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Tips & Tactics for Personal Development

Tag Archives: Personal accountability

Tell the truth about your life

If you are unhappy with any part of your life, the first step is to tell yourself the truth about it. This sounds simple, but it’s often very difficult. But without knowing how you really think and feel about something, you won’t have a clue about how to change it. So the first step in this process is to confess how you really feel about the things that are bothering you.

We often discount the truth about these hard situations because we are afraid that we can’t change them. And in some cases this is true. We can’t always change things that we don’t like. For example I can’t change the fact that my job is in Atlanta but all my extended family members live elsewhere. I simply have to live with this and adjust the best I can. I can, however, choose how to think about this situation so that I don’t make myself miserable. I can choose to see this situation as beyond my control, and plan to call or visit family members whenever possible, so that the connections remain strong.

But we frequently let ourselves off too easily when we don’t take the time to find out the real causes of our discontent. So here’s a technique for getting to the root of your feelings about a situation.

Complete each of the following sentences honestly:

When I think about this situation I feel….
What I dislike most about this situation is ….
If someone close to me knew about this situation they would tell me ….
The one thing I wish I could change about this situation is ….
If I didn’t have to deal with this situation I would be able to ….

Each one of these sentences forces you to look deeper at the situation and confess a little about how you feel. By slowly unwrapping the thoughts that surround it, you are moving closer to the core issue. Now pick an area of your life where something isn’t working and ask yourself these questions. You may be surprised to find that the real reason you are unhappy is quite different that the reason you tell yourself at first. Read more of this post

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5 poisons of the mind – #3 – Anger

Anger always feels right. When we are angry it always seems justified. Someone has hurt us or circumstances have defeated us, and it feels good to lash out at the other person, at our fate, at ourselves, the weather, God and whoever else happens to be nearby. And the more we practice getting angry the easier it is to become angry. Anger can be addictive, and always seems justified. But we don’t need to practice getting angry.

Anger also blinds us. When we are angry we see only how our own world has been attacked. We can’t see how others may be impacted, or how our angry behavior may frighten others; and for the most part at these times we are not interested in other’s suffering. Anger shrinks our world down to only our own, very limited perspective. It creates mental tunnel vision.

Anger has a value. When I get angry at someone who has been told many times not to do something, but who chooses to do it anyway, my anger serves to let the person know, “Hey, I mean this!” However, within this anger must be an undeniable sense that I care for the person. I’m angry not at them, but at the danger they put themselves in, at the warning they ignored. And the secret here is that once the person acknowledges this, my anger must cease. Being angry at someone just to show off or because it feels “right” is inappropriate and unfair. So know when to be angry, and when to stop.

It’s important to observe what you say to yourself after you have been angry. Do you justify your action, claiming that it was the right thing to do, that the person who hurt you needed to hear what you said, that they had it coming? Or do you honestly admit that perhaps you were out of line, that a different response would have been more useful and helpful, or that walking away and addressing the issue at another time may have been a more mature response.

If used wisely anger can teach us what we care about, and where we need to be careful of overreacting to life’s injustices; but left unchecked its fire will scar both you and those you seek to correct. Use anger wisely, or it will use you.

The comforting lies we tell ourselves

It is often very difficult to gain an accurate perspective on one’s own life. We are often so busy living our lives that we may have a hard time finding time to evaluate where we are, and where we want to go. It’s also often the case that when we do take time to evaluate our life, our perspective is distorted by the lies we tell ourselves to comfort ourselves. It’s more difficult to be completely honest with ourselves than we realize.

We tell ourselves little lies to soften the hurt that so often comes from unrealized dreams and expectations. If we don’t get the job we want, we tell ourselves that it wasn’t a good fit for us anyway. If our relationships with others become strained, we explain this to ourselves by saying that they are distracted or busy. And if our circumstances are not what we wish, it’s very easy to blame the economy.

These are comforting lies, and they do have value. They shield us from the shock that we would feel if we faced the truth head-on all the time. They defend us from harm in the short-term. But they were never meant to be a cure. So while they provide protection from harm in the short-term, if we want to grow we need to get beyond these defences and deal with the reality that hides behind them.

How do we do this?

First, we acknowledge that we are using these defenses and that they have short-term value.

Second, we choose to move beyond these defenses by confronting them and calling them what they are – first line emotional reactions.

Third, we gain perspective on these defenses by writing them down or sharing them with a trusted friend.

Facing reality in our lives is not easy, but it is essential if we are to move ahead.

In my own life I held onto to a dream of being able to return to a career in which I had failed earlier in my life. For years I dreamt of finding a way back to this job. It was only after I honestly faced that fact that I was not really good at the job that I finally let it go. This was not easy, as I had invested years of education and hard work into becoming successful in this field. I walked away from some significant investments – and released the energy that had been tied up in this dream to spend in other areas of my life. And this has made an enormous difference in how satisfied and committed I am to the areas of my life where I am successful and find satisfaction.

So work to get past the lies that comfort you now, but trap you in the present and prevent you from becoming even better in the future. You deserve better.

Winning too much will hurt you

We all like to win. We play to win. But sometimes trying too hard to win makes you a loser.

Ever hear yourself saying, “I’m not going to step to one side to let that person past. I shouldn’t have to move!”

How about, “I’m going to pull forward so that guy can’t cut in front of me!”

Or, “I was here first!”

Sounds pretty immature to me. Yet I’m as guilty of anyone else of participating in these juvenile internal conversations. I like feeling righteous and victimized.

Who doesn’t?

But do you admire people who think like this, or act in ways that reveal that they are thinking these kinds of thoughts? I don’t. I don’t even like myself when I catch myself thinking this way.

This is how winning too much can hurt you. It makes you do selfish but seemingly righteous things. It make you mean.

So when the stakes are low, let the other person have their way. They are not going to admire you for crossing them, but they just might be a little embarrassed when you are courteous to them despite their adolescent behavior..

Stop playing the victim!

In my experience most people don’t realize that they are playing the victim in their life. They see their life and circumstances as predetermined, and often blame past events or their circumstances for their problems. As long as they have this attitude, they are not open to change.

How do we know when we are playing victim?

Listen to the ongoing conversations you have with yourself. Are you regularly making excuses as to why you can’t do something? Are you blaming others for making your life difficult? Are you setting limits on what you will try to do in life? Are you constantly whining about how hard your life is?

Anytime we allow something other than ourselves to control our mental life and choices, we are giving away our power to change. The essence of playing victim is giving up the power to choose for ourselves what kind of life we will live.

The first step in choosing not to be a victim is to accept that you are in charge of your life. This doesn’t mean that you can instantly change your life for the better. It does mean that you can control your actions and your attitude, regardless of how things turn out for you, and that you can succeed despite the obstacles in your way. As one author put it, “The person who will not be defeated cannot be defeated.”

Making this choice may sound easy. But I can tell you from experience that it is not. It’s a choice you have to make over and over again until it becomes a habit. It requires both persistence and patience.

So here’s an exercise to see where you are playing victim in your life: Over the next week pause once or twice per day and scan your thinking for any thoughts where you are consistently making excuses, whining and blaming others. Don’t try to change these thoughts or argue against them, simply notice that they are occurring. If you do this consistently you will see patterns in your thinking where you repeatedly play victim. Once you see these patterns, you can develop tactics to counteract them.

The key here is to get these unhealthy thoughts out in the open where you can examine them and decide if they are helping you live the life you want or standing in your way. Once you see the thoughts that are hindering you, it can be easier to address them and become more aware of how they are undermining your attempts to become a better person.

Suggested reading: Unbeatable by Jack Schropp. His chapter on being a volunteer rather than a victim is outstanding.

“Winging it” rarely leads to success

Many people would like to believe that they don’t need to make plans for how they will succeed in life. They simply take events as they come and make the most of them.

While this may work for some people, I doubt you will find many high-performing people leaving much to chance. They know what they want and they deliberately plan for how to reach their goals. They also know that with a plan in place they can handle the unexpected things that always happen along the way. And the unexpected always happens.

As a case example, I think we all admire the Navy Seal Team that captured Osama Bin Laden. It’s exciting to imagine the soldiers secretly flying into Pakistan and dropping out of the sky in their surprise attack. And even their plans did not go perfectly. Despite the flaws, the mission succeeded.

What we don’t see is the work behind this success: the thousands of hours of planning and drilling. the raids that were carefully planned and then abandoned at the last minute due to outside events, and the emotional toll of waiting for OK to start the mission. We don’t see that the Seals’ success here had a very high price – we see only the glamorous results.

Our lives work the same way. Success always has a price, and it must always be earned. Our lives and the experience of the successful people we know will confirm this.

This confirms our first rule of success: success in any area requires discipline, and this means taking the time to think through what we want and then making a plan for how to get to our goal. Understand the time commitment required and invest in planning for success! Don’t leave success to chance.

No success without discipline

If you were going to take a vacation to a place that you had wanted to visit for many years, how would you go about doing this? Would you simply pack a suitcase and head off? Or would you take some time to sit down and plan your trip so that it would be all that you expected?

If you take the first approach, you might have a great time. If things worked out for you and there were no problems with your arrangements, it could be wonderful!

On the other hand, if you ran into problems, what resources would you have to help you out?

If you take the second approach, you would plan first the outline of your trip and then all the details that were necessary. You wouldn’t need to plan every single detail, but enough to know what to do at each point in the trip.

What’s strange to me is that people will spend hours and sometimes days planning a vacation, but they won’t apply the same structure and discipline to their personal goals. And I’m as guilty as any one else in this area.

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