Personal mission statements guide you towards your goals. If you sometimes feel like you’re floundering, chart your course by putting your purpose into writing. Try these suggestions for applying personal mission statements to your professional and personal life.
Understanding the Basics of Personal Mission Statements
Here are six key principles to follow.
First, perform an inventory. Your personal mission statement encompasses who you are and what you want out of life.
I like doing a personal S.W.O.T. analysis. Businesses use SWOT to evaluate their activity, why not use the same approach in your personal affairs?
Consider your core values and beliefs. Review your past accomplishments. Look for common themes that suggest your strengths and priorities. Ask yourself what you want your legacy to be.
Next, seek inspiration. One of the major benefits of mission statements is the motivation they provide. When you toil away at a tedious task or run into an obstacle, you can remind yourself of why you’re making the effort. Knowing your WHY is a very important motivation for giving your best effort at all times.
Then write it down. Putting your thoughts down on paper makes them more concrete in your mind. It’s easier to see how you’re doing and hold yourself accountable. We all get great ideas, but without writing them down, they have a tendency to drift away.
The same is true with your sense of personal purpose.
Above all, keep it brief. While there may be a lot of thought behind your mission statement, keep the final product short and powerful. That way you can pinpoint the values that matter most to you and measure your success.
Simplicity also adds to clarity. Having a short but succinct statement helps you maintain focus.
Then, gather feedback. Welcome input from others as you create your mission statement and carry it out. Your friends and coworkers may notice factors that you tend to overlook. Others will have keen insights into potential blind spots you have.
Lastly, evaluate your progress. Mission statements evolve over time. Your goals may change when you switch careers or turn 40. Advances in technology sometimes automate the tasks that used to take up your time, giving you a chance to pursue a new passion.
Keep it fresh. At a minimum, re-evaluate your statement each year.
Using Mission Statements in Your Professional Life
Feeling a bit disconnected at work?
Rewrite your job description. Take a fresh look at your position. Your personal mission statement may suggest new tasks that you want to take on and old ones that you want to phase out. Maybe you’ll continue your current duties but approach them with greater meaning and commitment.
Talk with your supervisor. Let your manager know that you’re trying to align your work more closely with the company mission statement. They may appreciate your initiative and offer helpful ideas.
Coach yourself. While support from your supervisor is valuable, you can also train and drill yourself. Construct a plan of action for integrating your mission statement into your daily routine.
Assess your fit. Addressing fundamental issues may raise bigger questions about your future. You may decide that you’re in tune with your company or you may decide to move on.
Using Mission Statements in Your Personal Life
Enhance your health. Fulfilling your mission depends on keeping your body strong. Cherishing your health can keep you on track with managing your weight, eating nutritious foods, exercising daily, and sleeping eight hours each night.
Strengthen your parenting. If you have children, it’s natural to think about what you’re passing on to them with each decision you make. Focus on raising your sons and daughters to be kind and responsible.
Deepen your relationships. Your mission statement affects other relationships too. You may find that your marriage and friendships help you to develop the qualities you treasure.
Practice your spirituality. If faith is the cornerstone of your life, your mission statement can help you to translate your beliefs into practical actions. Designate a percentage of your time for volunteer work with your church or sign up for classes with a spiritual guide whose teachings touch your heart.
Clarify your purpose by developing and updating your personal mission statement on a regular basis. Understanding your individual definition of success brings you closer to reaching your goals.
If you need help with this process, our coaches are ready and willing to come alongside. Let us show you the ways to unlock the power of creating and following a personal mission statement.
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There’s a popular business analysis tool known as S.W.O.T. It provides a method for looking at strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
SWOT reviews are done for business issues of all kinds like competition, market position, product design, sales, and technology. As applied to a business, you can see the merit of doing this review periodically.
However, it can be useful on a personal level as well. Managers and leaders should take time during annual reviews and goal setting to add this powerful view as well. Here’s how it can work.
Personal Review Using SWOT
A plan of action using a Personal SWOT Analysis can be developed for every aspect of development and execution because there are always three critical components in every chosen role you may serve. Whether you are husband, wife, father, mother, community leader, volunteer or other, you can SWOT your contribution to that effort.
Why? Because every role we serve has three key components.
Identity, Purpose, and Intention.
These three components form a process of right action. Without understanding who you are or what your business or organizational core competence is and what is the purpose you intend, you are always going to be guessing more than you have to.
In the following analysis, you are taken step by step through a proven process of creating clarity of right action.
However, to do so we have to begin with a simple way of fleshing out the context within which you intend to work. It doesn’t matter what context or role you choose, each of them requires you to be clear.
In order to reach clarity we take some simple, yet critically important steps. The first steps begin with a SWOT Analysis.
You will focus on the following overriding questions:
HOW Can YOU match your STRENGTHS to OPPORTUNITIES/Openings?
How can you reduce the impact of your WEAKNESSES and THREATS?
How do you differentiate yourself from your competition?
Trying to analyze one’s own strengths can be tricky. Throughout all of my coaching, I seldom see anyone who gets this exactly right the first time. Some might be modest and undervalue great strength in areas like collaboration, employee empowerment, decision making, or planning.
Others can be more boastful, seeming to know without a doubt they are great leaders who people should feel honored to serve; “my way or the highway” approach to leadership.
Entrepreneurs can be especially blinded by the emotional connection to their idea. While the great new product or service has great potential, the business will fail because the founder doesn’t know what he/she doesn’t know.
Before isolating your own estimation of your strengths, seek some 360 feedback. Get input from others you value as trusted advisors. Do an informal ask session.
Then compile a list of the strengths that you can use to accomplish your goals and objectives.
Just like your strengths, identifying “weaknesses” in your personal domain can be hard. Objectivity can be lacking. You may even be suffering blindspots where your weaknesses reside. Using 360 reviews and stakeholder feedback can help inform you of areas where there is an opportunity for improvement.
However, you may know exactly what areas or what issues give you the most trouble. Stating what these may be will help round out the SWOT analysis.
These are the things you can see as a new direction; changes that allow you to reach new goals. Taking a good look at the road in front of you can reveal opportunities for growth and change.
Listing them while doing this personal inventory helps bring motivation and inspiration to the plan.
Making a good assessment of personal threats is also tricky. I recommend starting with your mindset.
Do you hold any limiting thoughts about who you are and what you can do?
If you ever wondered about a limiting thought, they sound like this:
I’m too small
I’m too slow
I’m too ugly
I don’t have the right degree.
You failed at this the last time.
Any statement rumbling in your head that starts with or sounds like these need to be eliminated first. Then you can deal with identifying true threats to your personal goals.
Performing a Periodic Personal Review
Just as every successful business invests time to perform SWOT analysis from time to time, you too should perform this review with your work life, home life, and career balance.
See what the data may tell you about the direction you are heading. Use the informed analysis to redirect your path, redefine goals, and set a new course.
Have a great and prosperous New Year!
If you want to know more about the ways I can help you or your business, click the button below.
Whether you’re interested in goal setting tips for you, your business, or to gain a deeper understanding of goal setting to help your clients, this SMART goal setting & Action Planning GUIDE can help.
Starting with an overview of the SMART Acronym and a helpful SMART graphic, this guide goes deeply into each element of SMART goal setting. It includes examples and more to help both you and your clients set well-rounded and SMART Goals and Actions!
So, What is a SMART Goal?
A SMART Goal is simply a goal where the SMART criteria have been met. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Timebound. A SMART goal is also easier to achieve, and track progress for, because it’s well-rounded and clearly defined.
SMART Goals Stand For:
Specific (being clear and specific makes goals and actions easier to achieve – and start!)
Measurable (helps you know when a goal or action is complete and measure progress)
Actionable (ensures you have direct control over the actions needed to achieve the goal)
Realistic (avoid overwhelm and unnecessary stress and frustration by making the goal realistic)
Timebound (helps us stay focused and motivated, inspiring us with a date to work towards)
SMART Acronym Graphic
A Little SMART History
The SMART Goals acronym began as a set of criteria for management to set better goals within organizations. But the SMART acronym is so powerful (and catchy) that it began to be used in personal goal setting too.
When were SMART Goals created?
The first reference to SMART Goals (according to Wikipedia) is in 1981 in a magazine called Management Review.
Who created SMART Goals?
George T. Doran is the creator or SMART Goals. He wrote a paper: There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management’s goals and objectives. In this paper he discussed the challenges of documenting goals and objectives for management within organizations. Of interest to coaches is that George believed it was the goal combined with the action plan that was most important. In this paper George T. Doran’s SMART Acronym was:
Assignable – identify who will do it
Interestingly, the A (Assignable in George’s acronym above) is the only letter that has substantially changed in the switchover to personal goal setting. In personal goal setting “Assignable” doesn’t make sense as the goal is already assigned. And because taking action is so important, I have chosen A – Actionable as the replacement A in the SMART criteria.
Variations on the SMART Criteria There are many minor variations on the SMART criteria. The “Specific” and “Measurable” criteria are almost always consistently used, while the “A” and “R” may vary. The “T” is usually some version of timebound.
Some other SMART Criteria examples include: Other A’s – Assignable (original definition for use in setting management objectives), Achievable, Attainable, Agreed, Action-oriented, Ambitious, Aligned with corporate goals. Other R’s – Relevant, Resourced, Reasonable, Results-based. Other T’s – Time-related, Time-limited, Time-based, Time-oriented, Timely, Time-sensitive.
SMART Goal Setting
SMART goal setting is an art! We start with a vision or an idea and gradually refine it, making it more specific and measurable so that it becomes a goal we can take action on. A coach sits on the outside asking questions to help the client refine and hone their ideas so that their goals become actionable, achievable – and SMART!
How to Set SMART Goals Example All too often people set goals that are not SMART. Here is an example of how you might take a non-SMART Goal and make it SMART.
Starting Non-SMART Goal: Get more sales!
Consider: With the goal Get more sales, how would you know when you’ve achieved that goal? How would you measure progress/know you’re on track? Where would you start?
Let’s look at how the SMART criteria can help: Make it Specific – Double the sales of my healthy eating eBook.
Make it Measurable – Increase the gross annual revenue from my healthy eating eBook from $10,000 to $100,000. We have added a $ amount and made it clear we are measuring gross revenue. This allows us to break down the goal and track progress.
Ensure it is Actionable and within your control. One way to do this is to think about specific actions you could take that will directly impact the goal. Here are 4 example actions within your control: 1. Create a new, more exciting front cover. 2. Create a marketing action plan. 3. Ask 25 people to read and review it on Amazon. 4. Increase the price from $9.95 to $12.95.
Make it Realistic – Increase the revenue from my health eBook from $10,000 to $25,000 (reduce the amount to make it more realistic and achievable).
Make it Timebound– I would like to complete this goal by October 31 of next year.
The Final SMART Goals Example now reads: Increase the gross annual revenue of my healthy eating eBook from $10,000 to $25,000 by October 31 next year.
TIP: Whilst SMART may seem like an acronym to follow one step at a time, as above, when you apply it you’ll find yourself jumping around. Be prepared to change your goal as you hone, refine, and understand it more deeply!
SMART goal setting is a process – and an art.
SMART Goals are Specific
Have you ever struggled to get started on a task because you don’t really understand what it is, or the task seems too big and fuzzy?
Well, you’re not alone! Many people struggle with getting started on their goals – simply because they haven’t made their goals specific enough.
But it’s well worth the effort: The more specific goals are, the easier they are to achieve! When we’re clear on what we want, it makes it easy to make decisions and take action because we know exactly what we’re trying to do.
I always wanted to be somebody, but I should have been more specific. Jane Wagner
How making goals SPECIFIC makes them EASIER to achieve:
TIP: SMART is not just for Goals! In order for you to be most effective both your goals and actions should be SMART. After all, actions are really just small goals!
SMART Goals are Measurable
How will you KNOW you’ve achieved your goal unless you can measure it?
If you can’t prove you’ve completed the goal then it’s not measurable – which means it’s not a SMART goal. Measurability is a very important part of making your goals specific.
SMART Goals Examples
If your goal is to “Get more people signed up for your newsletter”, how will you know you’ve succeeded unless you know where you are now, and what you’re aiming for? Instead, your goal could be to “Double your newsletter subscriber list from 250 to 500 people”. This also allows you to track progress and adjust your action plan if it looks like what you’re doing isn’t getting the results you need.
More SMART Goals Examples: Change “Follow-up with prospects” → “Phone 5 warm leads from last weekend’s workshop”. Change “Decrease my website bounce rate” → “Decrease my website bounce rate to 40%”. Change “Run more workshops this year” → “Run 3 free workshops and 3 paid workshops in the next 12 months”.
3 TIPS to Make Goals SMART – and Measurable
One way to find your measure is to ask “Why am I doing this? Why bother?”. This will help you identify why you’re doing it – and to identify the measures you need to be sure your goals are successfully completed.
Your measure could be a financial amount, a percentage increase or some kind of count. Note that for some goals and actions, the only measure is a “yes” or “no” to completion of the task. Ie. your new website is live, or you have registered your business name.
If you don’t know how to prove to someone that the goal is complete, then your goal measure is not specific enough. The “acid test” for measurability is to ask “How do I prove I’ve completed this goal?” So rather than “Create a new product” your measurable goal could be “The new product is available to buy on your website”. And rather than “Finish my book”, your measurable goal is “The final manuscript has been sent to the editor.” Clear – and provable!
Measurability is important for Actions too (actions are really just small goals!)
SMART Action Examples Change “Write an article” → “Write a 750 word article for LinkedIn on how to set boundaries with your boss”. Change “Follow-up with your prospects” → “Phone each of the prospects (from the free seminar I ran) by the end of Friday this week”. Change “Practice coaching” → “Ask 50 friends and family if you can give them a free coaching session (and book a time with those who say yes)”.
SMART Goals are Actionable
We can’t control fate – or other people. For a goal to be SMART it must be actionable by us, and within our control. Otherwise it’s not a goal, it’s a wish!
Actionable goals are those you can DO something about ie. where there are a number of actions – within your control – that lead to achievement of that goal.
SMART GOALS EXAMPLE: Your goal is not to “Get potential clients to see what you offer as excellent value” (you have no control over what people think of you), but to “Write a document that lists my unique selling points and the benefits of my service to potential clients”. This goal is now actionable.In addition, two follow-on actions could be, to “Add these selling points and benefits to the ‘Why coach with me?’ page on my website”. Another could be “Pick the 3 most powerful points and send them to my graphic designer to add to the back of my business card”.
Also Make Your Goals Action-oriented…
Making a goal action-oriented also encourages you to write ACTIVE and not passive goals.
SMART GOALS EXAMPLE: Your goal is not to “Have a giveaway with newsletter sign-up on your website” (this is vague and passive and while loosely actionable, it is not action-oriented and does not inspire action). But your goal could be to “Write a one page special report on 7 ways to take better care of our feelings and add it as the newsletter sign-up gift for your website”.
Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there. James Allen
SMART Goals are Realistic
It’s important to feel GOOD about your goals. When we set ourselves a goal that’s out of our reach we often end up feeling overwhelmed, we self-judge, and sometimes we give up altogether. Truly SMART goals feel great!
This means it’s important to factor in existing commitments and lifestyle when setting goals. SMART goals and actions need to be challenging enough to inspire you. AND they need to be realistic enough that you believe you can achieve it. It’s all about setting yourself up for success.
4 TIPS to Make Goals SMART – and Realistic
POSSIBILITY: Is it physically possible to complete the Goal or Action in question? While stretch goals can be inspiring even if they’re unlikely – this is rarely true if they’re impossible!
CHUNKING DOWN: Struggling with a big action or goal? Break it down.
For Goals ask: “What would be a great stepping stone?”, “What goal could I set that would prepare me or give me knowledge or experience that will help me achieve this bigger goal?” and “What could I achieve in a month, 3 months or year that would get me closer to my dream?”
For Actions ask: “What could I start or spend a chunk of time on?” and “What would be an easy first step, preparation action, request for help or action to remove an obstacle?”. You can break out the first step into an action or set yourself a target of working on something for a chunk of time like 1 day or 3 hours
COMMITMENT: Make your action doable, ie. the right size so that you can commit to it 100%. NOTE: Commitment is important – although it doesn’t necessarily mean the goal or action will get done. Sometimes life gets in the way and opportunities or problems arise which prevent us from achieving what we set out to do. However, people CAN commit to achieving it.
SCORING: One way to check-in as to how Realistic your goal is, is to score how likely you feel you will achieve your goals (out of 10). If your score is LESS THAN 8:
Your goal or action may be TOO challenging or large.
You may not feel connected enough to WHY you’re doing it.
You may lack self-belief (which is an obstacle in itself)
There may be some other obstacles you haven’t fully acknowledged or addressed yet.
TOP TIP: When estimating, think carefully how long the action will realistically take.
This is because we tend to underestimate how long tasks will take, especially if we haven’t done it before.
A good rule of thumb (from my Project Management days) is to double your first thought of how long the action or goal will take. And if you haven’t done it before, try tripling or even quadrupling your estimate. It sounds extreme, but this is a great way to reduce stress – and surprisingly accurate.
Create a RANGE of Goal Achievement Levels
One way to make a goal realistic, is to create a RANGE of goal achievement levels. Having a goal completion RANGE is a great way to take the pressure off, while still inspiring yourself with a stretch goal.
Minimum – This should be relatively EASY to achieve. Set a level that is EASILY achievable this year. After all, life sometimes does throw unexpected things our way – positive opportunities, charming distractions and painful experiences!
Target – This is your IDEAL level. What would be a good level to aim for? What would be enough of a stretch to be interesting, but not so much of a stretch that you find yourself switching off or avoiding it?
Extraordinary – This is your STRETCH level! What would be amazing, brilliant, wonderful? Put in a measure here where you would say, “Wow, that is fabulous!” NOTE: Be sure that your measure here is POSSIBLE, even if it is not PROBABLE.
Goal RANGE Achievement EXAMPLES: The range you use could be DATES, for example: – Minimum level could be completed by – December 31 – Target level could be completed by – September 30 – Extraordinary level could be completed by – June 30Your range could also be NUMERIC – a $ amount, percent or a count. For example: – Minimum = 250 Facebook likes, 1 new client a month, $1000 in sales/month – Target = 500 Facebook likes, 3 new clients a month, $2000 in sales /month – Extraordinary = 750 or more Facebook likes, 5 new clients a month, $5000 in sales/month
If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put foundations under them. Henry David Thoreau
SMART Goals are Timebound
WHY? SMART goals and actions are always Timebound ie. they have a date by when you plan to complete them. Without a date there’s less incentive to work toward our goals – what are we aiming at? We’re all so busy! How are we going to fit more activity into our lives? How do we know how to prioritise our activities unless we have a deadline to know this goal/action is important to us?
Also, an action plan to achieve a goal will be very different in terms of effort, solutions and help required if the deadline is a month from now, as compared to a deadline of one year from now. Setting a date allows people to work backwards and figure out an appropriate action plan.
A date also gives us the opportunity to visualise completion. It allows you to imagine that time in the future when you have completed it- and that helps you commit to the goal!
With annual goals we often have an automatic “deadline” of December 31. And sometimes a date is fixed or imposed on us, for example if we’re booked to deliver a workshop on a specific date. And sometimes we must choose a date, so we have something to aim at.
3 TIPS to Make Goals Timebound
Pick a date that inspires you, but that’s not so challenging that you feel overwhelmed.
Different dates may also represent the relative priority or urgency of different actions. Fore example, a goal or action with a completion date of March 31 is likely to be higher priority than a goal with a completion date of September 30.
For each goal, you can give yourself a RANGE of completion dates (Minimum, Target and Extraordinary) as detailed under the “Make it Realistic” above.
5 Final Tips to Be Smart about HOW We Set Our Goals
It’s not just about setting goals using the SMART criteria. We need to BE smart about our goals. Here are 5 final tips to help you and your clients both set – and achieve – your goals.
Work hard, but know when to rest. Forgive yourself – for what you don’t yet know, for your mistakes and what might get in the way.
Be kind to yourself! Know that we tend to over-estimate what’s achievable in a shorter time-frame, and under-estimate what we can achieve over a longer period.
Anytime the goal isn’t working for you, change the goal! The best goals flex when they need to.
Remember that SMART is for Actions too!
More important than hard work – determination and perseverance are essential qualities for achieving bigger goals! Keeping going when the going gets tough is what sets you apart from the crowd. These qualities also build self-confidence, resilience and make you proud of yourself!
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Goals can be fun and inspiring. What the SMART criteria do is help us clearly define our goals so they’re easier to get started. SMART also makes it easier to take action, stay motivated – and ultimately succeed!
I have always loved goal-setting – and SMART goal-setting in particular! So I hope this SMART Goal-Setting and Action Planning Guide helps you and your clients set smarter and more inspiring goals – and have more fun working towards them!
Finally, remember this:
GOALS are there to INSPIRE YOU, not to beat yourself up with! Now that’s SMART!
If you liked this article about SMART Goals, you may also like:
About the author: Emma-Louise Elsey is the CEO of Simplicity Life Coaching Ltd. (The Coaching Tools Company.com and Fierce Kindness.com are divisions of Simplicity Life Coaching Ltd.) She is a certified Life Coach, NLP practitioner, and recovering perfectionist who loves meditation, questions, quotes, creating coaching tools, and writing.
Since qualifying as a coach in 2004 she has worked with many successful professionals and business owners. For inspiration and to help you with your businesses, there are many more Free Coaching Tools & Templates including coaching questions, coaching exercises, business admin templates for new coaches and forms to help with your workshops.
Article (or Graphic) by Emma-Louise Elsey, professional life coach and founder of The Coaching Tools Company.com. Reprinted with permission from “The Launchpad” newsletter and blog – for people who love coaching. Get more helpful articles for coaches, coaching tips, free resources, and more. Visit The Coaching Tools Company [link to the original article] to learn more.
If your desire is to be a better manager at work, at home, or in the community, you may want to develop some actual leadership skills.
However, if you are already following certain leadership principles, there is always room for lifting the lid to expand your reach and influence.
After many years working with clients of all kinds, I see one recurring theme, time and again. The biggest difference between managers and leaders who are pretenders versus contenders is a small six-inch piece of real estate; the distance between your ears.
Yes, I am talking about the space inside your head. The things you allow to happen in your thought life will drive the rate of success. You can be a pretender or you can be a contender. The difference is isolated in this really small space.
In the following diagram, you can see the natural progression of thought, action, reaction and behavior that is derived from our beliefs, expectations, and experiences. It’s all centered in the mind.
Beliefs are your values, judgments, interpretations, assumptions, and attitudes. When you wake up each day, you have a whole set of these beliefs waiting ready in your head. The sum total of all these makes up your outlook for the day, often before you even begin. The collection of these beliefs set the stage for the way each day might unfold.
If a string of circumstance has tainted your set of beliefs, you will look at new opportunity through a jaded lens. On the other hand, if you have achieved a certain success, you may be more inclined to view new opportunity with a more optimistic mindset.
Your beliefs drive your behaviors. Your “style” openness (or not), your habits, skills, practices, and actions stem from the beliefs you carry.
If you prefer mustard over mayonnaise, you are expressing an eating behavior based on some belief you established a long time ago. And so it goes with many of your daily choices, clothes, cars, hobbies, reading, entertainment, music, etc.
Even the people you may choose to call friends will be governed by your beliefs turned into behavior. The kind of tribe you may join at work or in the community will be influenced by your behaviors.
If you align with a certain religious belief system, that will dictate the house of worship you choose to attend. Political affiliations, other social settings, and even workplace choices will be heavily swayed by the relationships you think you want to make; all having root in your mind’s eye.
Finally, the results will reflect the collection of beliefs, behaviors, and relationships. The direct circles of activity you choose will have a specific set of outcomes. These results (outcomes, impact, improvements, and “performance”) will all serve to reinforce your belief system.
When the results align with your original beliefs you say “see, I told you so.” You feel you knew it all along.
On the other hand, if an outcome somehow runs counter to what you expected (as many things will do), you may be inclined to fall deeper into your beliefs saying things like “I will never do THAT again”, or “I wish I had followed my gut.”
The successful leader will learn how to control that delicate real estate between the ears. Negative thoughts will be replaced by ones that provide a more meaningful value. The cycle of belief, behavior, relationship, and result will become a momentum-generating machine for positive action and success.
Whenever limiting thoughts creep in or pop up, the prudent, experienced leader will properly address the thought and prevent it from taking root to undermine the rest of the experience.
Whenever in doubt, the seasoned, learning leader will seek advice from trusted counselors and coaches or mentors and friends, to better evaluate the thought. If the thought has merit, then it can be addressed with a balanced, healthy view, never interrupting forward progress.
When you handle the root belief system, you set the stage for a more positive outcome. More importantly, you set the process by which you can grow, profit, and prosper in all areas of your life.
I’ve coached hundreds of business people helping them develop more effective leadership skills. Whether you own the business or you’re climbing the ladder in a larger corporate setting, you can benefit from finding a close, confidential advisor to help you develop the extra skills that make a difference. Use the contact forms here to reach out. Let me introduce you to my proven programs for leadership growth.
We live in a crazy, busy world. That won’t be a surprise to anyone. The at-home quarantine for COVID-19 have even increased the load on workers and families everywhere.
Your day gets crammed with to-do list items that feel overwhelming. What can you do?
If you’re like most people I know, (myself included) you want to get it ALL done. But how do you decide what gets done first and what can wait?
In the face of this global crisis, turning to some old-school thinking just might help you.
Prior to becoming the President of the United States, Dwight Eisenhower served as the Allied Forces Supreme Commander during WWII. As a general officer, Eisenhower was faced with daunting decisions concerning the tasks he needed to focus on every day. This led him to create a principle that can help us priorities our tasks by looking at whether something is urgent and important.
I like to call these things that are both important and urgent your “big rocks”. These are the must win items to get done.
Many of my clients admit that the big rocks can get pushed aside in favor of clearing out a bunch of smaller things. There’s a flaw in that idea though. Fill your day with a bunch of little things like those 135 emails, and your day will be gone before anything got done on the big rock.
The things you know you need to do first can be put aside because of perfectionist tendencies. The thinking sounds like this, “I know this is big. I am not prepared to make it perfect, so I am going to wait.”
Perfect is the enemy of good.
Get busy on those Big Rocks, now!
Box 2: Decide When
Box 2 items are important but not urgent. So what they need is a decision about when.
Items placed in box 2 can have life changing impact; remember they ARE important. Yet you have time to decide when they get done.
Here’s where we need to talk about urgent versus important. People often associate urgent matters with being important, which is not always true.
There are many examples of Box 2 items. Getting another degree can be very important to your career advancement, but does it have to be done right now? Exercising is important for health, but you can schedule the right amount of exercise.
Box 3: Delegate It
Have you ever spent time doing something you thought was so urgent and important, but when it was done you realized it was not?
If so, congrats. You are in great company.
For Box 3 it is important to learn when and how to delegate things. If you lead a team, you have resources. You can salvage your time in favor of letting others do these particular tasks.
If you are in the middle of working on a big rock (Box #1) and the phone rings. You don’t have to answer it. If you see who called, ask a team member to return the call and find out what is happening.
Box 4: Delete It
You want to avoid much of Box 4 items. Examples are playing video games, watching old TV shows. Any mndless web browsing may be a Box 4 item.
You need time to invest in working boxes 1 and 2. The more time you free up by simply deleting things, the more productive you will become.
OK, yes, we need “downtime” to unwind and relax. Take that time. But watch yourself for wasted time doing very unnecessary things. That junk email doesn’t even need to be opened. Just delete it.
Procrastination and the Eisenhower Grid
As I mentioned earlier, procrastination can get you confused about this grid. Sometimes it’s easy to make distinctions between your tasks, other times not so much.
Everything you have in front of you does not fit in one of the boxes. The reality is that all things do fit somewhere, just not in the same box.
Picking up that gallon of milk has to wait while you find your car keys. There is a logical order to things.
For procrastinators, while you wrestle with box 1 and 2 things, you fill your day acting on things in boxes 3 and 4. Ultimately, you feel a sense of missed opportunity.
Here’s How to Use the Grid to See If YOU are Procrastinating
To see if you are spending the bulk of your time in the first two quadrants, do a one-week assessment. To do this, make six copies of a blank grid, and use one grid per day, listing the tasks you accomplished or the activities you did, and the time spent on each thing.
When all of the grids are full, combine the Monday-Friday data onto your sixth summary grid and calculate how much time you spent in each grid, then break those numbers down into percentages.
Evaluate how effectively you spent your time and whether your process needs to be reorganized.
As businesses across the globe begin to ponder their choices for reopening in a post-COVID-19 world, people will be faced with choices. While governmental restrictions dictate some of those choices, it appears all other choices will be left up to the owner/manager. Are you ready to take a chance?
The choices will involve taking chances. How are you set for taking a chance? Here are just a few of the situations I am seeing among the businesses I serve.
Social distancing is still going to be a ‘rule of the road’. Large companies with grand office footprints are talking about limiting on-site presence, at least for the near future. Ideas like allowing only those employees with enclosed offices to return to work first. Cubicle workers will stay home a bit longer.
Restaurants are looking at separating tables by six feet, reducing seating areas. Stores may keep the Plexiglas panels they have installed at checkout stands.
As an executive, leader or manager making these choices, you create a risk for taking the chance to do something one way or the other. How will you handle that?
The Basis for Decision
Responding to the post-crisis world will be testing your leadership resolve. Do you have the ‘metal’ to stand firm in your convictions about the right thing to do? Clearly acting too soon to deploy large numbers of employees, patrons, or traffic in your facility may tag you an outlier. Are you ready to accept that risk?
The process to make these choices will demonstrate what you have been made of all along. As John Maxwell says:
“Experiences make us, but crisis reveals us.”
How will you be revealed in the face of the crisis around you? As the world finds its new normal, will your leadership character be strong or weak?
Core and Edge Thinking
There is a good explanation for dealing with taking chances as a leader. It has to do with the agility you have in moving from your core out to the edge. Let me explain.
Your Core is the center of your leadership framework. It is made up of all your beliefs, values, and relational experiences. The core includes your technical training and experience too. Likely you have worked hard to develop your leadership core. Just like working on your body’s core at the gym, having a strong leadership core makes you a better leader.
Your core provides the foundation of who and what you may be as a leader. It inspires your own sense of right and wrong, weak and strong.
However, your core can become your comfort zone too. You might be one who finds safety in staying very close to the core. This can be the downside of relying too much on core strengths.
Then There’s the Edge
For every one of us, there is an edge out there. The edge is the horizon of opportunity and challenge. The edge is where new growth happens. It is often an unknown situation or circumstance.
This is why taking a chance is a good example of being on the edge. The risk that is associated with going out to the edge is what makes leadership challenges so significant.
Explorers love the edge challenge. Finding new horizons.
That is why your willingness to go out to the edge is as much an indicator of your leadership prowess as is your core strength.
The third dimension of this model is called agility. Agility is a leader’s ability to move smoothly from core thinking to the edge and back again.
On one hand, being willing to freely go out to the edge is good, but if you get stuck there, you’re in trouble. You have to be able to get back to your center, your foundation. Think about Apollo 13.
Agility is the beauty of good leadership. Keeping your values high yet exploring new opportunities to grow and prosper your team, your work, and your business. By gracefully going to the edge while maintaining clear visibility of core strengths, you become a trusted leader.
Back to the New Chances
The new normal we are looking to establish represents the edge for all of us. The way we define the edge may be different, but it is an edge nonetheless. If your core cries out for certain values and expectations, but the edge is not clear, you are dealing with taking a big chance.
Your agility will be the factor that determines your success. Ask yourself what it will take to move forward.
Will an old habit of decision making fail you in this new crisis? Will you be afraid to take chances?
Or can you effectively, maybe even boldly, make the right decision to choose next steps for your business? By exercising your agility you can go out to the new edges, do what you have to do, then know you can always return to your core for strength.
Do you remember the last time you took something out of the freezer and stuck it in the microwave? You were hoping for a tasty treat. But when the buzzer went off, you grabbed your food and stuck your fork in only to find a frozen middle.
The edges were hot and bubbly, but the center was just as cold as when you got it out of the fridge.
In today’s ever-increasing complexity of business, companies of all sizes are developing frozen middles.
What exactly does that mean?
Senior executives spend their days plotting vision and trying to get the workforce to execute on that vision. Yet the larger the corporation, the greater is the chance to suffer from the frozen middle.
Here’s how it happens.
Senior leaders set a course to deliver a new product or service. Junior executives distill the demands from the top and begin trying to communicate the details of a complex plan.
If the company has reverted to more of a matrix style reporting structure, i.e. people have dual reporting responsibilities, subordinate workers begin to suffer from command and control fatigue.
Signals get crossed and focus is lost. Rather than do something wrong, the folks in the middle freeze. They stop ‘doing’ for fear of doing it wrong. They will work, but the level of productivity lags simply because there is an unintended fear of doing something out of line or off the mark.
Creativity, collaboration, and even inclusion suffer.
Gifted and talented workers simply freeze in place.
What can Leaders do to thaw or avoid the frozen middle?
First, pay attention to your communication. The bigger the company, the greater is the flow of information. New policies, new procedures, new systems, etc. All of these serve to complicate the message(s) circulating through your offices and workshops.
You must strive for crystal clear clarity at every turn. Are your messages coherent and complementary to one another, or have you sent mixed signals?
Are your instructions consistent with the vision, mission, and goals you have launched?
Next, are your subordinate managers able to state the mission, values, and goals? Watch for simple parroting of the message; that is, repeating it back to you like a robot. Instead, they should each be able to state the purpose and vision for their teams in their own words. Yes, it should align with the greater good, but it has to come from their center of understanding, not some plaque on the wall.
Encourage your direct reports to work on this clarification of the message with their individual teams. Coach them through the process to create the message for their teams.
In addition, build trust in your circle of influence so that trust can be shared beyond just your inner circle. Model a trusting behavior for others to see so they can begin trusting you.
Speak empathetically. Embrace change.
Be patient. As change comes, not everyone aligns at exactly the same pace. Many will lag your understanding and enthusiasm. As a leader, you get an early preview of the changes that are needed.
Just because you “got it” and became excited about the change, not everyone else will immediately get it too. It is likely you needed your own time to process a pending change. Remember that. Allow your team their time to process change.
Finding Tools and Solutions
There is simply no better way to avoid the frozen middle than finding ways to keep your teams on the same page.
I’ve been coaching and advocating the Big 5 method of performance management for decades. In every situation where Big 5 has been adopted, work teams experience higher productivity, reduced stress, and greater team morale.
Tools and solutions like Big 5 go a long way to help. Big 5 is a way to get every employee to align with stated priorities for the next week or month. Then a simple, and short, review with the team lead/manager/supervisor can provide coaching and a checkpoint for keeping things aligned.
Do you sometimes make things bigger than they really are? When you face a challenge, can you see it in proper perspective? Or do you have a tendency to make things bigger than they really are?
The great social activist Chicken Little was quoted as saying “The sky is falling” when he had merely been struck in the head by a falling acorn.
Blowing things out of proportion can be a problem if you are the one in charge. Yes, that would be a challenge if you do it on a regular basis. Leaders must keep things in proper perspective.
One of my clients introduced me to a new term “catastrophizing”. This means making a situation far greater than it really is. The way we entered this discussion was talking about limiting thoughts. I had asked the client to give me some examples of limiting thoughts they suffer. While a few of the answers were the usual, this one surprised me.
As an executive, you are confronted with problems almost daily. Things happen; often not as planned. You have to field questions, hear the news, and make decisions.
What if everything you were given was turned into something far more tragic? What if something someone on your team failed to do was declared a disaster when it is really just a setback or a simple honest mistake?
Think about the energy both emotional and physical you would spend dealing with such catastrophes.
Through my client’s own vulnerability, I was able to add a great word to my coaching. If you act like Chicken Little you will get yourself worked into a panic. You will be running around in a frenzy, stirring up others to join your panic party. Doing this is catastrophizing. Even if you leave others out of it, your own waste of energy and emotional effort can cause conflict and confuse the situation.
[shareable cite=”Mark Twain”]There has been much tragedy in my life; at least half of it actually happened.[/shareable]
Why do people do this?
I don’t practice psychology, so I cannot even venture a technical argument as to why some are prone to act this way. However, I can share an observation from years of leadership experience on the job.
People who catastrophize often do so for several reasons.
A Sense of Dread – They are convinced life has been mean to them. The proverbial cup is half empty all the time. Therefore, any new event that arises must be bad. They are blinded to any possibility of a favorable outcome.
Lack of Trust – People who lose trust in mankind look at problems as people problems, all the time. Their way of thinking says the other person is the reason these things are bad.
No Hope – Theirs is a world of doom and gloom. They are convinced things are hopeless. In their minds, blue skies are really just a funny shade of gray.
Sadly, I have run into these kinds of co-workers and professionals most of my career. Thank goodness they are not everywhere, nor are they in leadership very often. But when they are, look out.
The biggest problem I see with catastrophizing is the waste of energy and resources. Whether the energy is emotional or physical, the expenditure of energy trying to avoid the catastrophe is great.
One of the wisest words I ever heard was the phrase “The problem is not the problem.” Think about that. Whenever you are confronted with what seems like a problem, check first see if what you are being told is a problem is really the problem. Here’s an example.
Missed deadlines are usually a problem anywhere. Unless that deadline is a life or death situation, most missed deadlines are bad, but not the end of the world. Having a missed deadline, though it seems big and real, may not be the problem at all. Rather, the real problem may be with the process, procedure, or people. Are the deadlines even reasonable considering the mix of the above elements? Or has someone failed at their task?
Being able to properly discern the root cause of an issue is preferable to simply catastrophizing and running around like Chicken Little.
The sky is not falling. It’s just an acorn.
[reminder]How do you prevent yourself from catastrophizing your circumstance?[/reminder]
Have you considered meditation, but thought it was either too hard or too “out there”? Not so fast.
Here is an article submitted by one of my contributing writers.
Meditation is renowned for its benefits and there are all sorts of reasons now is the right time to start.
Those looking to begin would do well reading the information below. It can be a big help and really get you off on the right foot.
Scan Your Body
Our minds are always being distracted by all kinds of messages and thinking. Therefore, it can be very challenging to relax and clear our minds. There is one trick for getting rid of the mental side-talk is scanning your body so that it is in unison with your breath.
Begin with focusing on your toes and tell them silently to relax. Next, repeat the process until you’ve scanned all parts of your body including your head, heart, arms, fingers, abdomen and legs. By the time you have paid attention to your whole body, you might be surprised at how relaxed it makes you feel.
The word “mantra” is derived from two Sankrit root words. “Man” means “mind,” while “tra” means “instrument.” Therefore, a mantra is when somebody makes some kind of repetitive vibration or sound, using either an instrument or their own voice to calm and soothe their mind.
A majority of individuals are aware of the word “om,” which is frequently used as a mantra. However, there are a number of others as well. The key is repeating the word or sound over and over so that you feels its sound and vibration course throughout your entire body.
Peaceful Music and Sounds
The sound and vibration of peaceful music helps you relaxes your mind, which makes it easier to reach a meditative state. The key here is choosing music that is dreamy and soothing and ideally something that doesn’t have words. However, if you would prefer to have words as part of your peaceful music, then it is recommended that the words have soothing and soft tones.
The volume should also be low enough so it provides more of a backdrop for things instead of being all-consuming. In addition, be sure that your music doesn’t change significantly or end abruptly as you are meditating.
There are also a number of peaceful sounds that can help with meditation. Indoor Fountain Pros suggest an indoor fountain system. The trickle can really be a notable benefit for concentration and many find it very relaxing. Alternatively, chimes and other natural noises are also known to help.
Whenever you think of or see an alarming image, it results in your body being flooded with cortisol, the stress hormone, and it becomes on edge and alert. The other side of that phenomenon is that through focusing on peaceful and calming images, it allows your body to have the ability to tap into your stillness within, which sets you up for meditation and relaxation. Those kinds of images are quite powerful for harmonizing the body and mind’s energy.
In terms of meditation, practice makes perfect. Therefore the more you practice it, the more it becomes easier to move into a meditative and aware state. In addition, try mediating regularly so that body becomes accustomed to it. There is one thing you should do prior to meditating, which is to ensure that you are comfortable at all times. If you aren’t comfortable, it makes it more difficult to achieve a state of inner peace and make it more difficult to relax.
Focus your awareness on your heart and brain
When a majority of people meditate, they have a tendency to just focus their awareness on their brains. Whenever people do that, it means they are missing a critical element of the overall meditation process. In addition to your brain, the other thing that is very important is your heart which can help you achieve that desired state of inner peace.
Focusing on your brain at first is among the most effective methods to help you achieve the desired state of mindfulness. Following that, slow down the activities from your brain through relaxing and clearing your mind of distracting thoughts. After you have achieved this, the next thing you want to do is bring your awareness to your heart and then relax your heart to allow your hear and brain to work in unison.
Focus your awareness onto a specific body part for a couple of minutes or even longer may be difficult at times. If you discover that you are having a difficult time with focusing your awareness, these 5 techniques can be used for helping to make your spiritual awareness stronger.