Tag Archives | habits

Four Key Decisions That Shape Your Character

Charisma may be useful in attracting a following, but it is largely useless when it comes to achieving a long term positive impact on the people and organizations we lead. For this, we need character. Effective leadership is an inside-out job.

The older I get, the more this quote from one of my mentors, Michael Hyatt reveals itself in everyday experience. As leaders (we are all leaders in some area of our lives), our influence is shaped by our character, which, in turn, is formed over time by our daily choices. The fact is, who we become is not a product of the milestone moments in our lives as much as the small, seemingly inconsequential decisions we make every day.

The good news is that, unlike personality, which is fixed at birth, your character can be developed through the intentional decisions you make about how you spend your time. If you are consistent in managing them, these daily decisions become powerful forces that will encourage you to live with more passion, purpose and influence. Here are four to consider:

Decision #1: The content you consume.
How much news do you expose yourself to every day?
What are you reading and how often?
What do you listen to while driving?
How you answer questions like these says a lot about how intentional you are in developing your character. Author and speaker Matthew Kelly tells his audiences, “You show me what you’re reading and I’ll tell you what sort of person you are. If you give me a list of the books you read last year I can tell you what happened in your life. Even better, you give me a list of the books you’re going to read in the next 12 months and I will tell you what will happen in your life in the coming year.”
That’s a bold prediction, but his message rings clear: Your character is shaped by what you allow to occupy your mind every day. I recall a successful entrepreneur telling me that he largely ignores the news because, if he didn’t, he would be too fearful to launch new business ventures. Remember, regardless of which side of the political spectrum you’re on, both Fox News and MSNBC do not exist to deliver news; their goal is to achieve ratings, which means their mission is keeping you glued to the TV. Over time, the negativity, alarmism, and agenda-driven drama affects us, injecting doubt, worry and passivity that, over time, can hijack our dreams and stifle our initiative. While I’m not suggesting we ignore what’s going on in the world, I strongly believe we need to set boundaries not only on the news we watch, but on all the content we consume every day–podcasts, blogs, streaming video, social media, etc.

Decision #2: The friendships you maintain.
Personal development icon Jim Rohn famously said that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. Although we are often called through our work and personal lives to minister to many different types of people, those we choose as our closest friends and confidants will have a disproportionate influence on who we become, so we must choose them wisely. If you want to have a great marriage, for example, hang out with people with strong marriages. If you’re looking to become healthy and fit, cultivate friendships with people who practice good nutrition and exercise habits. On the other hand, avoid making close friends with people who exhibit the traits you want to avoid. Remember, birds of a feather really do flock together.

Decision #3: The beliefs you cultivate.
It’s been said that our actions ultimately reflect our beliefs. If you believe, for example, that human life is the result of random, meaningless chance verses the product of a loving, personal God who created you for a purpose, then chances are this belief will, at some point, play out in your life. Your world view–the fundamental beliefs you have about ultimate reality–matters, and every world view attempts to answer these four questions:
>Origin: How did I get here?
>Meaning: What is the ultimate meaning of my life?
>Morality: How should I live? Is there a right and wrong, and what is the difference?
>Destiny: What will happen when I die?
In a culture shaped by superficiality, these questions may seem over-the-top, but your capacity to formulate clear, confident answers to each of these will profoundly influence the breadth and depth of the person you become.

Decision #4: The habits you develop.
In his book, Make Today Count, leadership expert John Maxwell makes a provocative claim. He writes:

If I could come to your house and spend just one day with you, I would be able to tell whether or not you will be successful. You could pick the day. If I got up with you in the morning and went through the day with you, watching you for 24 hours, I could tell in what direction your life is headed.

According to John, when he shares this at conferences, he always gets a strong reaction. Some people are surprised and get defensive because they think he would be making a snap judgment about them. Others, however, are intrigued and want to know why he would make such a statement. As John points out, our character isn’t something that suddenly manifests itself in someone’s life. It is a process; every day is merely preparation for the next, and our habits–the simple, repeatable actions we consistently take over time–ultimately determine who we become. As John famously says, “You will never change anything in your life until you change something you do daily.” So what are your habits preparing you for, and is it aligned with where you truly want to go?

Of all the forces shaping the quality and impact of your life, your character stands alone. No one wants to reach the end of their life and feel regret over squandered opportunities and broken relationships, yet sadly, it will be the destination of choice for so many. The difference between experiencing regret verses a deep satisfaction with life, I believe, lies in the importance you attach to each of these life-shaping, character-defining decisions.

Question: Which of these decision areas do you feel confident you have made? Which ones have challenged you? What do you plan to do about it? I’d love to hear your comments!

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5 Ways Reading Will Make You A Better Version of Yourself

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been an avid reader. It started with magazines like Time and Sports Illustrated as a teenager, then evolved to include biographies, self-help, the Bible, business books and, occasionally, novels. As a self-described content addict–I even listen to podcasts while mowing the lawn–consistent reading has been an integral part of who I am. And among the many benefits, reading has helped me build my personal brand.

There are few life skills as important to personal development as reading. As author and business consultant Bill Zipp puts it…

Reading forces us to think. Really think. It compels us to consider different—sometimes radically different—perspectives. And reading provides us an inexhaustible resource of ideas and insight, wit and wisdom.

by Josh Felise | unsplash.com

If you’re looking to build your own personal brand, I believe that developing the habit of reading is indispensable. Here are 5 ways reading will propel you on your journey to becoming the best possible version of yourself:

1) Reading is linked to lifetime success.
According to a recent article in the Traverse City Record Eagle by the Education Trust-Midwest, the development of reading skills in elementary school children is vital to their development. “(It is) a predictor of everything from high school graduation and college success to long-term employment.” In other words, if you want your kids to succeed in life, helping them become avid readers is perhaps the single best thing you can instill in them.

2) Reading improves your Emotional Intelligence.
Defined as the ability to identify, understand, and harness your emotions to improve relationships, Emotional Intelligence, or EQ, is responsible for 58% of your success, according to research from TalentSmart. Biographies and novels help provide insights on human nature that, according to many CEO’s, has made them more empathetic and relational—two critical attributes of EQ. I can attest to that; in fact, in an earlier post, I shared how an article on Peyton Manning inspired me to start writing personal thank you notes to my employees, a leadership habit I’ve maintained for years.

3) Reading keeps your brain young and healthy.
Reading produces the same positive benefits to your brain that working out delivers to your body. According to a detailed study reported in Prevention, adults who engaged in reading and other creative or intellectual activities showed a 32 percent slower rate of cognitive decline later in life than those who did not. Another recent study found that older adults who regularly read or play mentally challenging games like chess or puzzles are two and a half times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

4) Reading increases your influence.
Ask any effective leader and chances are they will share how reading has leveraged virtually every other skill. I have found that my consistent reading habit has helped me develop my writing, speaking and facilitation skills, all of which are important tools of leadership.

5) Reading improves your vocabulary.
Researchers estimate that 5–15% of all the words we learn we learn from reading. If you want to positively influence others, using the right language to cast vision, set direction, and simplify complex issues is critical.

“That sounds great… but I just don’t have the time to read.”

This is the most common excuse whenever the issue of reading comes up. My response, as I share in one of my presentations, is:

Imagine if, on New Years’ Day, I handed you a stack of 16 books with a challenge to read all of them by the end of the year. Chances are, you would either laugh at me or tell me to get serious. But what if, on January 1st, you committed to reading just 15 pages a day, which, depending on the content, might take anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes. Allowing for two weeks off, by year end, you would have read 5,250 pages. And since the average book on Amazon.com is approximately 325 pages, you would have complete all 16 books and even started on a 17th book.

That’s the power of the Slight Edge–an excellent book on habits by Jeff Olson.

It also illustrates a parallel principle: the power of consistency. That is, consistent actions repeated daily. Before I learned this important insight, most of my reading happened on a plane, where I would cram in as much content as I could until the next time I traveled (which wasn’t very often). When I finally started to think in terms of small, incremental actions repeated consistently instead of occasional big moves toward my goals, my reading exploded. Today, I complete between 15 and 25 books a year–in the midst of a pretty busy schedule.

Consistency is one of the most overlooked forces not only in developing a reading habit, but in living the life you really want.

If you want to become the best version of yourself in 2017, reading is one of the surest paths to get there. It will help you develop important qualities that will have a disproportionate impact on every other area of your life.

Question: How many books did you read last year? What would it take for you to double your reading in 2017?

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Why Habits Trump Goals in Building your Personal Brand

In a previous post, I shared the story of Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen’s epic 1912 victory over British rival Robert Falcon Scott in becoming the first to reach the South Pole. Amundsen’s disciplined travel plan, known as the 20 Mile March, was one of the key factors that separated him from Scott, who’s reliance on bold moves and creative bets led not only to defeat, but to his tragic death.

Scott’s approach is emblematic of our culture’s fixation on what author James Clear calls “the myth of quantum change,” which he describes as a cultural obsession with the overnight success, magic bullet, miracle cure, killer app, etc. We love to feed ourselves on stories of those who win millions in the lottery, lose 80 lbs in twelve weeks, or go from lounge singer to American Idol winner overnight.

Just like them, we want to earn more, do more, and be more right now. So in an effort to seize the moment, we set big goals in hopes of propelling ourselves towards our desired future.

The problem is, most of those big goals end up on the trash heap of self improvement. Consider these findings on New Years Resolutions from a 2014 Scranton University Study:
⋅ 40% of people abandon their resolutions before reaching the month of February.
⋅ The average person makes the same resolution ten times without success.

Since the biggest focus of New Year’s Resolutions is weight loss and health, consider this: Only 5 percent of those who lose weight on a diet keep it off—95% regain it, and a significant percentage gain back more.

The Problem with Goals

via pexels.com

Like the New Years Resolutions in the study, most goals are simply visions of some desired future outcome. And though there’s certainly nothing wrong with crafting a clear vision of a bright future, the problem is, we have little control over whether or not we achieve those outcomes. Imagine setting a goal to lose 20 lbs in six months, for example. When you really think about it, you have very little control over whether or not you will shed those pounds based upon envisioning the outcome–you really don’t.

But, by contrast, you have almost complete control over how often you go to the gym every week, how accurately you record everything you eat, or how much water you drink each day.

To be more accurate, the problem isn’t with the goals themselves, it’s the type of goals you set. I used to be a huge proponent of outcome-based S.M.A.R.T. Goals which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-Focused and Time-Bound, but, through countless personal experiences as well as coaching others, I’ve discovered that activity-based goals–simple, repeatable disciplines consistently executed–have the greatest potential to produce real change.

The problem is, that takes time… something our ‘microwave, download-on-demand’ culture strongly resists. But consider these facts:

⋅ If you read 30-60 minutes a day in your chosen field, that translates into one book per week, resulting in over 50 books per year. In three years, that is 150 books in your area of focus – quickly allowing you to become an expert in your field and, according to self-development expert Brian Tracy, putting you in the top 1 percent of all earners in our society.
⋅ A 25-year old who invests $100 a month in a conservative Roth IRA will have accumulated over 1 million dollars by age 65.
⋅ Several years ago, author Nathan Barry, as an alternative to setting goals for his writing career, instead committed to the discipline of writing 1000 words a day (light work for a writer). By the end of the year, he had enough content to publish two books, earning him over $300,000 in profits.

These are impressive facts, yet how many people do you know make and keep commitments like these? Despite our obsession with lofty goals, massive gains and big wins, it is our habits–repeatable daily disciplines compounded over time–that produce the most significant results in our lives.

Your assignment: Think of one habit you could develop that, if consistently committed to for a significant amount of time, would dramatically impact your life in 2017? What would it mean to the quality of your life in three years, five years, ten years? What is keeping you from starting?

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How a Little More Can Make All the Difference – Part 1

In my last post, I used the analogy of an ant farm to illustrate how small, seemingly inconsequential actions can create disproportionately large results. I call it “the power of the Slight Edge,” based on Jeff Olson’s compelling book.

This week, rather than move onto another topic, I want to park here for a few more posts and explore this life-changing idea, because I’ve seen this powerful principle produce so much growth in so many lives, including mine. This week, I’m using a more relevant example, especially if you love the sport of baseball.

(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

If you follow baseball, especially if you follow the Detroit Tigers, then you’re familiar with Miguel Cabrera, Detroit’s four-time American League batting champion, ten-time ML All-Star, and future Hall of Famer. Consider the following statistics:

  • Last year, Cabrera’s batting average was .348 and his salary was $22 million.
  • In an average baseball game, hitters are “up” an average of 4 times.
  • Last year, the average major league player hit around .250, which equates to 3 hits out of every 4 times at bat (4 times per game for 3 games).
  • Miguel achieved 4 hits–one additional hit above average– in the same 3 game span.
  • Last year, the average major league player earned $4 million.
  • Therefore, Cabrera’s one extra hit every 3 games–a measly 8.33% improvement over the average performance–generated 5.5 times the income.

Think about that. One extra hit every 3 games, just 8.33%, generated $18 million in additional earnings. It could have been a cheap shot into left field, a bunt, a ground ball through the 2nd baseman’s legs, or a blooper over the shortstop’s head–the result is the same:

Little things can produce big results.

Which makes me wonder…

Before Miguel Cabrera became famous, when he was a kid playing little league in his native Venezuela, or playing in the minor leagues, how many extra minutes did he spend in the batting cage every day? Was it purely talent that got him into the major leagues, or did he do things–little things–differently? What do you think?

Chances are, none of us will earn $22 million a year, no matter what we do. But I am certain there are little things we can do more of–simple, repeatable disciplines compounded daily–that, not in the next few days or weeks, but over the coming months and years, will make a significant, definable difference in our lives.

What might that look like for you? What are one or two habits you could initiate that, over time, could transform your work, your health, your faith, or your relationships?

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