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Mindset

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Comprehensive Thinking

“If everybody is thinking alike then somebody isn’t thinking.”
— George Patton

It’s easy to assume that the actions we’ve determined to take have been well thought out, but if we haven’t searched out differing opinions then we haven’t done our homework.

We need to hear diverging viewpoints, even when they're deadset against our own. When we do, we'll be sure to make better decisions. As hard as it may be to hear, we should always listen with open minds and hearts. Who knows? Someone may reveal a blindspot in our thinking.  

The bottom line is that whenever comprehensive thinking is abandoned, the best way forward vanishes. 

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What Patience Can Do for You

“Patience and time do more than strength or passion.”
— Jean de La Fontaine

 

It was true when the French fable writer, Jean de La Fontaine, said it in the 17th century and it’s still true today. Patience and time are stronger than strength or passion.

The wisdom in this quote, however, would have been hard for me to swallow when I was young. 

When you’re in the early stages of your career, you assume that strength and passion are the ordained ways to get ahead. The more muscle and fervor you give to a project, the further along you get with it, right?

As commendable as these characteristics are, they don’t top patience and time. Patience defined is the good-natured tolerance of delays. 

I hate delays. 

Live long enough, however, and you’ll discover their ongoing inevitability. The lesson then is this: During delays, exercise patience... if possible, with good cheer. Don’t strong-arm every problem. Don’t assume more passion will get you to the finish line.  Give things time to work themselves out.

More often than not, patience and time are your best and only solution.

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Do You Have a Script?

“Don’t start the day until you have it finished.”
— Jim Rohn

A day isn’t a thing to waste because it is crammed full of the thing we want most—time. Why do we so often act recklessly with our most precious resource? We spend too easily like prodigals.

To ensure we don’t fritter away our hours and minutes, we, therefore, plan, outline, sketch and design our day. We write a screenplay, then we go out and faithfully execute on it. Sure, things may change as we move from scene to scene, but we always keep the script in our back pocket. It’s always there for us to fall back on. And, in the end, it’s the thing that ensures the story we want told is the one that  unfolds.

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Becoming is Better than Being

“Becoming is better than being.”
— Carol S. Dweck

There is a joy, excitement, and energy to the continual process of growth. It’s an adventure that only stops when we say it does. As Plato rightly observed, we do, in fact, live in a “World of Becoming.” 

Vitality, therefore, should mark our days; growth, after all, is the form in which life takes.    

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A Deep Life is a Good Life

“A deep life is a good life.”
— Cal Newport

The opposite of depth is shallowness, and that’s where we can end up in a world with as many distractions as ours. To go deep then we need uninterrupted time with something or someone. Our phones, computers, and televisions, however, don’t make that easy. We're going to have to fight for depth.

Spend some time this week searching for the shallow spots in your life and commit to diving deeper. 

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It's All How We See It

"What one sees depends on how one sees."
— Søren Kierkegaard

When it comes to growth, attitude will either make you or break you. A good attitude acts like a fertilizer and invigorates and accelerates your development. A bad attitude, like poison, spoils any chance for growth. 

The good news is we can choose to have a good attitude, even in a bad situation. I say make it a habit. Discipline yourself to remain optimistic even when circumstances get difficult. Abraham Lincoln once said, “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” It’s all how we see it.

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A Stop Doing List

“Those who get ahead will be the folks who figure out what to leave out, so they can concentrate on what’s really important to them.”

— Austin Kleon

Everyone has a To Do list, that magical productivity tool that helps us knock out tasks and accomplish more in a given day. But what about a Stop Doing list? How many of us have one of those? 

I first ran across the concept while reading, Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great. A Stop Doing list is exactly what it sounds like. Here are a few from my own list.

I will stop:

• Saying, “yes” when I feel unsure about making a commitment
• Strong-arming people over to my side  
• Going over the designated end times for calendared events

Danielle Laporte says that, "What you stop doing is just as important as the things you start doing.” Why not begin brainstorming a list? My bet is this new list will increase your productivity more so than your trusty To Do. 

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A Culture of Discipline

Growth occurs the moment resistance is overcome. 

In my experience, the only way resistance is overcome consistently is through building a culture of discipline. To say something is a part of your culture is to say that it’s something you value. So, discipline has to be something you truly begin to embrace and value in your life.

Discipline isn’t just for athletes, the military, or straight-A students; discipline is for everybody. It’s something everyone needs. In fact, discipline is the vehicle that gets you to your goals. And it’s ironic but true; the more disciplined you become, the easier life gets.

Is discipline on your radar? Would you ever consider creating a culture around it? Is there an area you find yourself needing to become more disciplined? 

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Pleasure vs Joy

What’s the difference between pleasure & joy? 

Pleasure is easily attainable. Joy? Much harder to come by. Pleasure is a surface-like happiness that fades fast. Joy, on the other hand, runs deep and fills us up in ways we never imagined.

I like how C.S. Lewis describes his experience of joy. He says, “It jumps under one’s ribs and tickles down one’s back and makes one forget meals and keeps one (delightedly) sleepless o’ nights.”

Lewis goes on to write that if he were to convert his pleasurable experiences into joyous ones, he estimates that, “one second of joy” would be worth “twelve hours of pleasure.”

The surest way I know to experience this kind of joy is to push yourself through productive pain. It’s easy to pick pleasure in our day-and-age because it’s so readily available. I say, dabble in pleasure, and direct the majority of your attention on those life-giving activities that produce joy. 

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The Weakness of Our Strengths

Strengths are inherently good and we all have a handful. They can, however, go bad when we use them selfishly or overemphasize their importance in our lives. If we’re not vigilant, our strengths can degenerate into a weakness. 

People that are on the path of continual improvement know how to keep their strengths in check. They don’t let them overrun their critical thinking. They keep an open mind. And they always remember that their opinions are colored by their strengths. Therefore, they value, and are eager to hear, different perspectives.

A strength, we should remember, is a gift. While we can grow in it and always get better, it would be silly to say that the gift itself is something we earned. My greatest strength may be my drive, but I can use that strength to hurt others by pushing my work ethic on them. How about you? What is one of your strengths? And how can it degenerate into a weakness?

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Defeat Self-Defeating Patterns

“We have met the enemy. And he is us.” 
— Walt Kelly 

If you’ve lived long enough, you’ve come to understand that the enemy isn’t always someone else. The problem, many times, starts and ends with us. 

We all have self-defeating patterns that need to be defeated. These patterns are entrenched ways of operating. They are unhealthy blind spots. Here are a few of mine:

• I overvalue work and undervalue relationships   
• I wrongly assume I always have the right answer
• I lash out in anger
• I tend to overcommit

The way to defeat self-defeating patterns is to first know what they are, and second, stay mindful of them daily. Yes. Daily.
 
You’ll need some daily trigger that helps remind you about some of your most toxic mindsets. I use an app on my phone to make and review my list as I’m driving into work. You can also set an alarm to remind you at an opportune time, or go the old-fashioned route and stick a postcard on your bathroom mirror 

Staying mindful of your self-defeating patterns is how you defeat them. This isn’t rocket science. It’s right there in the Bible. When the light shines, the darkness flees.

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A Most Interesting Paradox

“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”
— Marcus Aurelius

This may be the most interesting paradox I’ve ever heard. On its face, it seems that what stands in the way stays in the way. But I realized, as I thought on it more, that this paradox conceals a potent nugget of truth: Sometimes disadvantages prove to be very advantageous in our lives. 

Are you facing a difficulty right now? Be sure you don’t throw in the towel too early. Sometimes what stands in the way of where you wish to go is the very thing that will guarantee you get there. After all, another name for stumbling block could quite possible be stepping stone.

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70 is the New 100

Did you know the highest field goal percentage for a single NBA season was set by Wilt Chamberlain at 72%? That means, in a single season, this NBA All-Star made 7 out of every 10 shots he attempted. 

That’s an amazing percentage, but it isn't perfect. Perfect would’ve been 10 for 10. Now anybody who knows, even a little bit about basketball knows that shooting 100% is not just improbable, it’s downright impossible. No one is ever 100%. It’s not even realistic. So why do we insist on perfection when it comes to goal setting or habit formation? 

Maybe you don’t, but when I was younger, I always did. I was plagued by perfection. If I determined to set a goal, say, “reading for 45 minutes per day every day” and blew it on the second week, I would—without hesitation—add a tick to the "L" column and give up the whole endeavor. I saw one negative mark as a sign of weakness instead of recognizing it as merely a sign of my humanity. 

When people say “strive for progress, not perfection,” they’re right. What I’m learning is that nobody has a perfect record and, truthfully, a perfect record isn’t what matters. A 70% success rate at anything is pretty darn good. Just ask Hall of Famer, Wilt Chamberlain.

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Fight Like You’re Right. Listen Like You’re Wrong

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
– Martin Luther King Jr.
"Never miss a good chance to shut up."
– Will Rogers

Martin Luther King, Winston Churchill, Oskar Schindler, Harriet Tubman, William Wilberforce, Martin Luther, George Washington and America's Founding Fathers...

What if we never knew these names because they never fought for what they thought was right?

Fighting for what you believe in is an essential part of being human. When we don’t express what’s inside, we begin the process of devaluing ourselves, and that’s not healthy.

Fighting like you’re right, however, must be counterbalanced by humility and a willingness to sincerely hear out the opposing party. We can accomplish this when we listen like we’re wrong.

Listening like you’re wrong demonstrates the value you place on the relationship. It gets the virtue of humility working in you. And it provides an opportunity for you to rethink your thinking.  

Don’t be afraid to fight for what you believe in. And—at the same time—be humble enough to listen with an open mind. 

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John Wooden's Definition of Success

[Success is] peace of mind derived from making the absolute and complete effort to do the best of  which you are capable.
— John Wooden

You’d think that “winning” would’ve been Coach Wooden's definition of success. After all, he and his teams won an astounding 10 national championships, including seven in a row. If you google “greatest college basketball coaches of all time” his name will top the list. 

But this is what’s so winsome about Wooden: He didn’t measure success based on wins, he measured it by the quality of he and his team's effort. As long as he and his players gave it everything they had, they were a success regardless of what the scoreboard said.

That’s a healthy definition for success, and one that I want to embrace. How about you? What’s your definition?

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The Law of First-Things-First

I’m sure at some point in your life, probably in your teenage years, your parents told you that you needed to get your priorities straight. I know mine did. And they were right—sort of.

In life, I’ve discovered you only need to get one priority straight. That priority is God himself. Reprioritizing your life around the One who made you; i.e. using your best energies to truly, truly, get to know your Divine Father is the single most important thing to do during your stay on earth. And when God takes priority, everything seems to fall into place. It's like tipping over the first domino in a long chain. That first fall topples them all. 

Thus, the Law of First-Things-First states: When you take care of the most important thing, everything else will take care of itself.

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Go to Work On Your Personality

Did you know you have a basic personality type that plays a huge role in determining the actions you take every day? Do you know what type you are?

There are many tests you can take to find out. One I like is called the Enneagram. I highly recommend you take a personality test (like this one) to gain insight into your natural temperament. 

These tests do an excellent job of keying you into the healthy and harmful aspects of your personality. I found it invigorating to take actionable steps on such low-hanging fruit to self-improvement. Reducing the harmful tendencies in your personality is also one of the best ways to level up. Marshall Goldsmith wrote about this very thing in his book entitled, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. You may want to check it out. 

Take a test. Better acquaint yourself with what makes you tick. And have the courage to make the necessary changes.   

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Freedom’s Price Tag

“Freedom is not a magical gift, it’s a willingness to be responsible for your life.” 
— Max Stirner

Built into the freedom to drive a car is the responsibility to operate it safely. Built into the freedom to drink alcohol is the responsibility to do so wisely. Built into the freedom of life itself is the innumerable responsibilities that come with living day in day out.

The price tag for freedom is responsibility. They are two sides of the same coin.

Can’t I just have the freedom without the responsibility? 

Sometimes you can, but only if someone else is willing to assume your responsibilities. This is only a temporary solution, however. At some point, we all must face up to the consequences of the choices we’ve made.

You want freedom? Accept responsibility. Freedom without responsibility is a mirage and only spoils us on the inside. 

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Is Duty Still a Virtue?

“Love can do much, but duty more.”
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Is duty still a virtue? Centuries ago it was. Today, it feels more like a four-letter word. 

I define duty as an obedient, reverential expression to something or someone. It’s a way of expressing devotion. It’s one way love is lived out.

Do we have a reverential obedience to anything today?

Perhaps our emotions. To be sure, it's another way to express devotion. The only problem is that emotions are fickle. They come and go. If emotional responses define how we ultimately express love and devotion, what happens when we wake up on the wrong side of the bed? As someone wise once said, “Emotions are good servants, but poor masters.”

When it comes to devotion, duty is what’s required—emotions are optional. Of course, when duty and emotion synchronize, harmonious things happen. 

Duty is an asset. Emotions can be too, but finicky ones at best. They cease to be assets when they take control and take over.

Duty is still a virtue… one worth adopting no matter how we feel.