, instead of choosing to place blame, we choose instead to not only take responsibility for the situation, but for its resolution as well?
From a leadership standpoint, this is the right thing to do. When we take responsibility for our results we are communicating to others that we care about the quality of our work, about our contribution, and that we can be counted on to follow through to a successful completion.
No one has ever looked foolish doing that.
Earlier this week I was involved in a long-term vision planning session at our church. I love strategy sessions like this, because any strategy session I’ve ever been a part of, be it for work, church, or family, has yielded a number of differing perspectives and ideas from the people assembled. Never once has everyone in a group shown up with the exact same perspective. In fact, if that were to ever happen, I’d assume that the wrong people had been assembled for the task.
Different perspectives are crucial in setting direction and strategy, or for making decisions that will impact a larger group of people. However, they can cause tension and frustration, which isn’t a bad thing. Group members just need to understand these key points regarding peoples’ perspectives:
- The perspectives of others are just a real and true to them as our perspectives are to us. As a result, we shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss someone’s perspective simply because it doesn’t align with our own.
- When we fail to consider the perspectives of others, we miss an opportunity to get a better understanding about how others within the larger group may be thinking. If on person has a particular perspective, it’s likely other do as well.
- If we dismiss or ignore someone’s perspective in the decision making process, simply because it is different from ours, we can have a high degree of confidence that we will not be getting their buy-in to whatever decision is made.
We can learn a lot about people and groups of people when we listen with genuine interest to understand their perspective and where it comes from. I think one of the highest honors we can pay someone is to listen to and seek to understand their perspective, even when we don’t agree with it at first.
The next time you are in a conversation where there are differing perspectives, don’t be too quick to dismiss the ones that don’t align with your own. Instead, use the difference as an opportunity to gain some understanding as to where the other person is coming from. Not only will you possibly gain some new understanding, you’ll most likely be making a connection with a fellow human being as well.
“When emotion goes up, intelligence goes down.” ~Mari Smith; Social Media Thought Leader
When I heard this quote from Mari Smith on the Entreleadership Podcast, I was instantly able to recall several accounts from my own life when I’ve been in this very situation. I cringed, because, unfortunately, those have not been some of my finest moments!
What about you? Have you ever been in a position where you feel the emotion rising, while at the same time your intelligence waning? It’s not a good feeling. Historically, I haven’t realized this was occurring until after the conversation or interaction where it occurred. By then, it’s too late to change course because common sense and better judgement have already left the station.
So what can we do to keep from losing our minds when we notice our emotions starting to heat up? Here are 7 suggestions to keep emotions from depleting our intelligence.
- Know the types of interactions that cause you to become emotionally charged so that you can either avoid them or be aware of the possibility of reacting emotionally.
- Know how you react physically when you’re emotionally charged. Do your hands get sweaty, your face get warm, or you ears get hot? Knowing how you react can help you identify when you’re becoming emotionally charged.
- Determine in advance how you will respond when you feel yourself becoming emotionally charged. If we don’t know how we’ll respond in that moment, we’ll likely put ourselves on auto pilot and let emotions take over. Usually not a good option.
- In the moment, take a few deep breaths. I know this sounds cliché, but it works.
- Put things in perspective. Ask yourself what’s at stake and determine if it’s really worth getting worked up for.
- Look for something positive like humor, a silver lining, or opportunities to connect with the other side on a human level.
- Decide not to get worked up. This may sound hard, but we have far more control over our emotions than we realize.
There seems to be no shortage of things to spin us up and charge our emotions. The good news is that this gives us a lot of opportunity to practice the tips above.
Being emotionally charged up and momentarily losing our intelligence does not help us to be at our best. Decide today to be in charge of your emotions and not a follower of them. That sounds good to me, because I can’t afford to lose any of the precious little intelligence I have!