“Everything great in leadership begins in the unseen places, like gigantic oak trees developing from an acorn sprouting in the darkness of the dirt.” — one of my mentors, reminding me to work on the inner game to harvest visible success.
If you want to achieve greatness, begin with what others do not see. Be competitive with yourself in the deep things so that you don’t need to be competitive with others in shallow things.
In the wish-it-weren’t-so category: You can’t improve what you don’t measure. You must keep score in some way which allows you to monitor progress.
Your inner scorecard is about things only you can see, and require self-discipline to execute.
Pick from this list, or choose your own:
- Recognizing others for good work
- Restraining your critical thoughts and insights to the work, not the person
- Speaking less in group meetings, to allow others to express themselves
- Doing the hard thing that needs to be done when it needs to be done, rather than procrastinating
- Focusing your attention for a duration, rather than giving into distractions
- Genuinely listening to someone without jumping in to tell them what to do
- Accepting compliments graciously
- Thoughtfully responding rather than reacting at Warp 9
- Selecting reading material which challenges you rather than the easy stuff
- Adjusting your presentation to cover what the group needs instead of what you want to say
- Resisting an impulse purchase
- Leaving no “open loops” in relationships but seeking reconciliation
- Expressing generosity, especially to those who don’t “deserve it”
- Leaving behind the self-destructive or self-limiting habit
If you want to publicly announce your intent, great. You may prefer to keep some tactfully private. Suggestion: carry around a small card or sheet of paper where you wrote down each item. Keep a daily score with an honest evaluation. Simple tick marks suffice. (Cheating here only hurts you). Aim to measure yourself against your previous best, looking for improvements. Small improvements are worth the effort.
A useful tactic is to see how many days you can do something (or not doing something else) in a row. Keep track of the unbroken days. If you falter, just start again. This is part of the power of the Alcoholics Anonymous mantra of “I’m an alcoholic and it has been X days since my last drink.”
Focus on process goals, rather than outcomes. You cannot always control an outcome, but you can fully control your part of the process work. “Spend 4 hours a week talking with my spouse, being fully present” is a process goal; “Have better relationship with spouse” is an outcome goal. Pick process objectives which should positively correlate with the outcomes you seek, being confident that the investment will pay off over time.
Finally, find the rhythm of being both hard on yourself and patient with yourself. Excuses are lies we tell ourselves, so work hard to tell yourself the truth. What happened yesterday is not as important as what you do today. You can come at these improvement efforts with a smile of satisfaction, savoring every bit of progress. Do the process work, and the results will come.