Know Better – Do Better – Get Better

Tips & Tactics for Personal Development

Tag Archives: Personal success

Top 20 tactics so far – a checklist for personal growth

For those of you who like lists, here’s a checklist of topics I have covered in my earlier entries:

1 . If you don’t define success for yourself, someone else will.
2. Good intentions are not enough.
3. Change before you have to.
4. You always have choices, even if you don’t like them.
5. There is no success without discipline. Success is not an accident.
6. Find out what doesn’t work, and then don’t do it.
7. You are only a victim if you choose to be a victim.
8. Never be in a hurry to lose.
9. Criticism is never welcome, but it can help you know what to work on.
10. Setting goals requires both a “what” and a “why”.
11. Feeling fearful is normal. It’s usually a sign that you need to take some action.
12. Fail better. Success rarely comes without the lessons failure provides.
13. Build structure to support your efforts to grow and change. Willpower is overrated.
14. Know the difference between success and satisfaction.
15. The fear of failing is often worse than actually failing.
16. Your habits will make or break you. Choose them wisely.
17. Real and lasting growth comes through small changes.
18. At all times tell the truth about your life.
19. Take some action every day to move toward your goals.
20. Have a personal code to guide your choices so you don’t get trapped by circumstances.

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7 reasons you are not successful – and what to do about it

Actually, there are probably many more reasons you are not as successful as you want to be. But let’s start with these.

1. You don’t know what success looks like – for you. You measure your success using someone else’s yardstick. If you do this, you will almost always come up short, since you see the great results of their work but you don’t see them actually struggling to get things done. Outcomes can be deceiving. Success is personal, and differs greatly from person to person. Choose your own yardstick carefully.

2. You don’t have goals. You have dreams and ideas, but no goals – nothing that gets you so fired up that you feel compelled to go after it. So you go after whatever crosses your path instead of what inspires you. Take time to learn what moves you, and then pick goals that allow you to spend time doing things that light your fire. If you don’t know what moves you, ask your friends and family members. They often know what lights your fire better than you do.

3. You don’t have discipline. You wander from one idea to another, and you don’t stick to any one plan long enough to see how it turns out. This is not only tiring, it’s also discouraging. So pick one small project that you can complete in a week or two, plan how to accomplish it, and do what it takes to finish it. You may be surprised how much this small effort can inspire you.

4. You don’t have enthusiasm. You push yourself to get things done, but you’re not inspired. Everything seems hard. Stop working and learn how to play. Pick a hobby and really go after it for 6 months. Schedule your “play time” and stick to it. It will refresh your mind and free up energy for other areas of your life.

5. You don’t have support or structure. You let other people, circumstances or events drive your choices, instead of designing your days around your priorities. You go it alone, and your friends can’t help you because they aren’t sure what your want. So let your friends and family know what you want and tell them how they can help you.

6. You are waiting for success to find you, instead of hunting it down yourself. Success is elusive, and sneaks up on your when you are not looking – but only when you are working on something that inspires you. So get busy with something that lights you up and you may find that success is looking over your shoulder.

7. You have given up on yourself. You don’t see enough value in who you are or what you can do, so you let life happen to you instead of directing it to your advantage. This is serious. It’s also a lie. You have value as a person no matter what your circumstances. And the best way to find and increase this value is by using whatever talents and resources you have to help others. You will get back what you put out.

And if you are wondering how I know all this, it’s because I’ve made all these mistakes myself.

7 tips for New Year’s resolutions that stick

The beginning of a New Year is traditionally a time for new beginnings. It’s a chance to start over, to begin new projects. But many times we find that despite our best efforts, we soon fall back into old patterns.

So as you make your promises for next year, here are some things to keep in mind:

1. Focus on the new year and what you will do differently.
Don’t let the experiences of the past year determine what you try to achieve in the new year. Start fresh. You can look back at what you learned in the past year, but don’t build your goals for the new year only on avoiding the mistakes you made in the last 12 months.

2. Choose one area of your life to focus on.
Don’t try to change too many things at once. It’s better to pick one area of your life and focus only on it for a year. Making changes in your life takes time and energy. A sharp focus will increase your chance of success.

3. If you set goals, make them realistic.
Many people fail to reach their goals because they have too many goals, or because their goals are not realistic. Don’t challenge yourself to do too much or you’ll give up when the going gets tough (and it will get tough). Use milestones to keep yourself motivated.

4. Remember that structure beats willpower.
Making changes in your life requires willpower, but willpower is rarely enough to get you through the tough times and discouragement that comes with trying to improve. So built routines that support you in making changes. And let people who care about you know what you are trying to do – often they will offer support to help keep you going.

5. Expect setbacks and discomfort.
It’s rare that a person can pick a goal and then reach it without facing a few setbacks. These setbacks are part of the process of growing. Don’t fear them. They happen so that you can learn what you need to overcome to reach your goal.

6. Measure your progress and reward yourself for reaching your goals.
When you reach a milestone, celebrate. You need to reward to keep your motivation up.

7. Avoid the “all work and no play” trap.
Maintain a balance in your life as you make changes. Take time to enjoy what you have already achieved. Spend time with friends, take all your personal and vacation days. And regularly remind yourself that the willingness to change and grow is one of the greatest strengths we possess. It is the key to self-improvement.

You can make resolutions that really do help you change yourself and your life if you follow these simple rules and regularly remind yourself that change requires time, energy, and a willingness to tolerate temporary discomfort.

Micro commitments

In my last post I talked about the importance of making small changes in our lives and how these can be more effective than trying to make big changes. It is often easier to start and maintain small changes over time, as every change requires focus and energy.

Today I want to introduce the idea of micro commitments.

Micro commitments are time- and situation-limited commitments we make to ourselves to help build up our ability to make and stick to them. They help us build our commitment muscles.

An example would be choosing to focus on doing something unpleasant for 15 minutes, rather than saying that you will wait until you feel more inspired. You make the commitment for a limited time and situation and when you keep this commitment, you start to build up your ability to keep larger commitments.

The power of micro commitments is that we can use them in situations where we don’t have the time or the energy for larger changes, but we want to start making changes. We can make them for an hour, a day or for a single situation. And each time we succeed we build up our ability to make and keep larger commitments.

I use micro commitments every day to help me manage the tasks that I would otherwise put off. It’s better to do something small to move you toward your goal than it is to either put off doing something or beat yourself up because you didn’t do something positive. Try it for yourself. Start with small tasks and gradually build toward larger ones and watch your commitment muscles grow!

Compared To What?

I believe we all naturally compare ourselves to people we know. We instinctively want to know how much better (or worse) we are compared to them. Do they make more money than we do? Do they have more friends? Do they seem happier than we are? Are they “better” than us?

These are not healthy thoughts. Comparing ourselves and our circumstances to the very limited amount we know about other’s lives is dangerous. It is a set up for failure. Here’s why.

We can never know enough about another person’s life to make an accurate comparison with our own life. We don’t see it when the person earning $200k per year goes home to an empty apartment and drinks himself to sleep. We may see others with more “friends” than we have; but what we miss is the fact that no one really knows the person, and he has no close friends that he can count on. And if we think others are “happier” or “better” than we are, we probably don’t appreciate what we have all that much.

So go ahead and make comparisons if you wish. But understand that you will usually come out looking inferior – because you don’t have all the facts about other’s lives and rarely can get them all. It’s not fair.

There is a better way.

Instead of comparing yourself to another person, compare yourself to the person you were 10 or 20 years ago. Unless you haven’t made any attempts at all to improve yourself, you are probably a better person today than you were then.

Personal example: I knew a lot more 20 years ago than I do now. I was infallible (and probably unbearable at times.) Now I regularly pause and question my own judgment in a healthy way, as I’ve learned that being infallible carries a terrible price in human relationships. Twenty years ago I was going to change the world; now I’ll be grateful to change 1 or 2 of my own bad habits. This isn’t discouraging for me. It tells me I’ve matured in at least one area of my life. My perspective is healthier.

Compared to the person I was 20 years ago, I’m a much better person. At least I think so. And I’m much more effective in working with others than when I was the Infallible One.

So if you want a fair and realistic comparison, look back at who you were and how you have grown. I think this is a lot more satisfying and motivating than comparing yourself to people whom you really don’t know and in many ways can’t know well enough to see the full spectrum of their experiences.

If you are going to make comparisons, make helpful and positive comparisons rather than comparisons where you are guaranteed to come in second – or worse.

You don’t need permission to be successful

Are you waiting for someone to give you permission to be successful? Do you need specific circumstances or factors to be in place before you can succeed? Are there “conditions” that have to be met before you can move ahead toward your goals?

I have found that many people limit their potential by saying (mostly to themselves), “I’ll be successful when….” They then wait for the circumstances, people or other factors that they imagine are necessary for their success to magically appear in their lives. And they often wait a long time, and frequently become discouraged.

They have made their success depend on someone else giving them permission, or for the”right” circumstances to materialize. They have surrendered control of their lives to someone or something outside themselves.

I’ve done this to myself. My list includes such things as, “I’ll be successful when:

1. I have $200k in my retirement fund. (Only $180k to go.)

2. I can retire at 60. (Five years from now?!)

3. I’ve won the Mega Millions lottery – minimum $150M please. (Haven’t bought my ticket yet…)

4. I’ve traveled to all 25 of the foreign countries on my wish list. (Only 12 to go.)

Not likely I’m going to feel very successful anytime soon. I’ve set myself up to fail.

It would be better if I looked at success another way. Using the right yardstick makes all the difference. Here are some of the high points so far:

1. Happily married for nearly 26 years.

2. Raised 2 smart and successful daughters, both now with careers of their own.

3. Encouraged my wife to get back into her chosen profession and supported her while she grew her small business into a full-time job.

4. Remodeled my own kitchen for $4500 instead of spending $17,000 to have someone else do it.

In other words, if I define my life in a balanced yet realistic way, I can find success. Now all I need to do is build on my past successes.

So don’t wait for the right time, circumstances or resources to be in place before you say you are successful. Look honestly at what you have already achieved, and the skills that you used to accomplish these things. Take these skills and put them to work for you in other areas of your life. They are your key to becoming even more successful. And you already possess them.

Everyone wants to succeed

Another way of saying this is that people don’t like to fail. I know I don’t like it. Can’t imagine anyone does. But I’m smart enough to know that I have learned a great deal from my failures, even if I didn’t like the way things turned out. I have learned to “fail better.” But I enjoy success a lot more.

So if everyone wants to succeed in some area – or many areas of their life – why doesn’t this happen more often? Why don’t we hear daily about the victories that others are having?

In some cases this is because the victories are very personal and not easily shared. In other cases people often don’t see their accomplishments in a balanced way. They discount their achievements, especially when they compare them to the achievements of others.

But I believe the biggest reason that we don’t hear more success stories is that most of us have a hard time defining success. We let other people or outside circumstances choose our yardstick for us. And if we let someone else choose how success should look for us, I don’t see how we can ever be satisfied.

So for me the first step in moving toward success is to define what success will look like. If I don’t do this, how will I know if I succeeded?

For example, if I want to be successful in my career, I need to define for myself what my life will look like when I reach this goal. What will I be doing, and where will I be doing it? Will I be working with others or be on my own? Will I be leading or working under another person? And is this an end goal or a step on the way to something larger?

In my own life I made a deliberate choice many years ago to put family before career. And I have succeeded because I have met my goals of raising two very smart and highly motivated daughter who are now each very successfully building careers and lives of their own. My own career is not very exciting, and probably not going anywhere anytime soon. But I am successful. So in this case it was extremely important for me to define what success would look like when I reached my goal.

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