Category Archives: Self Leadership

A Simple Way to Grow

Tom Ziglar says, “What you feed your mind determines your appetite.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m a great collector of books. They are mentioned in blogs or social media, by someone I trust, or they catch my eye on Amazon. I buy, add to my Kindle or bookshelf. And I begin most of them…

I can’t tell you how many books I’ve begun! All good stuff. Usually my inclinations were correct; they’re good, informative, idea-generating, challenging in some area in which I need to grow. But then life happens and schedules press them off the top of my to do list.

But…

What if — for the rest of January, I would chose just 2 key books on which to slowly and intentionally “feed” — the content of which would then challenge thinking, encourage the heart, mold attitudes and increase the appetite — for more good stuff? What difference would a few weeks’ worth of good feeding make in the coming year?

I’m game! Are you?

If you’d take inventory of what goes into your mind, what would be the primary sources?

What 2 books would be at the top of your list for the rest of the month?

Passivity Paralyzes

With eight months of the year behind us, how would you say you’re growing? In what areas are you really satisfied about your progress — and in which ones would you, in all honesty say, there’s been real blockage — even passivity?

Why should we beware of passivity? Because passivity is a usually a sign that we’ve been entertaining thoughts like:

  • I’ve arrrived. Although most of us would never actually say such a thing, it’s suggested when we sit, cemented in place.
  • I’m comfortable. Comfort says, “I know my marriage could be better, my relationships are few and weak, my fathering is part-time at best, my job performance could be great instead of average…but the discomfort I have now might be preferable to the discomfort I might experience from going on in those areas.”
  • I can’t. At my age…with my background…as busy as I am….(insert favorite phrase here) no one could expect me to make big changes in my __________ (fitness, marriage,  attitude toward work, spiritual life).

The key to breaking free from passivity is intentionality. It’s a clear and workable plan to get around growing people, to find and incorporate some new resources, maybe to add some accountability.

What kinds of passivity can you identify? What would be the first, best steps out of it for the rest of the year?

Habits of Growing People

For most of my life, I’ve witnessed it: some people are content to remain at their current level of understanding, education, development and maturity. It’s true in any facet of life where growth is possible. At some point, for them, growth became optional. So there they sit, seemingly in a recliner, on a plateau. It might be on the job, in their marriage, in the spiritual life and the like.

Others though, seem to always have a book at hand or they’re telling you about something they’ve just learned. They might be the person who always seems ready for another sharpening relationship, more input or an app they can download and put to use.

What can you observe in the attitudes and practices of people who grow and keep growing?

1. Growing people have a plan to grow.

Oh, it may not be complicated. Their plan might be as simple as a bucket list, a book club or a gym membership. Streaming entertainment excites them less than personal interaction. They prefer face time to Facebook and thought-provoking discussion to quoting sound bite.

2. Growing people have growing friends.

They associate with others who aren’t content with the status quo in their own lives. They attract the kind of people who also engage in thought and learn new skills. They might together pursue weight loss or health goals or DIY projects. They practice mutual challenge and encouragement.

3. Growing people take advantage of growth resources.

Invariably, growing people are readers. They’ll often have a book or device at hand, so when they’re waiting, they’re reading. They go to conferences, engage a mentor or take a class. They study areas not associated with their profession. They read select tweets and blogs. They listen deeply, learn intuitively and pass on what they’re learning!

4. Growing people practice growth habits even when they’re not motivated.

Motivation slows, even for growth-oriented people. But they know that growth isn’t an option. They’ve experienced that when growth ceases, the downward slide begins. People committed to growth understand that daily habits and small steps will both keep them moving forward and kick-start their motivation again.

You likely wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t committed to your own growth.

What attitudes or practices have helped keep you moving forward?

What could you do about it today?

Pythagoras must have known about human nature as well as mathematics. He wrote: “The beginning is half the whole”.

Not having “enough” time or energy tends to make us hold off until there is “enough” to begin a new or major project or tackle an issue (in a relationship for instance) which we know will be involved. The mathematician’s word would encourage us to just get started. Then, we make a discovery: once a first step is taken, movement in the same direction becomes more fluid!

What’s on the back burner and has been for a while? I’ve got a couple of those – and I’m reminding myself today, “You cannot finish something you don’t start!”

Need help getting started?

What questions could you ask and answer to take the first steps?

The Uncommon Attitude

John Henry Jowett said it: “Gratitude is a vaccine, an antitoxin, and an antiseptic.” When I read his words for the first time, I immediately thought of some of the negative attitudes and thought patterns to which I gravitate when gratitude isn’t a regular part of how I think and communicate.

I also thought of a man my wife encountered at a warehouse club. He was distributing food samples. He was very popular! When my wife reached his table, took a sample and said, “Thank you!” he told her, she was the 1 of 7 or 8 who expressed those simple words. He was experiencing first hand what many spouses, employees, and friends experience: no response at all.

Expressions of gratitude are simple acts which cost nothing yet enrich the hearer. They enhance the relationship. They remind both recipient and “giver” that life works so much better when generosity oils relationships — and when receivers express their thanks!

Who will do good for you today — who would benefit powerfully from some word of gratitude? In 10 minutes today, how could you express gratitude to 3 or 4 people in your life who bring value to your life?

 

Any Incentive?

A few years ago, a Michigan State University study centered on 2 groups of faculty and staff. In both groups, individuals had committed to a 6-month exercise program. The difference in the 2 groups was simple. In one, individuals willingly bet $40 that they would stay with the program. Members of the other group declined to place bets on their own success.

97% of the faculty members and staff who had placed personal bets were successful. With the non-betting group, only 19% completed the program!

What incentives do you put alongside your goals to insure changes in your thoughts, decisions and actions?

As coaches, we assist clients not only in setting great goals, but in understanding the reasons they want to reach them: most often those reasons flow from their purpose, passion and core values.

Lessons from a Dickens of a Tale

Recently, I read of a website with 500+ classic books on audio available at no cost. I’ve listened to books on my Kindle; at best it’s a bit robotic. But when I heard my first download read by a professional I was hooked! I listened while walking, exercising, driving, even mowing the lawn! The one I chose first was Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.

Having not read this story since junior high, I was looking forward to renewing my acquaintance with it. It turned out the movie based on it, like many films, had taken many liberties. What intrigued me most was the character development, through which Dickens’ reveals his view of truth, life and human nature. I also realized he was teaching valuable life and business lessons like:

Appearances are just that. However impressive the image, when there’s no substance to the image or brand, system failure is inevitable-likely it will happen at the most critical time. A memorable line from the book goes something like: “If you apply varnish to wood, it does not hide the grain, but shows it. The more coats you apply, the more the gain is highlighted.” Does what I display reflect reality?

Integrity is often found where you least expect it. Dickens’ characters include more than one quiet hero who lives in humble circumstances, yet displays goodness and faithfulness, forgiveness and love even when they’re undeserved. Do I value personal integrity enough? Am I growing in character? What are some ways to do that?

There is astounding value in the right kind of friends. The Proverb says, “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Dickens’ main character learns that in desperate times, the bonds of friendship offer him what money and possessions never would. What determines the kind of friendship I offer or the sort of friends I pursue?

Are you reading from (or listening to) good sources? What are some ways that you’ve learned to mine valuable truth and lessons from what you read or hear?

 

Running on Decaf?

DecafI thought maybe it was just the morning: it was overcast and a little foggy after a night of thunderstorms. I got up, went to the kitchen and flipped the switch on the coffee maker, took my vitamins and made some breakfast. The new coffee I hurriedly grabbed the previous evening tasted so-so at best. Shouldn’t have bought such a large bag of beans, I thought to myself.

I sat, reviewed, listened, read, the usual routine. After a second cup, I went out to walk. Even after the longer course, I was still not feeling quite READY. I returned, grabbed a third cup of coffee, showered and dressed. Coming back into the kitchen before working, I thought, “I feel like I need another cup!” Three is all there was, because that’s what I drink. Then it hit me… I reached for the bag from the upper cabinet and saw the two words which should never occur alongside each other: Decaffeinated Coffee!

As I stirred up a strong cup of Starbucks instant (the only kind of instant one should ever even consider) it occurred to me how often we function with a half-speed, mundane approach, moving to and through our day and our work with a low-octane attitude and at an unmotivated level. And the sad thing: in a generation plagued by mediocrity, hardly anyone notices!

But what if you want to flip the switch every day on motivation, encouragement and focus? What might you do to inject a triple shot of caffeine into your heart and mind? I’d strongly suggest (beyond real coffee!) the following:

1. Encouraging and challenging inputs

Every one of us needs to be exposed to truth, ideas and inspiration which will light fires within us. For me that includes Scripture and challenges from what others have written and said. Why would I want to approach life, business or relationships alone when I can carry into each area the truth and wisdom which have demonstrated their value for millennia?

2. Intentional physical activity

Every system and part of the body seems to benefit from movement. Recent studies confirm that the brain and cognitive functions benefit tremendously when a fresh supply of oxygen gets pumped through due to activity. Other recent studies declare the inactive lifestyle to be the “new smoking.” What’s the overflow of regular bursts of activity during the waking hours? You will pursue healthy thoughts, feelings and choices!

 3. Invigorating interactions

We will always have people in our lives that need something. We offer, provide and give much during a given day. The “outflows” of life often align with our purpose and passions. Giving away what we’ve been given is a powerful part of why we’re on earth! But…continuous giving, always “monitoring” the well-being of others, directing and leading will leave us at the end of days, weeks and years simply and fully spent!

We need people who regularly challenge us, speak truth to us and offer us what we offer to others. We need full fledged partnerships with a few individuals, partnerships wherein we are committed to one another’s best – in our being as well as our doing!

 Which of the three have helped you refocus and regain motivation? How?

Today’s Comfort Zone…

There’s a powerful truth that should push us forward to grow in all of life’s dimensions: Today’s comfort zone becomes tomorrow’s confinement zone. The atrophy of all our “muscles” — physical, mental, relational, spiritual — even the creative “muscles” of growing in business or influence — that atrophy always results from disuse. Ever hear of “The Wild Duck of Denmark” — a story told by Soren Kierkegaard, Danish theologian and philosopher.

It seems a wild duck was flying northward with his mates across Europe during the springtime. En route, he landed in a barnyard in Denmark, where he made friends with the tame ducks that lived there. The wild duck enjoyed the corn and fresh water. He decided to stay for an hour, then for a day, then for a week , and finally, for a month.

At the end of that time, he contemplated flying to join his friends in the vast North, but he had begun to enjoy the safety of the barnyard, and the tame ducks had made him feel so welcome. So he stayed for the summer.

One autumn day, when his wild mates were flying south, he heard their quacking. It stirred him with delight, and he enthusiastically flapped his wings and rose into the air to join them. Much to his dismay, he found that he could rise no higher than the eaves of the barn. As he waddled back to the safety of the barnyard, he muttered to himself, “I’m satisfied here, I have plenty of food, and the area is good. Why should I leave.?” So, he spent the winter on the farm.

In the spring, when the wild ducks flew overhead again, he felt a strange stirring within his breast, but he did not even try to fly up to meet them. When they returned in the fall, they again called to invite him to join them, but this time, the duck did not even notice them. There was no stirring within his breast. He simply kept on eating corn which made him fat.

In which dimension do you most need the challenge to fly?