Your Guide to Finding Purpose, Setting Goals and Maintaining Success
You can make your leadership life better with a clear purpose, great goals, a deadline, and discipline.
INTRODUCTION – Your Best Year Ever?
Has this been your best year ever? For many people, the answer, sadly, is no. Maybe you lost your job, money is tight, or you unexpectedly lost a loved one. Maybe your year has been sprinkled with health scares and economic uncertainty. All of these things are significant events, and a life well-lived is full of them. However, these events are neutral. Some may feel terrific, some horrible, and some simply suck. That’s life. It doesn’t matter, because the only important factor is your response to those events. You cannot completely control most events in your life, no matter how hard you may try. There are too many outside variables. The only thing within your control is your response to them. Do you respond or react?
Reaction takes its instinctual cue from forces beyond your control while responding takes deliberative thought. Both paths influence your outcome. Wouldn’t you like to have a say? It’s the difference between shriveling up and choosing to blame the government, big business, family, and even God, or straightening up, grabbing a broom, and cleaning up the messes in life. It’s about taking personal responsibility.
You could wait until next week, next month or next year. Next year is full of potential. It’s also full of procrastination. “Next” is a comforting place to be because you don’t have any of the responsibility of being “it,” but you get to enjoy the feeling of anticipation.
January 1st is an arbitrary date; you can begin a goal and regain control of your life at any hour of any day. Why wait? Aren’t there are things you wanted to accomplish this year? There’s time to get started. You simply have to begin. In this guide, you’ll reexamine your purpose, your goals, and learn how to maintain both.
Find, Set, Get and Celebrate
Regardless of the date on the calendar, plant the seed and follow the lifecycle of every great goal.
Find a Great Goal.
Even if you have a laissez-faire attitude, there is a special joy in discovering some spectacular things you want to have, do or be. Fill yourself with that positive yearning.
Set a Great Goal
Make it a S.M.A.R.T. Goal (more on that later). It’s better to come up with three. A set of Short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals keep your momentum, and if interrelated, can help you achieve each of them all faster.
Get a Great Goal
Meaning, accomplish one. Turning your goals into reality is seldom easy, and that’s good. Great goals give our life a sense of personal purposefulness. Don’t you want to live your life on purpose? Stick with it.
Get rid of the long bovine or sourpuss expressions. The good and bad things in your life are tied more to your attitude than anything else. Want more good things? Celebrate every positive thing that happens. If you’re the reserved type, this will feel odd. Why celebrate the things that are supposed to happen? Because they worked! We mourn a loss. We must celebrate achievement.
No matter when you start, have a happy and enriching year filled with meaningful goals.
First, a story …
Snakebite and Venom
Two friends walked along a path when they happened across a rattlesnake warming itself in the sun. One of the men, pompous and careless, severed the snake with an ax, but not before it bit the foolish man on the wrist. The man wailed and flailed his arm in pain while his companion stood immobilized with panic. A third man, an experienced hiker, witnessed the events from several yards away.
Which one are you, and what do you do next?
Are you like the foolish man, filled with bravado who acted violently in the face of latent danger, and who is paying a painful price for his folly?
Maybe you are the incapacitated man, made powerless with indecision and panic, standing about uselessly.
Or perhaps you are the experienced hiker, equipped with the knowledge that, although painful, snakebites don’t kill people, it’s their venom. Venom that, if not removed, courses through the veins, accelerated by the constant movement and shaking of an ignorant and fearful victim.
This scene is repeated in people’s lives nearly every day. Everyone has experienced painful situations. You may have antagonized someone who then lashed out at you, or you might have come across trouble unexpectedly and been the victim of a painful blow. The first inclination is to lash back, to bellow accusations of unfairness, and to blame others. That energy would be better spent by removing the venom and repairing the damage. How often have you acted like the experienced hiker, yet instead choose to keep walking rather than help those who are angry, confused, or hurting? Even though you have the skills or knowledge that could solve the problem, bring about calmness, alleviate pain, or perhaps even save a life, you decide not to get involved.
Leaders get involved.
Leaders act. They do not shrug their shoulders and sigh, “Oh, well.” They give of themselves, protect people, remove the venom from the veins of victims, and teach others to do the same.
When trouble next looms before you, what role will you play?
This guide is for those who are or aspire to be the hiker who gets involved.
Why make things more complicated than they have to be? Here are four simple steps to make improvements in virtually anything you pursue.
1. Know your desired outcome.
2. Take action.
3. Notice if it’s working.
4. If it’s not working, try something else.
Stick to it and accomplish things. Fight it and risk wallowing in mediocrity.
PART ONE – FINDING PURPOSE
As you get anxious to start a new project, you tend to neglect the things you have for the things you want. Often this involves a lot of daydreaming, wishing, and yearning. Sometimes this causes the complete abandonment of one goal in pursuit of another, and then another and then another. Reexamine how you are living your life. You may determine you’re good to go and wouldn’t change a thing, or you may uncover a clue to greater success. Either way, look; otherwise, you may never know.
Reevaluate your current goals, your progress, and your beliefs.
Revisit each of them to make sure that you’re acting authentically and still believe the things you’re telling people.
Renegotiate contracts that no longer work for you.
People’s expectations change over time. There’s nothing wrong with that; it exemplifies flexibility. So does collaborating to review the terms of any long-standing agreements you have in place.
Repair things that are broken.
Spend time cleaning up the little annoyances of your life. Organize an out of control junk drawer, fix the squeaky door or a leaky faucet. This also applies to relationships. Even with all the social media tools available, everyone has a friendship that’s been neglected. Forgive, forget or apologize and send them a thoughtful card.
Rejuvenate your mind.
You may have had a vacation that did the trick, or maybe you feel like you need a vacation from your vacation. Get to the place that energizes you and just be there and enjoy it, even if it’s only in your mind for twenty minutes or so.
Renew your desires.
Decide on the things you want to keep in your life and physically or metaphorically dust them off. Put them on a different shelf, so they stand out. Make them appear new so you can appreciate them again.
Did you fail at something recently? Does that mean you should quit? No. Take a different approach or just show your grit and try again.
Ask Better Questions
Having a vision of success is only part of the equation of achievement; unfortunately, that’s where too many people stop. They can see what they want so clearly that it hurts. Those yearnings are fine because they move us forward, but it’s a different story if the vision we set for ourselves leads to feelings of regret or depression because we’re not achieving them fast enough.
Some wonder what they’re doing wrong and why things never seem to work out for them. As a result, these despondent people give up on their vision. Don’t be one of them. Keep your vision, the wilder, the better. What you should be doing is asking better questions.
If you created your vision, then you already know, deep within, that you’re able to achieve it. Today, assume you already have everything you want, and then figure out how you did it by asking forward reflective questions like;
“Why am I so successful?”
“How did I earn so much money?”
“Where did I find this wonderful person?”
Be as specific as you can in your reflection.
Do you think if you ask questions like these, you’re lying to yourself?
You might not FEEL successful yet, so how could you ask such questions? It’s easy because, like Michelangelo’s David, the person you want to be is already in there, you just need to get rid of the things that aren’t serving you anymore. Chip away the baggage that someone else unloaded on you. You’ve been carrying it for too long.
The mind is a powerful solution-seeking machine that likes to find answers. So, if you question why you’re a failure, you’ll get loads of solutions, and you won’t like any of them. It’s better to question why you are a success in whatever you choose to pursue. The answers to those questions may also surprise you, but you’ll like them better, and they will unlock a new way of thinking that will bring you closer to your vision with greater speed.
Everything in life has features, advantages, and benefits.
Features are sometimes called technical specs. These are the things the product or service has. A washing machine with five speeds, the nightclub that showcases only A-list performers, or the airline that offers warm towels to passengers on red-eye flights.
Advantages are the things that the product or service has that others don’t, or they provide exceptionally better than anyone else. The washing machine that’s available in four jewel-toned colors, the nightclub that has a frequent guest V.I.P. program, the airline that doesn’t charge you for the niceties.
Benefits are the things that people consider valuable. It may not be unique to you, but it’s very personal, and it’s how people make their decisions. What’s the benefit? You’re a designer and need a stylish red washing machine, or you collect autographs of top musicians for your ailing mother, or you like to go straight to work after an overnight flight and want to feel refreshed and ready to go. It’s easier to make a decision when you know the benefits.
That’s how it works in business every day.
What about for you personally? You have to “sell” yourself every day to prospective employers, customers, maître d’s, loan officers, instructors, even your spouse. So, give it some thought.
What are your Features?
What do you know; what are your core values and beliefs; and what do you stand for?
What are your Advantages?
What do you offer your world that others can’t do nearly as well as you can? What skills make others think of you first?
What Benefits do you bring?
What value will the people who are looking for you gain? This takes some self-confidence to figure out. You need to know yourself well, and you’ll need to discover what your audience needs.
Lead with your beliefs; this what people base their decisions on. Shore up your advantages and features, because if people feel the need to justify their decision about you, that’s where they will look. If you don’t have anything there, they will quickly change their minds. They will look to your advantages and features for validation, so keep them happy.
How to Confirm Your Purpose
Do you sometimes feel stuck and wonder what you’re doing with your life? If so, it’s a clue that you are not fulfilling your purpose. Maybe you think you don’t have a purpose. That’s a glum outlook, but even if it’s true, you still have a job to do. Let’s start with the assumption that you have a burning in your stomach. This exercise will help you better identify that yearning or confirm the one you’re pursuing is worthy of your attention.
Think about how you most often win others over to your way of thinking. How do you successfully get your way most often? It might be through humor or telling a story. Maybe you communicate with pictures or through writing. People have different standards of “worthy.” This is a matter of influence. How is your influence most felt in your world?
Where do you find your rewards? For many, this means money, and that’s fine. If profit is the applause you get for doing good work, where do you get your standing ovations? Rewards needn’t be money. Yours might be measured in smiles or hugs or some other way that makes you feel happiest. For many people, that’s a check. It feels good when people pay you. For others, it’s intangible. Identify what it is for you.
What group of people do you most enjoy learning from? In school, you probably had a favorite teacher. Think back as to why? If you’re no longer in school, you’re still learning things from people. It could be your parents or your children, your colleagues, or members of your spiritual circle. You might learn something from a favored author, or the neighborhood grocer. These life instructors are all around you. Take stock of who they are and see what they have in common.
This is the amulet you figuratively wear around your neck. Think about what symbolizes you most. What’s a tangible object you can look at, and preferably hold, that epitomizes you. The first few things that entered your mind were probably most accurate. Some people feel compelled to combine a bunch of images into a collage, like a family crest. Go ahead if you have to, it’s your symbol.
Look at your tool, treasure, teacher, and talisman of choice, and you’ll have a good indication of your purpose. When you do things that combine those elements, you’re acting on purpose. When you drift away from that foundation, you’re not.
PART TWO – GOALS
Three Ways – One Clear Path
People who want to be, do, or have something generally fall into three groups.
Group One – 85%
There are those who make no plans and set no goals. It’s not that they don’t have a list of wants in their life, but they tend to be dependent on outside resources beyond their control, like winning the lottery. 85% of the people you meet fall into this category. They have no specific goals that they’re focused on achieving. They work day by day, maybe weekend to weekend with little thought of cause and effect or the role their action, or inaction plays in their life.
Group Two – 10%
The next group of people is different. They have goals. The level of specificity may vary from person to person but ask them what their goal is, and they can tell you. It might sound more like a wish to some, but these people know what they want. They’re capable of achieving their goal, but they get bouts of insecurity and feelings of doubt. 10% of the people you meet are in this group.
Group Three – 5%
The final group also have goals, and you’ll notice they are far more specific when they describe them. Even if they sound far-fetched, there’s something about their confidence and self- assuredness that tells you it’s not an idle dream of theirs. It’s a worthwhile great goal, and there’s probably no stopping them. They have a secret weapon. Not only do they physically write down their goals, something 95% of the people you know don’t do; they also make plans toward accomplishing their goals. A plan needn’t be more elaborate than a series of tasks and a deadline to meet each of those tasks. People with great goals achieve the important things they set out to achieve because they do the work it takes.
You’re probably in Group Two. People in Group One wouldn’t have read this far into the guide. People from Group Three reading this are doing so because they are devoted to continual improvement.
Do the work to move from Group Two to Group Three. Your success depends on it. Start by creating a Great Goal Statement.
Culling Your Wishes for a Great Goal Statement
People still confuse a list of wishes with goals. Goals should give you vision and direction so you can create an actionable plan toward achieving them. Some believe that the number one reason people don’t achieve their goals is because they have so many. It’s more likely that they have too many competing priorities clamoring for the A1 slot.
This exercise will help you identify the one motivating goal that is burning inside of you. Think of it as your Great Goal Statement. Everyone should have a Great Goal Statement, one that takes precedence over all others. If you work on multiple Great Goals Statements, you risk diluting your efforts and weakening your chance at success. Follow these five steps to help focus your thinking.
Step 1 – Answer These Questions:
• If I won one million dollars tomorrow, what would I do?
• If I could change one thing about my body, what would it be?
• Who do I wish to be, and why?
• What skill do I wish I had learned as a child?
• Where do I see my career in three or five years?
Step 2 – Pick One
Choose the one answer from the above questions that provoked the greatest reaction in you. That’s your foundational goal. Reflect on it and determine what part of it you believe you can accomplish in less than a year.
Step 3 – Pick a Time Frame
Determine how long will it realistically take to accomplish this goal; one week, one month, six months, one year?
Step 4 – Determine the Cost
What will it cost you to achieve this goal in either time, talent (effort), or treasure (money)?
Step 5 – Fill in the Blanks
“I resolve to (answer from step 2) in (answer from step 3) by (answer from step 4).
Refine your statement in a way that speaks more clearly to you. Write it on an index card, fold it over, and bring it with you everywhere you go. Read it as often as you can; certainly, at least twice a day, first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
Create A Great Goal
How are you going to make sure you achieve your Great Goal Statement? First, you need to want it badly. If it’s not motivating to you, how fun do you think it’s going to be to achieve? If you’re working on a goal that’s not fun, you should stop. Life is too short. Look at your Great Goal Statement. What is it you want to do or have? Avoid mediocrity. Here’s how to make it a S.M.A.R.T. goal.
S – Make it specific. Broad goals decay quickly. Vague goals get vague results.
M – Make it measurable. You won’t achieve your goal with one grand action. It will take several little actions. It’s those little actions that you’ll want to measure. A little now leads to a lot over time.
A – Make it attainable. Americans are an optimistic lot and think that anything they want is attainable. Because of this mindset, they nearly always get what they want. Stretch yourself, like a rubber band – but don’t overextend or you’ll snap.
R – Make it realistic. This has a direct correlation to your motivation. If you’re not realistic about your current skills, the resources you have, and what additional things you’ll need to reach your goal, you’re destined for some disappointment.
T – Make it timely. Getting squishy with time commitments will serve no one. Time is a silent accountability partner. It steadily ticks along, whether you’re ready or not.
Make your goal positive in nature and phrase it in a way that causes the creation of something. Think about it; a goal to lose ten pounds sounds silly. Who makes it a goal to lose something? A goal is about scoring points. Get enough successful goals, and you have a winning streak. It’d be better to be specific about the realistic and attainable weight you want to be on the date you think you can achieve that weight. Soon you’ll be creating a brand new you!
ANOTHER BONUS TIP:
Having a goal to stop doing something will be less successful than a goal of starting to do something that is more important to you. Eventually, the more important goal will replace the less important one.
How Much and By When?
Achieving goals is not necessarily easy. In fact, it’s often easier not to achieve them. That’s why so many don’t. It’s easy to stay with the status quo. Sometimes, it’s even easier to go back to the way things were. That’s not progress.
Aren’t you tired of being stymied after a long meeting that didn’t produce any actions? Have you ever received instructions from your manager or even a customer that weren’t clear? There are two questions that will help. How Much? By When? There are other elements to effective goal setting; however, these two questions cut through much of the clutter.
This is your volume measurement. It can be anything; dollars, units, customers, votes, legislation.
This gives you a timeframe; a day, week, month, or year.
Put the two question together, and you have the immediate basis for accountably. It’s hard for some people to answer those questions. They want wiggle room. They don’t want accountability.
Few like accountability, yet most thrive when it’s there. You’re at your best when you’re accountable to yourself, your family, customer or constituents, and ultimately a higher calling. Accountability creates movement. How much and by when is a catalyst to get things moving. Get in the habit of asking those questions and providing the answers to projects that are important to you.
It’s hard to predict the future, so sometimes your answers will be off. Maybe your ‘how much,’ was too much or too little. Your ‘by when,’ too near or too far. It’s okay. Revise your answer and keep going. If you can hold yourself accountable to those two progress inducing questions, you can achieve more.
As an exercise, listen when your favorite or least favorite politician speaks and see how often they offer answers to those questions. It will give you an insight into the breadth of their vision. If they have no vision, they don’t know where they’re taking you. Don’t follow them.
Ask, How Much and By When at least once a day for a week.
Your Goal Planner
You can set goals anytime you want. If you’ve already established your goals for the year, good on you, let’s turbocharge what you have so far.
On top of your plan, include your purpose or personal mission statement and your top values.
Many people spend their energy trying to balance their life. Don’t. Strive for harmony instead. Create one or two complementary goals for each dimension of your life, and you’ll find your chances of achieving more increases dramatically.
Eight Common Dimensions and Definitions
1. Financial – Financially independent and free from financial stress. Satisfied with your current level of income.
2. Career – A fulfilling and nourishing career. On a positive career path.
3. Health – In great shape. Receiving effective healthcare. Exercising regularly and eating for sustenance and pleasure, not emotional comfort.
4. Relationships – Pleased and content with current relationships. Loved by the people who mean the most to you.
5. Recreation – Spend leisure time enjoying your interests — relaxation, refreshment, and pleasure.
6. Contribution – Giving of yourself to others.
7. Personal – Evolving, not just improving, because you continually experiment.
8. Education – Engaged in creative and stimulating mental activities. Use resources available to expand knowledge.
Follow these steps to create a thorough plan.
Step One – Decide on the specific things that you want to do, have, or be during the year. Create a S.M.A.R.T. Goal for each dimension of your life. Phrase it as a question beginning with Why?
Step Two – Determine the purpose of each goal. Describe why you want to achieve each goal and how you imagine you’d feel once you did.
Step Three – Do the actions that need to be done. Create a basic task list of things to be done to help achieve the goal. Include the financial and personal resources you need to achieve each goal.
Step Four – Deadline when the goal will be done. Stack rank your 1, 3, 5 or 10-year goals. Include a specific date in which you plan to achieve each goal.
If all this seems like too much work, boohoo. It’s very rare for a goal to show up on your doorstep neatly wrapped with a bow.
Goals are a messy business. They involve thinking and effort and negotiation and commitment.
If you want to work on wishes, save your coins and spend a day or two at your local wishing well.
If you want to work on your goals and, by definition, your life, get started.
PART THREE – MAINTENANCE
A Calendar, a Clock and Your Head
Maintaining your purpose and your goals take effort. There are three things you should begin to use in at least a cursory fashion that will help you: a calendar, a clock, and your head.
A calendar gives you a better perspective on what’s coming up. You know that Christmas is on December 25th, that taxes are due on April 15th, and you know the date of important appointments. It might be a day in advance, or a month, a year, ten years, it doesn’t matter. The point is you know what’s coming.
A clock serves the same function as the calendar but with greater immediacy. It’s a real-time planning tool. Just like you know things are coming at a particular date, you know some things are coming at a specific time. Airplane departures, hotel check-outs, last call at the bar, or what time Macy’s opens on Black Friday are a few examples. You can also use your clock to make a note of the duration of things for future planning. Perpetually late? That’s a clue that you need to spend more time on your planning.
Your head is the third thing you should use. With it, you have the ability to deduce and decide. Things come up out of the blue ruining well-laid plans. Don’t become a victim of life’s whims. Incorporate them into your plans. Think a little, don’t merely react. Instead, process information for a second longer and respond to situations based on your values and purpose rather than something fickle, like your current mood.
If you consider yourself a free-spirit, this all sounds like a horrible constrictive burden. It’s not, so, get over it. Becoming aware of what’s on the calendar, what time it is, and your capacity to solve a problem can change your life. Want to change it dramatically? Invest more time into your planning, and what you’ll do in the event your plans fall through.
The Find What’s Right Day
It’s easy to find things that are not going well. Alarms go off too early; cars don’t start, busses are missed, toast is burned, lines are too long, reports are missed, on and on.
You get what you look for thanks in part to the brain’s gatekeeper, the Reticular Activating System (R.A.S.), the part of the brain that filters out noise and stimuli so you can function. It’s why you notice things in the world that are important to you. The parent who hears a baby gurgle in the next room, how you hear your name in a crowded room, or see your dream car on the highway.
Spend the day testing your R.A.S. and be on the lookout for everything that’s going right in your world. From green lights to unexpected checks in the mail, finding a good deal on a new suit, or accepting gracious compliments on your hair. Instead of being convinced you’ll be a victim of Murphy’s Law, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong, “be determined to be a recipient of its opposite, “Anything that can go right will go right.”
Challenge yourself to find everything right in yourself and others. This may be odd at first, because you may not be used to looking at things that way. Tomorrow, do it all day long. Within a few hours, you will notice things you never noticed before, and it will lift your spirits and awareness.
Now … Make It A Perfect Day
What does your perfect day look like?
Perfection can be hard to achieve, particularly if the judges are harsh critics. If you consider yourself a high achiever, there’s probably nobody harsher than you. Luckily you’re the one who gets to determine if your day is going to be a great one, and you’re the one who does the assessing at the end of the day.
Showing gratitude gets you out of yourself. Have you ever appreciated the elegant simplicity and crucial role of a stop sign? You can moan about how much you’re paying in taxes, but instead, choose to be grateful for the array of humane and unique services you’re helping fund. When was the last time you sincerely thanked a person for making your day run smoother, either because of their contagious laugh and a beaming smile, or their attention to detail on an important project, or even getting your drink just right? Do it, and you’ll improve the day of at least two people.
Your brain is an incredible problem- solving machine. Calling things challenges just because it sounds better is silly. Call things what they are, problems or dysfunction. Problems shouldn’t have a negative connotation, but they do. Begin to change that perception. They are a puzzle that needs to be unlocked, and you’ve been blessed with the key deep within the recesses of your brain. It just takes time to access it. When you brainstorm the potential solutions to a problem that would improve your current condition, you get closer to that key. Eventually and unexpectedly, you will trip over it.
Beginning tonight, think about your main purpose or goal for tomorrow and the week ahead and jot it down.
List ten things you need to do that will bring you closer to that goal.
Before you go to bed tonight, or first thing in the morning, brainstorm ten ideas to improve a problem you’re facing. Remember, in brainstorming, there are no rules; write out anything even if it seems ridiculous. It’s the ideas that come out after the ridiculous ones that will be truly creative. That’s why it’s important to come up with at least ten. If you’re lucky, two of them might be pretty good.
During the day, strive to be more pleasant. Make it a goal to give ten compliments to other people. It could be for a job well done or shoes well shined. People want to hear from you.
At the close of the day, list ten things you’re grateful for. Fall asleep in that state of gratitude.
Do this for a week.
BONUS TIP: Your Gratitude List
Thinking about your age can sometimes pull you into a funk if you dwell on the things that aren’t what you wish they were. It’s better to do something active, rather than wallow in the passage of time and poorly set goals not yet achieved. Your age is revealed not by a number but by an attitude. How old would you be if you didn’t know your age?
Here’s an exercise that forces you to take stock and practice gratitude. Use the number that is your age and list, in no particular order, that number of things you are grateful for. Once you create a comprehensive list, you’ll have something to refer to often that will lift your spirits.
Your Inspiration Likes Attention
When did you last feel inspired? Did you do anything with that feeling? Inspiration often feels elusive, particularly to those who pursue creative fields. People call it their muse and often go off in search of it like it were a mythical creature. The word inspiration means “breathed upon,” which has a divine quality to it. It’s when you hear your inner voice, or the universe, or even God whispering a hint to you. When you give inspiration that kind of weight, it seems wrong to waste the experience.
Inspirations, like most of us, enjoys attention and doesn’t appreciate being ignored. Have you noticed that those who find inspiration easily also find it often? That’s because they honor their inspiration. When it shows up, they pay attention and take action. That’s not to say that every piece of inspiration leads you down the path of success, but many times it does. The problem is, you’re ignoring those moments far too often.
Inspiration doesn’t usually come on your schedule. It arrives at inconvenient times, like in the shower, or the middle of the night, or when you’re waiting in line and don’t have a pen. Your heart races, your eyes widen, and you are struck in a flash by what seems like the best idea you’ve ever had. It might be. But just as quickly as it comes to you, it disappears. Inspirations are ethereal things. Your job is to make them concrete and to take action; any action.
There are limitless conduits for inspiration. A good book, a fascinating lecture or seminar; maybe for you it’s surfing or taking a hike in nature. For others, it’s stimulating conversation with friends, or in some cases, adversaries. Inspiration is all around, and it is flowing constantly, like a river. Regardless of your belief system, every moment of the day, you are “breathed upon” by forces greater than yourself.
Make time today and every day to catch some of that inspiration and then act upon its message. Sometimes you will stumble, but no worse than if you ignored it outright. Take immediate action, even if it’s simply making a note of the aha within. Don’t wait for inspiration to move you, but always be driven by inspiration.
Get Your Ships Together!
Dreams, aspirations, and goals stimulate your imagination, but they aren’t enough if you’re used to achieving more. Sailing through life rudderless isn’t an option. It’s time to get your ships together. Here are eight key ships you ought to evaluate for seaworthiness.
Many times, there are wide variables between your interactions with your significant other, your family members, friends, and colleagues. Are you authentic in all your relationships? Are all of your relationships where you want them to be, or are there some that you could improve? Are there people you sometimes want to throw overboard? Examine your relationships and surround yourself with the best crew possible.
Everyone has the capacity to be a leader, be it of a household, a company, or even a little league team. Any organization of people needs a leader. Someone to set a vision, inspire movement, and encourage people along the way. There is something in your life that you’re leading, whether you know it or not. It would be better to know about it. The helm is yours, captain.
Although material possessions really don’t matter much in the big picture, when you scrape and save for some tangible thing you want, like a camera, new shoes, special watch, car, or house, the basic pride in ownership is the same. You take care of the things you own. You clean it, shine it, and show it off because it’s a symbol of your success. Are you taking enough pride in ownership? Polish the brass.
It is a sense of patriotism. Many look at what a country owes them instead of what a country full of liberty provides, like security, tranquility, justice, and the ability to pursue happiness. Everyone says their taxes are too high, but if you think about the value you get for that contribution, it’s probably a pretty good deal. To function properly, a country needs good citizens. A population that educates itself, votes, serves as a jury to justice and contributes in ways big and small. Raise the flags, show your colors and salute.
Nothing lasts forever, but there are times when things fall under your watch. Leading a team, babysitting a child, living on the planet. No one wants something bad to happen on their watch. Stewardship is treating something that’s not yours as though it were and then leaving it with grace and in a little better condition than you found it.
Everyone does something well. Something that requires their head, heart, and hands. It may be your hobby or your vocation, but it calls you, and your work speaks to others. It’s funny how people tend to be the most skilled craftsmen around the things they are most humble about. Devote time to your craft. Practice, hone, improve, excel. Make the engines purr.
Start something. You often see a need, a way to be of service that others haven’t thought about before, but too often ignore your great idea. How faithfully you go about filling that need is your entrepreneurial spirit. It may be risky. It’s okay. Go for it anyway.
People often overestimate the leader and underestimate the follower. Without the follower, the leader fails; without a leader, followers perish. You must know when to lead and when to follow. Know when to offer new ideas and solutions and when to support and respect existing ones. Respect your crew mates and the command.
Navigating these eight ships comes with a fleet of emotions. Pay attention to them. Take care of them. Inspect the hull and scrape the barnacles off from time to time. Send them out to explore uncharted waters. Spend time with them and just enjoy what they uncover alone and working in harmony with each other.
Help Others Who Are Lost
Let’s pretend you’re running late and suddenly realize you’re lost in a strange city, and the street signs don’t make sense to you. You’ve got your mobile device, and your Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare friends are only a few keystrokes away, but your satellite connection is spotty. You approach a passerby and ask them how to get where you’re going. There are a multitude of possible responses:
• I’m sorry, I don’t understand you.
• They ignore you and keep walking.
• They give you colorful but convoluted directions.
• They offer to sell you a map.
• They walk with you and safely get you to where you want to go.:
Which would you prefer? Which do you provide to your coworkers, customers, or family? Change and uncertainty can be exhilarating or scary or both. The answer you prefer is not all that important. If the stakes are high, you might be willing to shell out some money for information. You might not feel secure walking with a stranger. Depending on the circumstances, that might be exactly what you want.
The point is people you care about are thrust into situations similar to this metaphor every day, sometimes multiple times a day. As a leader and an artist, take note of the people around you. Some of them are lost and could use your help. If they ask you for it, don’t ignore them. If you don’t understand them, try harder because they’re at a bigger disadvantage than you. Be on the lookout for those who are lost and be the friendly face that helps them reach their goal.