12/28/2007

Unlock your potential in three difficult steps (made easy).

You hear it all the time, “he has so much potential, why isn’t he using it?” Potential is an enigma to some of us. We often see it displayed in magnificent fashion in others but fail to realize similar potential in ourselves. Human potential is virtually limitless. Records are broken constantly and technology is advancing at the speed of light. Most of us have great aspirations to accomplish what may seem to be impossible to us. Because we are overwhelmed at the possibilities, we purposely sabotage the efforts by stopping short or talking ourselves out before even starting in the first place. Every individual can realize their personal potential by incorporating these behaviors into their daily lives.

Challenge

Pablo Picasso once said that he is always doing that which he cannot do, in order that he may learn how to do it. He is a prime example of the unlimited potential in each of us. He openly admitted that there were things that he could not do, but at the same time, he constantly challenged himself for the purpose of building upon his talent. Most people will dismiss his logic by pointing out that Picasso had a natural God-given talent. Perhaps, but even with his talent, he still underwent formal academic art training from the time he was a child. From childhood on, his life consisted of creating works of art in unique styles of painting as he further developed his talent. Even if you do not have a natural ability in certain aspects, the simple act of challenging yourself will bring about massive results in time. Think about the last time you were required to challenge yourself to meet a deadline or to successfully handle a complex situation, how did you fare? Were you able to step up to the challenge? Were you surprised at how resourceful you became when it was absolutely necessary? By consistently challenging yourself, you will experience enormous growth in your potential. Without a challenge, you are robbing yourself of wonderful possibilities for personal growth.

Risk
As you begin to challenge yourself, you will find that you will be put in a position to take more risk. Avoiding risk is one of the most powerful reasons why we do not reach our potential. When we normally think of risk, we tend to focus on the most negative outcome of the situation. By focusing on that aspect alone, we single-handedly destroy the possibility of achieving the reward associated with the risk. When calculating risk you should develop back-up plans in case the situation does not turn out as expected. Your goal should not be to avoid the action, you goal should be to carefully consider the risk and find ways to minimize the risk as much as you are able. If things do not work out as you desired, simply go back to the drawing board with a new perspective and increased wisdom on the subject. A quote once that beautifully describes the need for calculated risk tells us to “go out on a limb, because it is where the fruit is located.”

Persistence
Even if you challenge yourself to take risk, your potential will not fully be reached until you have committed to be persistent in your efforts. Persistence is the secret ingredient to realizing your potential. Without it, you will likely stop digging just two feet short of oil. If you are not persistent, you will want to kick yourself for not following through on your idea that someone else has developed for millions of dollars of profit. Without persistence, your life will be full of could haves and should haves. The uncertainty of what may have been will eat you alive if you do not see things through to the end. Worst of all, you are not even giving yourself the opportunity to succeed. Persistence allowed Sidney Poitier to become the first black actor to win an academy award after being told to “stop wasting people’s time and to get himself a job as a dishwasher” at his first audition. When we are persistent, we continue to take action. If we continue to take action, we will see desired results. Someone with natural talent and no persistence will surely be surpassed by someone with little inherent skill but remains persistent in actions that present a challenge to that person. As you challenge yourself, make persistence a priority. Allow yourself the opportunity to unleash your potential. As you do, you will discover that continuous effort, not strength or intelligence, is the key to unlocking our potential.

12/12/2007

Developing Die-Hard Discipline

Your biggest obstacle
Before you incorporate a new ritual or routine into your life, you should be prepared mentally on how to overcome those obstacles that will seek to destroy your new habit. Think ahead to what you will do when you "do not feel" like doing what you are supposed to do. For example, I wanted to incorporate an evening routine that included, among other things, time set aside to tend to my external appearance. My biggest hindrance would manifest itself as laziness. Often I would become sleepy before I could implement my new ritual and promised myself that I would be able to complete the tasks the following night when I was not so tired. That pattern repeated itself until I finally found a solution. The solution to my situation was to start my ritual hours before bed-time so I would not have to be concerned with sleepiness as a hindrance to my new habit. By singling out my obstacle and finding a way to resolve it, I was able to maintain my nightly routine without issue.

Holding yourself accountable
I am sure that you are well aware of the fact that we are more likely to do something if we know that we will have to give an account for its completion. You can chose to use either an internal or an external means of holding yourself accountable depending on your level of discipline.

If you are more of an externally motivated individual, here are some ways to hold yourself accountable for increasing your discipline:

-Tell a close friend or family member of your intentions to change your lifestyle. Let them know the specific actions you will take to make sure that you reach your goals. Have that person contact you weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly so you can provide updates on your progress. Knowing that you will be asked to give an account for your actions will serve as an effective way to increase your discipline.

-Take positive action in anticipation of reaching your goals. For example, you can give away most of your clothes in your current size because you want to make sure that you reach your goal of dropping 2 dress sizes. Another example would be to schedule a speech presentation in front of a group of people as an accountability tool for you overcoming your fear of speaking. For every goal that you have, think of some action that you can take right now to force you to maintain discipline to reach that goal.

If you are internally motivated you can build discipline by using these tips:


-Create an accountability log which lists the actions that you should be making daily. Use that log to document every time you keep your promise to yourself of accomplishing some task. That log will also serve as a record of the times that you do not maintain your discipline.

-Use Jerry Seinfeld's productivity tip. Jerry Seinfeld, the famous millionaire comedian, kept a one page yearly calender on his wall as his accountability tool. Everyday that he worked on his comedy material he would X out that day with a red marker. Soon he created a chain days marked with a red X. His new goal would then be to "not break the chain." The longer the chain, the harder he tried to maintain the chain. This is one of my favorite methods of developing die-hard discipline.

Remember the dangling carrot
All of us are aware of the analogy of dangling a carrot in front of a horse. The carrot is of such value to the horse that he will continue to move towards it no matter how far he has to walk for it. The trick to keeping the horse moving is to place the carrot close enough to the horse's line of sight to motivate him. Whatever it is you want to have, you must always keep the image of it in front of you. You must be able to see it so closely that you can almost reach out and touch it. But, unlike the dangling carrot, what you desire can can actually be obtained if you keep working at it. If you do not keep your goal before you at all times, you will begin to lose sight of why you are maintaining your discipline day after day even if "you do not feel" like it.

These are some simple but very effective steps that you can implement right away. Remember that discipline is simply the ability to do what you have to do, when you have do it, every time you have to do it. Use these tips to elevate your self-discipline to the next level.

12/01/2007

Become more assertive (with yourself)


Assertiveness has always been a trait that I longed to refine for many years. I dreamed of the day when I could look a potential intruder of my time straight in the eye and tell that person in no uncertain terms to "shove it." After reading several books and doing extensive research online, I realized that I still did not feel quite comfortable expressing my feelings to others the way I wanted to. I lacked assertiveness in certain areas because of my fear of upsetting those around me. As a result, I became upset with myself as I allowed potential opportunities to engage my assertiveness pass me by time and time again.

After enduring several failed attempts at asserting myself, I realized that there had to be a better way. I felt like I was missing a major piece to this puzzle that the books were not focusing on. I would become frustrated with myself if I used the word "should" in a sentence because the word was considered too passive. Finally I told myself that I would not change my level of assertiveness overnight and began to redirect my attention elsewhere.

As I progressed in my journey to improve the areas of my life that were lacking, I realized how little time and effort I dedicated to my personal agenda. I would wake up and pretty much lounge around until it was time for work. At work, I responded to emails, phone calls, and other requests as they came in. In the evening, I would return home, make dinner, and do little else until time for bed. The cycle would then repeat itself day after day. I exercised no real control over my own life and the direction it was going. How was I expected to become assertive with others if I had not done so with my own self?

The course of my life changed when I began to mold my days to look more like what I wanted. I began by starting my day at 5:00 am. Starting my day this early gave me the opportunity to pray, meditate, and do my devotions. I also had enough time to exercise in the morning and focus on my intentions for the day ahead. By the time I walked into work, I already spent adequate time preparing and visualizing what I wanted the day to look like. I also implemented the some basic time management techniques of doing the most productive work first (not necessarily the most pressing). I made sure to create objectives in my mind, before I started any task, of how long I wanted it to take and how it would look like when I was completed. I constantly looked for more areas of my life where I could create my expectations of what I wanted and worked to meet those expectations the best I could.

As time went on, I no longer wondered if I said the word "should" in a non-assertive sentence. I was designing a new life for myself simply by visualizing intentions and planning my steps. Assertiveness developed as a natural by-product of taking some control over my own life. The assertiveness skills I developed were not the result of repeating exercised learned from a manual. My ability to assert myself was organic in nature. As I cultivated my life to appear more like I had envisioned, I found it only natural to politely tell another person that I could not complete an unreasonable request because of inherent conflicts with my schedule. You will find that as you exercise control over some areas of your life, you will want to conquer every area in your life that is not benefiting from your direct and active involvement.

Designing your life to your specifications is not easy but the results you achieve will help to maintain your motivation. I recommend you start today by planning out the rest of your day. Plan a healthy meal and some time to journal. Reflect on the year that has passed and your intentions for the year ahead. Plan out the most productive assignments at work that you could possibly do but had not had time because you were constantly responding to stimuli. Plan how you will respond to in the event of unexpected interruptions (both internal and external). Imagine the feeling of empowerment you will have once you complete those items. Plan your morning routine. Plan every area of your life by creating specific intentions and strive to obtain them as best you can. Once this habit is developed you will never have to wonder about how to respond assertively to anything that seeks to take control of your time, resources, or life.