Eliminating the Gap Between Good Intentions and Follow Through

As Thomas Jefferson said: “If you want something that you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.” 
The gap between getting from point A to B is one of personal fortitude.  A key attribute between meeting your intentions by following through is related to how much ownership you possess.  

Jefferson appears to imply that getting a result is inherent on how much you desire to follow through.  

Sadly, good intentions miss the mark when our desire is based on something other than having clear ownership for the goal.

Closing the Saying and Doing Gap

What are the qualities needed to follow through? 

  1. Explore how much you want something.  Know what it means to you, and why.  Failure to answer the why…you need to question whether you have the right objective.
  2. Does your heart (beliefs, feelings) tell you that you’re on the right track?
  3. Make a ‘graded task assignment’ – break the follow through into manageable chunks. 
  4. Create an accountability structure.  Who is going to keep you accountable for getting there. Set up reporting periods.
  5. Examine what failing would be like.  What are the consequences of inaction?  What are the costs and benefits?
  6. What do successes look like?  What is the payoff to follow through?

Develop the spirit to stretch beyond what you think is your capability.  Do something you’ve never done.

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Dealing with Intrusive Problems in Your Life

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Dealing with ongoing problems is a part of life.  Life presents challenges everyday, and in many cases solutions emerge, and we move onto the next challenge.  Without problems or challenges, life could be mundane.

Intrusive problems are difficulties that are chronic in nature, and keep screaming for our attention.  The more intrusive the problem, the more it screams for us to deal with it.  Failure to deal with ongoing problems, can lead to more dramatic impact on relationships, our health, and are a common cause of financial and interpersonal conflicts.

Intrusive problems as thoughts and value conflicts – Conflict is a result of having a wish and a fear.  What we fear, is often a result of conflicts in our lives that have no current resolution.

Why Do You Let Things Rent Space In Your Head? If intrusive thoughts are a function of unresolved problems in our lives, they have a direct relationship to the way we think about our wishes and fears.  They also correspond to the way we violate our principles or values, and how we may be compromising other areas of our lives in pursuit of an unacknowledged expectation. Think of your mind as a big hotel.  A hotel can be expansive, large, or small.  It can have multiple rooms.  If your mind is carrying around all the weight of unresolved emotional business, then obviously you are ‘letting a lot of these things rent space in your head’.  Sometimes, we let the problems mount, and we actually expand the number of rooms in our metaphoric hotel in our minds.  We let more stuff in, that has no value for our progress, and may actually begin to take over our capacities for change, and resolution.

Naming the Conflicts – The best way to eliminate the baggage we carry around is to decide whether you will let these intrusive items continue to inhabit your thoughts, time, and attention.  Too many people spend unnecessary time dealing with things that hold them emotionally hostage.  Failure to deal with conflicts renders you unable to move forward.  Placing names to the things that rent unnecessary space is the first step toward releasing yourself from these conflicts.

Letting Go – Learning to let go of the unnecessary – is the preliminary step toward actual change, and eliminating intrusive thinking.  What do you control?  What is out of your control…and why?  Some questions to ask during the process of letting go:

  1. Why is the emotional baggage important to you?
  2. What would it be like if you let go?
  3. Do you want to be hostage to the intrusive thinking (which is likely not completely real)?
  4. Why can’t you live free of these conflicts?
  5. How is the conflict relate to what you truly believe?

Taking Charge – Being torn over something, doesn’t mean you have to stay that way.  Exercising courage to free yourself of unnecessary emotional baggage, and the associated thoughts is a process.  You have to decide if you are the author of your life – living out other people’s scripts, or you deserve better.

Recognizing Personal “Drift” In Our Lives

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Like the constant pounding of the surf, we may find ourselves being “pounded”.  Numerous demands, and pressures may take their toll.  For many, the solution is to engage in “personal drift.”  The results of this can lead to more problems than the original pressures that created it.

The precursors to “drift” – 

  1. Overcommitment
  2. We’re too over-involved in things that don’t really matter
  3. We’re being confronted by things that overwhelm us, or scare us emotionally (we’re in over our heads)
  4. Lack of skill – we don’t know what we’re doing
  5. We have lost our passion

The “drift” – What happens:

  1. Avoidance
  2. Engaging in easy, but inconsequential activities or projects
  3. Falling short on our requirements of our job
  4. Engaging in destructive personal behaviors
  5. “Emotional Amnesia” – we disconnect

The drift is subtle, slow and happens without much fanfare or notice.  Co-workers, family members, and others around us notice our tendency to be distant, irritable, insensitive, and not at our best.  Our workplace may notice a slow drift away from the standards of practice that we were accustomed.  Our emotional amnesia becomes a constant defense against the outside world of the pounding surf.  It is hard to extract ourselves from this pattern.

With many the results are:

  • Poor health, constant illness, and emotional resentment
  • Missed opportunities in life

Ways of recognizing when you’re drifting: Ongoing self assessment.  There are countless ways to self assess, and many of them are basic.  Journaling, using a Moleskine, obtaining regular feedback, and exercise are just the common approaches.  Others can include the following simple self assessment:

  • What standards do I subscribe to?
  • How do I feel?
  • Where am I, in respect to where I want to be?

In other words, the solution is right in front of you.  Pulling up the blinders periodically is a great place to start.  The questions are really internal.  We already have the answers inside us, but are sometimes too afraid to ask them.

Effective People Live, Not Just Survive

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What people do you admire in your everyday life, and why?.

This simple but profound question is the best way to start the deep reflective work to better evaluate the current path you’re heading.

It is possible to say –
I can think of a handful of individuals that I admire not because what they do, nor because they are famous. They are effective in their daily lives, happy, content, and productive. They have a path that is clearly mission driven, and not based on the social mirror, other people’s evaluations and external expectations or even their jobs. Some of these individuals have passed, but when you reflect on their lives, you just know they lived it effectively, because obviously I would like to have more of what they have…

If you are thinking about being different, then that is the first step. People that don’t even think about their path, end up surviving, not living. Even those that have resources and fame have the capacity to just survive.

Surviving is:
1. Living someone else’s potential.
2. Not working in concert with the truly important things in your life.
3. Existing physically, but mentally altered, distracted, “zoned out.”
4. Operating in a constant state of reaction. “Chasing your tail.”
5. Staying in co-dependent, addictive relationships and circumstances.

If you have “lost yourself”, you are just surviving. Physically you are there, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally you may only be firing on one cylinder.

Become a person who lives:
1. Confront and eliminate unhealthy dynamics or patterns in your live. Take one at a time.
2. Discover what is important about you. Only you know you.
3. Talk to others about yourself, find out how others see you.
4. Align with what is important. That may mean giving up parts of the old you.

The line between living and just surviving is sometimes hard to detect. You have to search for it, and identify the barriers that are keeping you from becoming what you can be.

The Importance of Simple Things

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Photo by the author –

An ever present reality is that individuals are engaged in the act of being busy, or survival. “Survival” does not necessarily mean living, but rather existing.

A complex issue in today’s society is how immersed we are in doing, being, running, and reacting. How much do we miss around us? Is the mere act of being important, busy, and immersed in the activity around us, dulling our sense of what is important?

Simple Things
Simple things are around us, and we take them for granted. They invite us to engage, but our addiction to be important, depended upon, provided attention, or surviving dulls our sensitivity to the simple things that can bring an appreciation for our lives.

Like the child playing in the sand…how much do we allow ourselves to play in the sand?

Do We:
1. Look at the clouds?
2. Look at nature around us?
3. Identify what is important to us, as opposed to multiple “stake holders” who don’t recognize our efforts?
4. Read what is important to us? Pursue our dreams?

Or do we simply live, and engage other people’s dreams? When we become dulled to the simple things that are meaningful in life, we are just surviving. On the surface, we are looking, feeling, and being important, but inside we may be just existing.

ACTION ITEM: WHAT ARE WE ALLOWING TO GO BY US? WHY ARE WE JUST SURVIVING, WHEN WE HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO LIVE?

Dealing With Hollow Commitments

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Everybody knows it is important to invest to get results. The opposite is true when commitments are empty and we still want to get results.

It’s easy to make commitments, but painfully hard to invest and follow through.

In principle: Those that are truly committed pay their way. There are many that believe a lack of investment will still get a result. How can this be?

Why we think hollow commitments will succeed –
1. We delude ourselves.
2. We become sincerely good rational liars to ourselves.
3. We tell people what we think they want to hear.
4. We actually make up things.
5. We have a rescue fantasy that somehow, it will work out.

The effort we exert is hollow, and half-hearted. The results spotty.

What do we do to curb the hollow committ-ers?
1. We smoke them out. Ask them to prove what they have said they’ve done.
2. Measure results
3. Lay out the discrepancy.
4. Identify the co-dependency.
5. Point out reality.

Hollow commitments are just short term survival tactics for those without enough self-esteem, credibility, or resources. It is a delay tactic to create something that is not real, and it can lead to substantial set backs for others.

How do you handle hollow commitments?
What do you do when people disappoint you, and don’t invest?

Building Leverage against Adversity

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Building leverage in periods of adversity is about stepping up to take action rather than reaction.

Reaction to events empowers weakness and victim mentality.

Victim like thinking hampers the ability to develop resiliency.

When there is no resiliency, the tipping point to build leverage passes. There are several areas that can aide in building the leverage needed for adversity:

1. Influence – those with positive influence, have the right balance between sensitivity and power.

2. Focus on the right things – having the right orientation toward honorable things builds internal credibility and confidence. Those that feed on negativity are always operating from the defensive.

3. Exercise persistence and personal initiative – those that exert their energy by taking ownership are in the position to gain leverage. Victim thinking begets a defensive position with adversity, where little leverage is available.

4. Center personal activity – on what the main thing is. Keeping the main thing (or most important) out front is the key to building leverage. Distracting issues, drama, and petty issues only delay and liquidate momentum and leverage.

5. Leverage occurs when we keep meeting and working through challenges. Each time adversity is met by using our talents, skills, and knowledge, we build resiliency. We meet more challenges, which gradually develops leverage.

Leverage is not a given. It cannot bestowed, and it is not easy to attain. Without a deliberate amount of fortitude, and the right approach or mindset, we may find ourselves at a disadvantage.

Why Do You Become a Leader?

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Leadership can represent titles, positions and authority. For some that is the purpose of being a leader: Themselves. It is the power trip, and the personal identity that comes from being called a leader. In this author’s view, that is hollow victory, and has no sustainable long term benefit.

Those that don’t seek the recognition of leadership, often are the ones that have the most to offer it. Leadership is not necessarily about solidifying one’s legacy, it’s about leaving others in a better position. If we’re in a position of leadership, what is the purpose of our position there?

Those that see leadership as a position:
1. Seek power over others

2. See the system serving them, not serving the system.

3. Don’t care who is hurt in the process.

4. See people as obstacles rather than opportunities to contribute.

Others…see leadership to:
1. Engage their passion about people and what is produced for others.

2. Developing other leaders in a chosen field.

3. Derive joy from seeing others succeed, and develop. This fuels them.

4. Want to leave a legacy, rather than build one.

The truth is, those that truly lead, do so from the heart and seek to better others. They are humble, and do not seek the spotlight. They don’t necessarily see their efforts as special, but rather a response to the needs before them. Their payoff is seeing others derive benefits.

    How do you think others will view you at retirement?

A few months back, this author had an opportunity to attend and participate in a retirement party for a college mentor who had recently finished three decades in a college department. It was an honor to participate in the celebrations, but very interesting to see how this longtime professor handled talk of his legacy and contributions to the department, that he essentially developed.

Although there were numerous formal honors given, the most profound honor was the significant turnout of decades of alumni to share their best wishes. In his remarks it was evident that he gave no credit to himself, but it was clear from the turnout what impact his leadership had meant to so many others. It was also obvious that the true message was people’s presence at the event. What a message. If Leadership is about how many people you have touched, then that is the true measure and purpose of leadership.

When you consider your style of leadership, do you consider it in terms of making a difference for others, or as a collection of honors? The memory of the honors will ultimately pass, but the difference you make in others can last well beyond your tenure or life.

Resiliency Skills for Leaders, Part 2

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Sustaining your strength and focus is more than individual growth. It is about how you interface with others. Maintaining our effectiveness is about how we lift others beyond their challenges and how we gain from the contribution.

1. Remember it’s not about you. If our emphasis is on others and not our own spotlight, then we avoid creating a codependency on what we do, and instead focus and celebrate what others do as a result of our vision and direction.

2. Integrate and Listen to Others. If we are talking at others rather than listening to them, then we are missing out on key contributions that others are making. The objective of leading others is to create other leaders. If we are listening to them, then we are allowing them to lead.

3. You’re not supposed to know everything. If you know everything, then why are you leading others? Leading with the Idea that you know everything, is closing off the necessary things and people that can teach us more about leading. If we are not being influenced by others, then we have closed off potential creativity and growth within our unit.

4. See your role as a contribution. The question is: Why did we choose to lead others? If it was for personal fame or notoriety, then our gains may be shortsighted, and short lived. Only leadership that aims to make a valuable contribution can feel worthwhile and purposeful in the long run. Ask yourself daily or weekly: Why do I do this? Why do I lead? Search for the answer that comes back.

5. Make Alone Time. At the end of the day or period, absorb what you just experienced that day. Making private time to do this is not selfish, but very important in your personal discovery process, and thinking how others receive us. Use the lessons to feed your thinking and vision.