Tag Archives | John Maxwell

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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Make Your Future Bigger Than Your Past

In one of my earlier posts, I discussed the differences between what author and Stanford professor Carolyn Dweck describes as a fixed mindset verses a growth mindset.

In a fixed mindset, people believe that talent and intelligence are fixed traits. They spend their time documenting and defending their brains and talent instead of developing them, creating an urgency to prove themselves over and over. By contrast, in a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. Seeing themselves as a work in progress, growth mindset people tend to embrace feedback and accept failure as a learning opportunity.

Regardless of our mindset, I believe most people want to grow because growth is at the core of everything in our lives that gives us a feeling of satisfaction, accomplishment, and purpose.

What does “personal growth” mean? How do you define it? If you asked even the most successful people, few could provide a clear, cogent response.

Here are some great descriptions, gathered from some of my favorite authors. Which one of these resonates the most with you?

“Growth is a result of bad habits dropped, wrong priorities changed, and new ways of thinking embraced.” (John Maxwell)

“People who grow consistently are those who embrace the tension between where they are and where they ought to be.” (John Gardiner)

“You will never change anything in your life unless you change something you do daily.” (John Maxwell)

“In order to do more, I’ve got to be more.” (Jim Rohn)

“When your memories exceed your dreams, you’ve stopped growing.” (Andy Stanley)

And finally, here’s my favorite description, from author, business strategist and entrepreneur coach Dan Sullivan:

“Growth is always striving to make your future bigger than your past.”

look to the future | rangga aditya armien via stocksnap.io

I love this simple but compelling description. Think about what it means to “make your future bigger than your past.” It’s simple, but not always easy, especially as you grow older. Yet consider the implications of continuously enlarging your future. When you commit yourself to a lifestyle of making your future bigger than your past:

You’re living intentionally. That is, you’re constantly in pursuit of something bigger, better, and more purposeful.
You’re adding value–to yourself, and, more importantly, to others.
Your focus is forward, not neutral or backward.
You are often at the edge of your comfort zone, which is where life really happens.
You engage your imagination. You think BIG.
You’re not afraid to fail.
You are continuously challenged.

If these ideas arouse your interest in pursuing personal growth, I urge you to read Dan Sullivan‘s classic, The Laws of Lifetime Growth: Always Make Your Future Bigger Than Your Past. Each of the ten laws described in this insightful book are like mirrors you can use to reflect your behavior so you can see if it’s supporting or undermining your growth.

While no one wants to reach the end of their lives and experience regret, the truth is, many will. That’s why developing the daily habit of pursuing intentional growth–making your future bigger than your past–is the key to a productive, legacy-producing life.

Question: What is one thing you could start doing today that could make your future bigger than your past?

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Bill’s Friday Five

Here it is — Friday already — and hopefully your week was full of positive experiences! As a little sneak peek into my life, this Friday Five highlights some recent personal experiences that I recommend and hope you’ll enjoy (and check out), too.

Favorite Podcast
As a student of branding, this week I listened to a fascinating interview on the EntreLeadership podcast with Donald Miller, NY Times best selling author of Blue Like Jazz and seven other books. Donald’s latest work revolves around building your brand through story. It is one of the most information-rich and helpful sessions I’ve heard in years! Here are some highlights:

  • The human brain understands and remembers story.
  • Every story has seven steps, or “rules.”
  • Filtering your company’s message (or your personal message) through this seven-step framework can revolutionize your brand’s impact.
  • Why do most companies completely misunderstand the most powerful tool to creating a brand that resonates?
  • The real reason why presidential candidates like Mitt Romney, Al Gore, and John McCain lost.

Favorite Food
Edson Farms has upped their game!
Like most of Traverse City, I’ve always thought of Edson Farms Natural Foods as a great place for supplements, earth-friendly foods and body care products. But thanks to a recent expansion in their deli, Edson’s is serving up some of the best sandwiches, salads, smoothies and other super-tasty stuff in northern Michigan. Here are some of my favorites from their expansive menu:

  • Cobb Salad (the best I’ve had in Traverse City!)
  • Cherry Chicken Salad Wrap
  • Hail to Kale Smoothie (you’ll never know you’re drinking something so nutritious — it tastes that good!)
  • Sweet Potato Slaw
  • Zucchini Pancakes

Conveniently located in the Garfield shopping plaza (with the Agave restaurant), their phone-in orders are ready in minutes and the staff is uber-friendly. Check them out!

Edson's of Traverse City

Favorite Quote of the Week
“You’ll never change anything in your life… until you change something you do daily.” – John Maxwell

Favorite Book of the Week
Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin
The theme of this insightful book revolves around answering the question: “How do we change?” Here are some of my take-aways:

  • Our habits make up about 40% of our daily lives.
  • The ability to form habits is different for different people.
  • When it comes to dropping bad habits, abstinence is better than moderation.
  • Self knowledge is absolutely essential. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to forming good habits.

Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin

Coolest Experience of the Week
As a member of the Northwestern Michigan College Foundation Board, I had the opportunity to tour the new Nursing Simulation Center at the Health & Science Center on NMC’s main campus. Designed to replicate a hospital ward, the center features high tech mannequins on which nursing students can practice everything from taking vital signs, to performing NG Tube insertion, tracheotomy procedures and more. The mannequins can be programmed with medical issues like allergic reactions and seizures, allowing students to learn under real-life conditions. Pictured here is their new $70,000 birth simulator mannequin complete with an 8-pound baby. According to Nursing Director Vicky Fagerstrom, having state-of-the-art technology like this gives nursing students the training experience that before, was only available at major universities, but is now right here in northern Michigan and at a fraction of the tuition cost!

NMC Sim Mom

NMC Sim Mom

As you prepare to wrap up this week and head into the weekend, what were your favorite things about this week? I’d love to hear from you.

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Use Keystone Habits to Launch a Lifelong Winning Streak

“You’ll never change anything in your life… until you change something you do daily.”
– John Maxwell, The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been exploring the transformational potential that simple, repeatable disciplines (or habits) can have on your personal brand — your ability to present the best possible version of yourself every day.

In 2012, NY Times columnist Charles Duhigg published an enormously popular book, The Power of Habit, in which he introduces a powerful tool: Keystone Habits.

A keystone habit is a behavior or routine that naturally pulls the rest of your life in line. I call it a ‘habit of disproportionate impact on your life.’ To identify a keystone habit, ask yourself: What is a consistent discipline I can develop that will make the rest of my life easier and more productive?

Image: Jordan McQueen via stocksnap.io

The Keystone Effect of Exercise

For me, exercise is a keystone habit. If I get to the gym, then it creates a ripple effect in other areas of my life. Not only do I get the benefits of working out, I focus better after the workout. I tend to eat better when I’m working out consistently. I sleep better at night and wake up with more energy in the morning.

Notice that I didn’t try to build better habits for my focus, my nutrition, my sleep, or my energy. I just practiced this one keystone habit (exercise) and those other areas were improved as well. This is why keystone habits are powerful. They cascade into other areas of your life!

If you recall from my earlier post, Roald Amundsen’s keystone habit was the 20 Mile March. What are yours?

For some people I know, it is drinking a large glass of water when they get up in the morning, alleviating dehydration from a night’s sleep and creating more energy and a stronger immune system. For others, it is prayer and meditation, or budgeting and spending quality time with their spouse.

Imagine how much easier and more fulfilling your life could be if you discovered one or two keystone habits that naturally put the rest of your life in place.
Personal development icon Earl Nightingale famously said, “An hour a day is all it takes; one hour of study in your field will put you at the top in three years, five years of learning and improvement will make you a nationally recognized expert and seven years makes you one of the very best.”

What would it mean to your life if you could identify and consistently practice one or two keystone habits? What is keeping you from starting? Leave me your comments — I’d love to get your feedback.

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