INSIGHTS (on leadership/self-leadership)
Want to ensure you’re staying focused on what matters? Remember the acronym POWER (as shared in my hit LinkedIn Learning course, “10 Habits of Mentally Strong People.”)
Presence in the moment. We’ve all been there – when you’re there, but not really there – someone’s talking to you and while you’re physically present, your mind is elsewhere. Harvard research shows our minds aren’t focused on what’s right in front of us an astonishing 47% of the time! (Times at which your measured happiness is at its lowest). Instead, before engaging with someone, ask yourself, “What has my attention right now?” Remind yourself to zone in, not out, to be mindful, not mind full. Or think of your brain like a filled dry-erase board and imagine taking a wet sponge across it to wipe it free of distracting thoughts.
Only self-comparison. You know the drill. You downplay your accomplishments by comparing them to someone else’s. You convince yourself that you’re not enough. But you must focus on the only comparison that matters: to who you were yesterday and whether or not you’re becoming a better version of yourself. And you must believe that you’re already enough and are getting better every day.
What you can control. Obvious, I know, and yet so difficult. Your brain instinctively revisits negative events, wishing for a better outcome, or it worries over a variety of possible catastrophies. It might feel like you’re problem solving, but you’re not, you’re just overthinking things. Instead, focus on the only things you can truly control: your attitude, your effort, your self-talk, and…your breathing. Yup – don’t forget the power of a few deep, slow breaths for refocusing an anxious mind.
Establish your definition of success (and focus on that). It’s easy to lose sight of what matters to you and get caught up in what’s expected of you or what others define as success. For example, maybe others think success is if you get that next, big promotion. But maybe you’d be happier staying at your level while mentoring and coaching others. The point is, stay focused on success that’s meaningful to you. The word “meaning” starts with “me” for a reason.
Release the past. This is about simply letting go – of grudges, mistakes, and things holding you back. What must you move on from that keeps distracting you, aggravating you, or causing you to feel bad about yourself? Commit to being forward focused. More on that in the “Implementation” section of today’s issue.
IMPERFECTIONS (something many struggle with)
It can creep up on all of us. You’re working hard, striving, rising, giving your all. But at some point, you step back and wistfully realize how much of your focus has been on acquiring and accumulating – more money, status, accomplishments, resume gold stars, “toys”.
Hey, we all need some of it, it just so happens. But what happens when some of it, becomes all of it? How much, largely unfulfilled, time goes by?
You can have your cake, and eat it too, though. Simply be certain to balance acquisition mode with contribution mode. As in, also focus on what contributions you can make – to others, the greater good, to something that needs to change, to a “cause” worth investing in, even to the story you’re trying to live. When you do so, you’ll still acquire things, like the side-effect windfall of a better standing at work, for example. But contribution mode also impacts the sense of purpose you acquire, the depth of satisfaction you gain, the strengthening of your values. Obtainment of meaning, not just the material.
I’m not advocating to give up on personal progress, achievement, and the signals thereof. Nor to feel guilty for wanting some of that (I sure as hell want some of that). I’m just advocating for a greater balance between what you acquire, and what you inspire.
IMPLEMENTATION (one research-backed strategy, tip, or tool)
Tony Hsieh, the late, former CEO of Zappos, would pay employees $2,000 to quit after completing a four-week training class. He wanted to weed out employees that wouldn’t be committed and passionate about their work, so that they wouldn’t weigh down happiness levels at the company.
Imagine if you were this forceful with yourself about moving on from something that, in your heart of hearts, you know you’re not committed to, or passionate about – that will never bring you happiness? How much time, frustration, and self-flagellation would you save by not sticking with something because of guilt, autopilot mode, or because someone expected it of you?
After you’ve given it a fair shot, it’s fair to take a shot at something else. You won’t get paid in dollars, but you’ll get a sense of forward-progress.