3 Simple Steps to Changing Your Reality
I grew up with two older brothers. I learned at a young age how powerful the skill of observation was. I could watch my brothers as they spread their wings and I learned what not to do when spreading mine (or at least how to get away with thing when spreading my wings could end in trouble). For me, observing their mistakes gave me the power over my environment. I did not have to change my environment in order to be successful; I merely had to understand the environment in which I operated. Understanding the rules of engagement gave me the power to affect the outcomes in my favor.
Over the years I have devised several basic operating principles that have given me the ability to exceed where others struggle. That does not mean that I do not have my struggles. I would never be so arrogant as to suggest that somehow I have cornered the market on wisdom, because I haven’t. But I have been able to excel in situations where others get caught up in the chaos. I believe that applying these 3 steps can position you in exceeding even your own expectation.
1. Develop a life plan.
I want to share with you an actual conversation I had with someone not too long ago. To set the stage for the conversation I was engaged on a phone call with this person discussing how to request a pay raise and / or a promotion from his manager. The conversation evolved into a discussion about not having a plan for his life. It is a bit of a lengthy conversation but it proves the point for a need to developing a life plan. The conversation when like this:
TB: “I told my boss I don't want another promotion until I'm paid for what I do now, at the level I'm at and not in the <15% of the range within my current level.”
KR: “good luck with that strategy”
TB: “I don't have a strategy.”
KR: “Well that shows. What level are you?”
TB: “I don’t know, must be a L4.”
KR: “You don’t know?”
KR: “You are like Alice in Wonderland.”
TB: “I haven't seen that movie in years....can you tell me what that means? I'm unsure how to take that...”
KR: “Check it out on my website… I have a little write-up on it there.”
After a moment of silence, while he looked at my website, he came back and said…
TB: “Okay, point taken. I would have to say I agree then. Not with all of my life and decisions, but regarding my current work situation. I am not motivated by what I do or my company does, per se. My goal in life is not doing what I'm doing here and now. I am a people person and get motivated and inspired when I see others accomplishing their goals and I've helped them get there.”
KR: “This - what you do everyday - needs to be a tool used to achieve your ultimate vision.”
TB: “So, I guess, that is why I say what I have to say about where I am here, now. I don't see a connection in what I want to do with my life and career as having a relation to what I do here today.”
KR: “Helping others accomplish their goals sounds like a good thing but it is a bit altruistic. I think that is a cop-out for not managing your own life well.”
TB: “Unfortunately, I am one that does put others before me. I think I manage my own life well, but I feel the best when I know others feel good about themselves.”
KR: “Kind of sounds co-dependent”
TB: “That may be true. I guess it depends on how I view myself and my life and others. There are a lot of people that want and need help.”
KR: “In some way we all help and need help.”
TB: “I am very self-aware of my shortcomings and who I am and how I act as a person, which can sometimes hurt me, but I feel it is a strength. Yes, I feel that I have lived a very intense life, which has made me, as you have defined, altruistic...good or bad. But, because of the life I have lived, I have a lot to offer people and enjoy doing so.”
KR: “You realize that altruism is about unselfish concern or devotion to others? The key word is "unselfish"; that means that you do things because it is good for them and holds nothing for you.”
TB: “I interpreted altruism as me being selfless and caring for others. I am selfless...unfortunately, it is to a fault.”
KR: “But your acts bring you satisfaction - thus not altruistic”
TB: “The act of helping others brings me satisfaction, yes.”
KR: “So even if it would not be the best thing for a person you might still do something because it makes you feel good?”
TB: “No. I am speaking only of the act of helping others, in which I am not selfish.”
KR: “Then everything you do is the best thing for the person?”
TB: “If they are achieving what they set out to achieve, and it is positive and not hurting themselves or others...then I feel good. I wouldn't use the word "everything".”
KR: “But how do you know that it is the best thing for that person?”
TB: “It is through understanding what their intent is and goals are, that I want to help them achieve. What was your mission with this?”
KR: “No mission really... just trying to understand your drivers and why you sell yourself so short.”
TB: “That's fair. I do sell myself short. That is something I'm working on...but as many things in life are, it is a work in progress. And, I have a long way to go.”
KR: “last question... so are you just going to keep on walking?”
I shared this conversation because it is about someone who has never really developed a life plan. When you develop a life plan you do not have questions about the connection between what you want to do with your life and career and its relationship to what you are doing today. I have always believed that every experience today is a stepping stone to the next level tomorrow. When you have a life plan you can connect the pixels of today to the pictures of tomorrow. A life plan allows you to execute the second step to changing your reality.
2. Maintain a laser like focus.
Having a life plan puts something tangible in your hands and in front of your face to keep you on track. Every decision you make should answer one critical question. How does this decision or action advance me towards achieving my ultimate life vision? A correctly structured life plan is a roll up to your life vision. As seen in figure 1, your life plan has a number of layers. To give you a quick lesson in the construction of a life plan, you simply build the plan from the top down and execute the plan from the bottom up. Although I must warn you that narrowing your focus to actually write a life plan is difficult in a world of chaos.
If you are like me there are so many distractions that can cause your mind to wander. To help you out check out my book Planned Excellence. It is a resource that will help in the life planning process. Maintaining a laser like focus requires you to take proactive action in developing and executing your life plan. Having a written life plan keeps a tangible reminder in front of you concerning your life and what it stands for.
I keep my life plan in a written document I call my “Personal Life Plan and Strategic Business Model.” In this plan there are four essential elements. There is my Life Plan, which consists of my Vision, Mission, Purpose, and Aspiration. There is my Achievement Plan which consists of my Strategic Imperatives, Goals, and Objectives. There is also a representative Quit Claim Deed that lists all of the things that I have surrendered control over. Finally there is the metrics tracker which captures all of the data that shows me if I am winning. These four elements help me to stay focused on being successful.
Having this written plan allows me to recognize when I am drifting off track. It becomes the catalyst that motivates me to make decisions that ultimately move me towards success. Focus is ability to block out all of the distractions and chaos of the world to achieve your ultimate desires. Golf requires the player to remain focused on where the club head will contact the ball. Lift your head and you will straighten up and top the ball. This ability to remain focused is critical to the success of the shot. If the player looses focus it can mean the difference between a great approach shot or a shot placed into the woods.
After you have developed a life plan and you have learned the discipline of maintaining focus, you need to be realistic with your execution. By anticipating that problems will arise, you can build the discipline of persistence into your life. That is the third simple step that will change your reality.
3. Don’t give up
It is too easy to convince yourself that when the going gets tough, success does not matter. That is because you have been conditioned to quit when the perceived value of success if less than the perceived cost of success. Often times, those things that are the hardest to accomplish are the things of greatest value. I am convinced that on many occasions we quit just before success is realized. I know that from personal experience there have been times when I did not have persistence. When I was in the military I had signed up for the college plan. I was funding my college education but lost focus. Like so many others I was caught up in the chaos around me and lost sight of my dream. I made the fatal decision to cash out my college fund to purchase a 24 track mixing board and pursue an opportunity to be in a rock band.
That decision costs me thousands of dollars and years of my life to gain what I had lost. I did not have a life plan, I lost focus, and for a time I gave up. Four years after I had left the service I regained my focus and spent thousands of dollars and spent 6 years earning an Associate of Arts degree in Business Administration. It would be another 12 years before I returned to college to spend thousands of more dollars and 3 more years of my life earning my Bachelors of Arts in Management. All told that one moment of losing focus and giving up cost 21 years of my life and tens of thousands of dollars to accomplish what I could have accomplished in four years after my military service.
The point is this; when you have a life plan it changes your reality. It puts in place a clear direction and maps a path to your success. Not having a plan leaves you dependent upon fate. The last time I checked, fate had a bad track record. Once you have a plan you need to build the discipline of focus. Focus allows you to measure your progress. Success is built upon success. In NASCAR racing it is said that cautions breed cautions. This means that after a caution everyone is jockeying for position upon the restart. If you have a life plan and you stay focused you never have to have a restart. As someone who has going through several restarts, trust me it is better for you to run in the clean air than it is to have to restart.
However, if you find yourself getting discouraged, remember to never give up. Have the persistence required to keep on forging ahead even in the face of strong headwinds. These three steps will cause you to be successful. They will change your reality. You do not have to be dependent upon fate for your success. Write down your ultimate desires. Stay focused on the straight and narrow, and never give up.