Tag Archives | setting goals

The Life Changing Impact of Taking Responsibility

In recent decades, one of the more disturbing trends in our culture has been the gradual decline in personal accountability. From corporate scandals and frivolous personal injury lawsuits to the endless blame games that fuel the gridlock in Washington, the penchant for “passing the buck” has become an endemic to American society.

Although fixing this national malaise may seem overwhelming, here’s an idea that could stem the tide.

Years ago, when I was the sales manager at our Buick Pontiac GMC dealership, I recall searching for a motivational ice breaker to kick off an off-site sales training event. Searching the internet, which was in its infancy at the time, I came across a “Tip of the Day” blog post by national sale trainer Grant Cordonne. While I’ve never been a fan of Cordonne’s bombastic, in-your-face style, his message, entitled “Take Responsibility for Everything in Your Life” got my attention.

He emphatically stated, “The moment you assign responsibility to another human being is the same moment that you resolve never to be in control of your life.”  In his typical strident style, Cordonne challenged salespeople to take 100% responsibility for every unwelcome event in their lives, regardless of the circumstances, peppering his listeners with examples:

“The nick in the car you noticed this morning. You get overcharged for something. The argument with your spouse. Your kids didn’t get to school on time because of the bus. That was your fault. If you get a cold or cough, ask, ‘how was I responsible for that?’ Sure, you were on a plane with a hundred other sick people, but didn’t you buy the ticket?

His message got me thinking: Is it really possible to take personally responsibility for every single unwanted circumstance in your life? It’s easy to sit in a sales meeting and nod your head approvingly, but real life is a different story.

How To Take Responsibility© by Larry Winget

While I don’t believe it’s healthy to feel personally accountable for major, life-altering events, such as the sickness or death of a loved one (I don’t think Cordonne was referring to these situations), I agree with him that accepting responsibility for the everyday “hits” we take that derail our focus, steal our peace, and entangle our emotions makes perfect sense.

Here are four reasons why taking 100% responsibility works:

1. Taking Full Responsibility Shifts Your Focus. There’s a natural impulse in our individualistic culture to assign responsibility to others, especially when it’s others’ actions that create the problem. But as long as the responsibility is external — outside of you — you are a victim. As soon as you accept accountability — even if it’s not your fault — you empower yourself, opening up your mind to more options. So instead of asking, “Why me?” you ask, “What does this make possible?”

2. Taking Responsibility Produces Resiliency and Gratitude. When something negative happens to you, even something minor, you have a choice to either dwell on what you’ve lost, or identify all that you have. This cultivates gratitude, and I’ve found that it is just as important in the little setbacks in our lives as it is the major setbacks.

3. Taking Responsibility Creates a Strong Culture. Instead of spending energy defending their reputation, assigning blame, and posturing, people who practice 100% responsibility tend to influence others from being problem-focused to solution-focused. And when leaders adopt and model this behavior, it catches on quickly, and can transform a family, team, company, even a society.

4. Taking Responsibility Strengthens Character. People who develop the habit of personal accountability at a young age launch a lifelong winning streak. By refusing to implicate others, they reinforce to themselves the rewards of behaving virtuously, becoming leaders in their own right who influence others and shape lives.

Thomas Barwick | Getty Images

I remember when my father encountered a business setback in 1987, when, as one of the top selling Buick dealers in Michigan, Buick abruptly announced a major change in their retail strategy, discontinuing one of the high volume models my father relied on and completely repositioning another. Realizing that these moves would cut the dealership’s new car sales in half, my dad was dejected — but only for a moment. He absolutely refused to dwell on the negative and instead focused on his options. True to his entrepreneurial nature, by the next week, he had hatched an aggressive plan to dominate the expanding used car market in our area, which he accomplished within six months. It was a lesson in resiliency that I”ll never forget.

So the next time one of those unexpected mishaps threatens to knock you off your game — you’re late for a meeting due to heavy traffic, your teenager flunks algebra, or a sale that your were counting on unpredictably falls through — tell yourself, “I’m 100% accountable,” then pay attention to how you respond. And let me know how The Life Changing Impact of Taking Responsibility influenced your decision — I’d love your feedback.

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Why I No Longer Set Goals

During the last week in December, as I was finalizing my goals for 2015, I read an insightful post by my friend Grant Porteous that referenced nationally known author and peak performance coach, James Clear, who, during a recent interview, shared a story about a friend of his who wanted to improve his writing.

“Instead of holing himself up somewhere for three days trying to complete an entire book manuscript,” Clear explains, “my friend instead committed to write one thousand words a day without fail, which isn’t much for a writer — around two pages. He did this for 259 consecutive days, accumulating enough content for three books, all of which were published within one year, earning him over $300,000.”

His point: Had his friend treated his writing project as a one-time event centered around a specific outcome, he never would have published three books in one year. But by focusing on small wins and slow gains, he accomplished far more than he ever thought possible in such a short time.

Putting Process Over Goals

The Paradox of Big Goals | PJ McClure

Clear’s story underscores his advice to anyone who wants to improve: Instead of focusing on some distant outcome (example: Lose 20 lbs by May 1st), focus instead on the process (run four miles, four times per week).

If you’re a life long goal-setter like me, the idea of relinquishing setting specific, measurable, and time-bound outcomes might seem like heresy. Yet I admit in recent years I have struggled with setting goals that motivated me enough to review them frequently. Often, as the year went on, they gradually lost their relevance and inspiration, like a motivational seminar that pumps you up for a awhile then wears off like a suntan. But when I reflect on my most successful accomplishments in recent years, most were built on creating new sustainable habits — simple, repeatable disciplines that, over time, produced dramatic results in my life.

To be honest, I’m still setting goals (I’ve been doing it for too long to quit!), but I am also committing to changing my approach. Here’s what I’m working on — and how it can work for you.

  • Instead of prioritizing your schedule, schedule your priorities. Don’t focus on how much money you want to earn this week, for example, or how much weight you want to lose. “Lose five pounds,” is not an action you can perform; “Do 200 pushups and 200 sit-ups” is.
  • Commit to developing one to three new habits for the next 30 days and stick to them. Focus on consistency, even if you have to adjust on the fly. If you’ve committed to exercising for one hour a day, for example, but your schedule unexpectedly changes on one of those days, commit to thirty minutes, fifteen minutes, or whatever you can do. The key is to keep your commitment. (That’s why you must limit them — less is more!)
  • Take stock of your results. Track how you feel, what you accomplish, and the impact on those around you. Chances are, you’ll need to make some changes, but give the process enough time to give you honest feedback before you make adjustments.

What about you? Are there one or two habits you can identify that, if you stick with them, will fundamentally impact your future? What are they, and what would it mean to the quality of your life, if you made them a reality?

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Seven Steps to Setting Clear, Compelling Goals in 2015: Part 2

In my last post, I introduced a seven-question system to prepare you for setting clear, compelling goals in 2015. Having covered the first three questions last week, here are the final four.

Setting Clear, Compelling Goals

4) What do you feel that you should have been acknowledged for but weren’t?
At some point in our careers, we’ve all experienced times, especially if you work for a large organization, that some of your best work goes virtually unnoticed. If so, then you need to build in your own self acknowledgment. Michael Hyatt puts it this way: “If there was an end-of-the-year awards show, what would you be brought up on the stage for… personally and professionally?” For me, this includes recommitting to consistent, weekly blog posts, stepping up to new speaking engagements that required significantly more time commitment, and getting into the best physical shape of my life.

Once again, these positive outcomes are the things you will want to set your goals around.

5) What disappointments or regrets did you experience this past year?
In Jim Collins landmark book, Good to Great, one of the distinguishing traits of great companies is what he identified as the Stockdale Paradox, after Vietnam veteran Admiral Stockdale. When he was interviewed after spending years in a brutal North Vietnamese POW camp, Stockdale said that the men who survived the harsh conditions of imprisonment were those who faced the brutal facts of their existence, but never lost hope. Addressing not only what worked, but also what didn’t work, allows you to confront your past failings and move on. It’s also important to pay attention to patterns in your answers. If the same ones repeat themselves over several years, you may need outside intervention. For example, this could be a personal trainer, marriage counselor, life coach, or another professional who can help you break your pattern.

6) What was missing from the last year as you look back?
Asking this question in this way, rather than framing this question as “what went wrong last year?,” helps prevent you from focusing on regret instead of seeing opportunities for the coming year. Examples include better planning, margin in your life, addressing your physical fitness, etc. The key: Being alert to emerging patterns in your life and trying to embrace those with the greatest potential.

7) What major life lessons did you learn from this last year?
In answering this question, take everything you’ve learned and processed and summarize into a few core life lessons. For example, here are a few of my life lessons:
– The most important priorities in life – marriage, health, relationship with God, personal development – must be contended for. They will not happen by accident.
– When it comes to accomplishing more in life, less is more.
– Never underestimate the importance of a strong marriage.

Asking these seven questions will lay the groundwork for New Years resolutions and/or setting clear, compelling goals in 2015 that will inspire, motivate, and positively change you all year long. Before you start, here are four important reminders:

1) Set aside some secluded, uninterrupted time to develop your thoughts. Don’t rush it!
2) Commit your thoughts to writing. Remember, “Thoughts disentangle themselves passing over the lips and through pencil tips.”
3) There are no right or wrong answers. You don’t need to have three responses for every question – it can be a narrative, bullet points, any way you want – as long as it reflects what you really think.
4) Once you’re done, turn the page, put it in your past, and move forward with setting specific, meaningful goals for the coming year.

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Seven Steps to Setting Clear, Compelling Goals in 2015: Part 1

One of the many things I love about the Christmas holidays is reflecting and planning: Looking back on the key themes and accomplishments of the year gone by while setting ambitious goals for the coming year. Over the years, I’ve learned about some helpful tools from influential mentors that I want to share with you between now and the New Year.

via iStockPhoto

The first tool is a thought-provoking process that consists of seven reflective questions designed to lay the groundwork for your best year ever. Developed by Stu McLaren and Michael Hyatt, I’ll cover three of the seven questions in this week’s post and the final four questions next week.

Think of these questions as pump-primers for crafting the most productive and deeply satisfying year of your life. Some of the questions are out-of-the-box, but stick with me!

1) If the last year of your life were a movie, what would be the genre?
What I like about this question is it acknowledges a subtle truth: Your life is not a series of isolated events; instead, your life is connected to a bigger story.
Think of yourself as a movie producer charged with filming your life this past year. What would be the genre? How would you envision yourself answering this same question next year? Be specific — and be honest.
For example, here’s how I described my “movie” at the end of last year: “In 2013, my life resembled a long-running TV program: Somewhat predictable, ratings driven, with quality content and steady growth, but not overly adventurous.”

2) What are two or three major themes that kept recurring in your life this year?
As you look back on the things that captured your attention and occupied your thoughts this year, what were the things that kept bubbling up from your subconscious to your conscious mind? (If you journal, go back and review your entries.) These are the things you want to establish as priorities and set goals around.

3) What did you accomplish this year that you are most proud of?
Before you set your agenda for the coming year, it’s important to take time to celebrate your accomplishments in 2014. There’s nothing wrong with reveling in your victories. What causes you to feel deep satisfaction looking back on the year? Write them down — and enjoy the moment! Maybe you finally got serious about exercise, earned a promotion at work, or restored a relationship that was dormant for years.

As Socrates famously — and boldly — proclaimed, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Indeed, I have found that creating space in my life to engage in self examination is both highly productive and deeply satisfying. And it’s a great way to start the New Year with purpose and momentum.

I encourage you to take some time this weekend to engage in reflection on these questions and write down your thoughts, then look for the final four questions in next week’s post.

via iStockPhoto

In the meantime, please share your thoughts with me — I’d love your feedback.

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