The Hidden Trap Catching Many High-Achievers

The Hidden Trap Catching Many High-Achievers

We all have wants and needs, but most of us don’t think of ourselves as needy. That may be true, but in many cases we’re more needy than we think.

For many people these days, and especially high-achievers, neediness shows up as excessive attachment to recognition, praise, or success–or to saving others–for self-acceptance. It comes with an excessive desire for reassurance or affirmation from others. This is easy to miss because we’re probably reluctant to admit it when we feel it.

Such achievement-based approval is baked into Western culture and our society’s views about what’s expected in life—and what comprises a good life. At work here is the mistaken assumption that success and prestige in the eyes of others will bring us happiness and fulfillment. (They won’t.)

Neediness can hit us hard when we encounter hard times in our career, such as a layoff, and when we go through big transitions in life, such as graduation, career change, or retirement.

It has pros and cons. On the one hand, neediness can motivate us to work hard, achieve at high levels, and contribute to others. On the other hand, it can detract from our quality of life and harm our relationships.

In his book, Positive Intelligence, Shirzad Chamine describes the profile of what we calls a “hyper-achiever:” someone who is “dependent on constant performance and achievement for self-respect and self-validation.” (This is one of ten “saboteurs”—automatic and habitual mind patterns—he’s identified that work against us and our work teams.)

Some people become insecure overachievers. They seek to win by accomplishing the love,
admiration, and attachment they can’t get any other way,
but of course no amount of achievement ever gives them the love they crave.”
-David Brooks, The Second Mountain

 

White Knight Syndrome

One version of neediness comes in the form of what psychologists call “white knight syndrome” (or “hero syndrome”). It’s a need to rescue or save people via helping, such as with advising or coaching them or sharing ideas with them, as a way to boost our sense of self-importance.

Often, it leads us to give unsolicited advice often, in all sorts of settings, with the justification that we’re just trying to help. It can also come with feelings of anxiety or aimlessness when we’re not helping others and annoyance or hurt when people don’t come to us for advice or follow the advice we gave—and sometimes with fishing for praise after we give advice to get acknowledgement about how much we helped.

Drs. Mary Lamia and Marilyn Krieger, clinical psychologists and authors of The White Knight Syndrome: Rescuing Yourself from Your Need to Rescue Others, defines it as “a compulsive need to be the rescuer” and notes several signs that we may have it:

  • We base our self-worth on our ability to “fix” people, and it’s a core part of our identity in relationships or work as we’re overly keen on offering help and advice
  • We have a strong need to be viewed as important
  • We have a tendency to engage in controlling behavior under the guise of helping people
  • We’re quite self-critical
  • We gravitate toward those who are needy
  • We fear emotional distance and seek to entangle people back into a position of needing our help when that fear arises

According to Dr. Lamia and other psychologists, it can come from many sources, including: a lack of healthy and affectionate bonds during childhood, authoritarian parents, being deeply affected by the suffering of a caregiver, a history of neglect or unhealed abandonment wounds, or having to take on a parent role due to a parent with addiction or health issues.

Though there’s a desire to help that’s part of this, there are also selfish and controlling dynamics at work. People can sense that, so they may begin to resent the help and pull away. Many people can feel put down when others step in with unsolicited advice or unrequested help.

They may also sense that the advice that comes from another, while valid in its original context, often misses the mark in the new context with different people, personalities, and dynamics at work. It can take a high toll on both parties and lead to misunderstanding and mutual resentment, as well as codependency and the undermining of the recipient’s ability to address their own issues.

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Signs of Neediness

There are degrees of neediness. We’re probably all needy to some degree in certain areas, while some people are very needy in several areas of their life and work.

With neediness, we tend to do at least a few of the following fairly often:

  • have a frequent urge to be noticed
  • go out of our way to impress others
  • feel attacked when receiving criticism—or obsess over it
  • be hyper-competitive
  • have a strong desire to be the one who comes up with the answer or solves the problem
  • play status or power games or want to control the people or things around us
  • be prone to adapting our personality to impress others
  • pay people excessive compliments as a way to earn their favor
  • experience discomfort with self-disclosure, emotional vulnerability, or intimacy
  • pull away when close relationships are beginning to form
  • be skilled at hiding insecurities
  • only feel good when we’re successful and held in high esteem
  • have a hard time feeling lasting peace and contentment due to a recurring itch for the next win
  • be image- and status-conscious and spend a lot of time on social media (e.g., tracking follower counts and likes)

(Note, also, that many of these can be blind spots for us. We can go long periods without being aware that we’re doing some of these things, then get surprised with forthright feedback from a trusted friend or mentor.)

When everybody loves me, I’m gonna be just about as happy as I can be.”
-The Counting Crows in their song, “Mr. Jones”

 

Where Neediness Comes From

Psychologists note that neediness often comes from not having our needs adequately met as children (e.g., feeling neglected, dismissed, invalidated, or rejected). When we’re children, even minor incidents involving these feelings tend to get blown up.

Many children learn early on that they can gain acceptance, praise, affection, or love by proving themselves with obedience or achievement, setting up a conditional view of self-regard that can become problematic later on if not balanced with a healthy sense of self-worth.

Even with well-intentioned, caring parents, we can get the sense that we’re only worthy and loved when we do things as our parents expect—i.e., that we’re only worthy of conditional love.

Neediness can also come from mistaken beliefs about ourselves (e.g., we’re not worthy or good enough) that we’ve never examined critically, as well as from insecurity, trauma, or abuse.

Part of the challenge here is that we’re battling our own neural wiring. Our brains and bodies seek the chemical rewards, via neuro-transmitting hormones, of achievement leading to praise (and the avoidance of mistakes leading to disapproval). It’s a stimulus-response feedback loop that begins early in life and becomes etched deep into the neural pathways of our brains.

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The Problem with Neediness

Though neediness can come with certain benefits, such as intense effort that can lead to achievement, it also has many drawbacks. For example, neediness can:

  1. make us overly intense, controlling, or demanding
  2. make us dependent on or excessively vulnerable to other’s judgments and opinions
  3. make us feel bad, ashamed, or distraught when others don’t like what we did
  4. make us feel as if we’re never enough
  5. lead to dysfunctional behaviors, such as people-pleasing
  6. bring anxiety, stress, burnout, disappointment, or loneliness into our lives
  7. be a heavy burden to bear—always carrying the pressure of living up to imagined and exaggerated demands and expectations
  8. lead to compulsive overwork or workaholism, creating an obsessive relationship with work in which we can’t switch it off and in which we feel guilty when not working
  9. lead to underinvestment in other priorities like our health and close relationships
  10. lock us into the wrong career path or a job that’s no longer a good fit for us because we’re so focused on what others think about us
  11. cause us to give our power away
  12. make us vulnerable to manipulation and control by others since we’re so focused on their approval
  13. cause us to compromise our integrity and make poor decisions as we downplay our personal values to continue a positive appearance among others whose moral fiber may be compromised
  14. make it hard for us to make decisions without input from the ones we seek approval from
  15. further the illusion that the quality of our lives depends on the quality of our circumstances (e.g., where we live, what we drive), as opposed to deeper and more lasting things (e.g., our character and contributions)
  16. further the mistaken belief that climbing the ladder of success is the point of life
  17. take us away from ourselves (from who we really are and what we value), as we seek to remain the good graces of others with different values and priorities
  18. induce us to play the comparison game as we obsess over our standing among others
  19. cause us to obsess over what we don’t have
  20. inhibit the level of authenticity, connection, vulnerability, and intimacy in our relationships
  21. push our partner, friends, or colleagues away because it’s not an attractive quality and can feel clingy and smothering
  22. make us waste a lot of time seeking feedback and assurances from others instead of doing what’s needed to get things done
  23. make us reluctant to accept help from others
  24. cause us to become addicted to approval and external validation
  25. lead to selfishness or being perceived as self-centered and overly image-conscious
  26. haunt us throughout our lives with fears of disapproval, rejection, or abandonment
  27. inhibit our spiritual life or development as our need for external validation crowds out ultimate matters

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How to Overcome Neediness

It’s clear that neediness has many drawbacks. So, what to do about it?

There are many things we can do to address neediness, including:

Develop more awareness and understanding of this behavior pattern. Ask ourselves these questions: When does it show up? Where does it come from? How does it affect me?

Cultivate self-acceptance and self-compassion—and shut down our inner critic.

Celebrate our successes (even when others don’t).

Spend more time alone, in the process building our comfort level with solitude and working to overcome the cultural bias against it. As we do this, we see more and more that we can fulfill many of our own needs with the right disposition and mindset.

Change our focus from working for approval to working for some other higher aspiration. Examples: contributing to others, supporting our family, expressing our true nature, just doing the work for its own sake, or feeling satisfied when we’ve worked hard and done our best.

Focus on being an equal partner to those we’re with, not a savior, and on letting them figure out their own path, perhaps guided by gentle questions or things for them to think about instead of advice

Ensure we have clarity about what success means to us, instead of letting conventional views about money, status, or fame dictate our choices.

Stop equating ourselves with our results or our titles.

Reflect on whether our goals are mostly concerned with how others view us or with our deeper intrinsic motivations (such as earning a degree or certification because it interests us).

Avoid overthinking and ruminating—as well as jumping to conclusions about what others are thinking and why.

Connect with ourselves more, tuning into our inner life, purpose, and core values.

Recall that true self-worth comes from inside ourselves and not others.

Don’t assume that someone’s feeling or opinion about us makes it accurate. They may be missing important aspects of the story or have some other confounding influence or bias.

View criticism as information to consider and potentially helpful feedback, not as disapproval or a personal attack. Also, note that many people struggle with both giving and receiving feedback well.

Maintain perspective: even if someone disapproves of something we did, how much does it really matter? How much will it matter a few months from now?

Focus less on ourselves and more on others—and serving them. Oddly enough, the more we focus on ourselves, the more miserable we tend to be.

Focus on replacing ego and fear with acceptance and love.

Realize that relying on the opinion of others for happiness, love, or peace is bound to disappoint. Consider looking instead to something more transcendent and lasting such as fidelity to a community or worthy cause, creative inspiration, reverence for nature, religious worship, or spiritual liberation.

 

Conclusion

If we struggle with neediness, it’s worth addressing because on the other side of it lies real power, freedom, and contentment. Without such neediness, we can experience more ease, appreciation, and joy. We can let go of things that won’t hold up over time so we can dive into and savor the things that will.

 

Reflection Questions

  1. To what extent are you attached to recognition, praise, success, or saving others for self-acceptance?
  2. How is it impacting your quality and your relationships with others and with work?
  3. What will you do about it, starting today?

 

Related Articles and Books

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Tools for You

 

Appendix: Notes on Neediness and Fame

One facet of neediness for some can be a strong desire for fame. According to social psychologist Orville G. Brim, about 30 percent of survey participants in Beijing and Germany and over half in the U.S. report daydreaming about fame. Recent studies have shown that the biggest goal in life for U.S. children aged 10 to 12 is fame. A survey of British children found that the most coveted career choice was “YouTuber.”

Mathematician Samuel Arbesman devised a crude but clever method for estimating the percent of the population that is famous, taking Wikipedia’s “Living People” category and dividing it by the world’s population. The result? About .0086% of the world’s population is famous, using that method. A tiny number indeed.

Meanwhile, how many of those people are pleased with the baggage that comes with fame and how it changes their experience of life? With all its appeal, fame can be one of the trickiest human experiences to manage. A problem of privilege, no doubt, but still a tough problem for many.

I think everybody should get rich and famous and everything
they ever dreamed of so they can see that that’s not the answer.
-Jim Carrey

 

Postscript: Inspirations on Neediness

  • “Being dependent on approval—so dependent that we barter away all our time, energy, and personal preferences to get it—ruins lives.” -Martha Beck, writer
  • “Too much self-centered thinking is the source of suffering. A compassionate concern for others’ well-being is the source of happiness.” -Dalai Lama
  • “As long as the egoic mind is running your life, you cannot truly be at ease; you cannot be at peace or fulfilled except for brief intervals when you obtained what you wanted, when a craving has just been fulfilled.” -Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now
  • “The unhappiest people in this world are those who care the most about what people think.” -C. Joybell C., writer
  • “I was dying inside. I was so possessed by trying to make you love me for my achievements that I was actually creating this identity that was disconnected from myself. I wanted people to love me for the hologram I created of myself.” -Chip Conley, entrepreneur and author
  • “Unhappy is he who depends on success to be happy.” -Alex Dias Ribeiro, former Formula One race-car driver
  • “Half of the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important… They do not mean to do harm…. They are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.” -T.S. Eliot, “The Cocktail Party”
  • “We are not devastated by failing to obtain a goal. We’re only devastated when our sense of self-esteem and self-worth are dependent upon achievement of that goal.” -William James
  • “The ultimate goal in life is not to be successful or loved, but to become the truest expression of ourselves, to live into authentic selfhood, to honor our birthright gifts and callings, and be of service to humanity and our world….” -Frederic Laloux
  • We must do our work for its own sake, not for fortune or attention or applause.” -Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
  • “The only way to escape the corruptible effect of praise is to go on working.” -Albert Einstein
  • “The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.” -Norman Vincent Peale

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Gregg Vanourek is a writer, teacher, TEDx speaker, and coach on leadership and personal development. He is co-author of three books, including LIFE Entrepreneurs: Ordinary People Creating Extraordinary Lives (a manifesto for integrating our life and work with purpose, passion, and contribution) and Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations (a winner of the International Book Awards). Check out his Best Articles or get his monthly newsletter. If you found value in this article, please forward it to a friend. Every little bit helps!

Why Monkey Mind Is Worse Than You Think— And What to Do About It

Why Monkey Mind Is Worse Than You Think— And What to Do About It

Many of us are going through much of our lives with a “monkey mind” that’s restless and easily distracted, with thoughts swinging wildly in different directions. (1) The problem is that chaos in our minds will bring chaos in our life, work, and leadership. It will make us anxious and make it harder for us to accomplish our goals.

Unfortunately, this monkey mind phenomenon is as common as it is old (the term having been coined by the Buddha), and it’s aggravated by the way we tend to work in our modern world.

I am burdened with what the Buddhists call the monkey mind.
The thoughts that swing from limb to limb, stopping only to scratch themselves, spit, and howl.
My mind swings wildly through time, touching on dozens of ideas a minute, unharnessed and undisciplined.”
-Elizabeth Gilbert, writer

 

Signs of Our Monkey Mind Going Wild

How to know if we’re afflicted by a monkey mind? When our monkey mind is active, we:

  • have scattered thoughts
  • feel anxious, restless, and unsettled
  • find our mind wandering after just a short while of doing something
  • experience mental fatigue
  • feel impatient often
  • are often bouncing from thought to thought and task to task
  • have a hard time focusing on the present moment
  • spend a lot of time thinking about the past or the future
  • return to the same thought loops over and over again (rumination)

Our monkey mind is a bit like Curious George—always causing trouble. How much of our day do we spend worrying, complaining, or relitigating past sleights? How about assuming the worst and running worst-case scenarios through our minds again and again? These are telltale signs of the monkey mind in action.

Give anything to silence those voices ringing in your head.”
-from the song, “Learn to Be Still,” written by Don Henley and Stan Lynch, recorded by The Eagles

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The Problem with Our Monkey Mind

Though it’s common, monkey mind isn’t harmless. Its restless bouncing from thought to thought comes with many problems, including:

  1. making us anxious and restless
  2. amping up our stress levels
  3. impeding our ability to focus and concentrate
  4. inhibiting mental clarity
  5. preventing us from being in the moment, present with people, or focused on the task at hand
  6. pushing others away if they find it draining or chaotic
  7. reducing our sense of calm and wellbeing
  8. disrupting our sleep
  9. pulling us away from the things that matter most
  10. reducing our contentment and happiness
  11. becoming a lifelong habit that harms our mental health, quality of life, and career

Monkey mind is related to what psychologist Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, in his book Flow, called “psychic entropy,” a condition of inner disorder that impairs our control over our attention and our effectiveness. With psychic entropy, a negative feedback loop can form in which we feel unpleasant emotions that make it hard for us to focus, thus causing us to fail in achieving our goals, then starting the cycle all over again—and sapping our confidence. He wrote, “Prolonged experiences of this kind can weaken the self to the point that it is no longer able to invest attention and pursue its goals.”

 

How Our Monkey Mind Inhibits Our Leadership

A monkey mind can also haunt leaders and managers. Think of Karen, a busy executive facing a steady stream of challenges in her work. At breakfast, she’s preoccupied with the presentation she will give to an important customer later, and she’s running late. She’s also worried about her son’s new friends. In her two morning meetings, she’s thinking about what to do with Jerry, a longtime colleague who’s been struggling with an important new project, and how to approach the upcoming board meeting.

When she calls her husband over lunch, she remembers that she forgot to schedule her car for service. In her customer meeting, she nails the delivery but then spirals into self-doubt when the conversation turns to future product releases, and she relives a heated exchange she had with the IT team this week.

At the gym after work, she’s revisiting her answers to the customer’s questions about functionality, and at dinner with her family she’s wondering again about what to do with Jerry. In bed that night, she’s reading a novel, but her mind keeps drifting to the problems of the day, so she must go back and re-read almost every other page. When the lights are out, her head keeps spinning.

If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is.
If you try to calm it, it only makes it worse, but over time it does calm,
and when it does, there’s room to hear more subtle things—
that’s when your intuition starts to blossom and you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more.
Your mind just slows down, and you see a tremendous expanse in the moment.
You see so much more than you could see before. It’s a discipline; you have to practice it.”
-Steve Jobs

Monkey mind inhibits our leadership by:

  1. leading us to poor, impulsive decisions or slowing down our decision-making
  2. making us more reactive than proactive
  3. harming our credibility
  4. preventing us from focusing on our priorities
  5. reducing our executive presence
  6. preventing us from listening well to others
  7. frustrating our colleagues
  8. killing our enjoyment of our free time
  9. increasing our stress and anxiety
  10. harming our sleep

Monkey mind relates to many of the leadership derailers that inhibit our leadership effectiveness, potentially including avoiding tough issues, being a bottleneck on big decisions, causing chaos for the team, not being sufficiently clear, becoming ego-centric, being hyper-critical, impulsive, indecisive, or insecure, not listening well, being obsessive or perfectionistic, being pessimistic or prone to overreaction, and becoming a workaholic.

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What to Do About It

We’ve seen how our monkey mind can detract from our work, leadership, and quality of life. So, what to do about it? Here’s a punch list of things we can do to start addressing our monkey mind:

Think of our monkey mind as something to befriend as opposed to an enemy we need to vanquish. In some ways, it’s built into our brain’s design. Calm redirection will serve us much better than judgment and resentment. According to Leo Babauta of Zen Habits, “if we create a calm space for the monkey mind to jump around in, it will eventually settle down.” (2)

Meditate. With meditation, we can train our minds to become more present, focused, and still. We can train our attention and awareness, helping us feel calm and clear. Studies have found that meditation can lead to improvements in brain function, blood pressure, metabolism, sleep, focus, concentration, and even our lifespan, as well as alleviation of stress and pain. University of Wisconsin neuroscientist Richard Davidson has conducted experiments on the effects of meditation on the brain. His results suggest that meditation may lead to change in the physical structure of the brain regions associated with attention, fear, anger, compassion, anxiety, and depression. (See the Appendix below for some common types of meditation.)

Be here now.
-Ram Dass, Be Here Now

Breathe deeply and do breath work. During breathing practices, we can place our attention on our breath (e.g., we can focus on the top of our head when we breathe in and our diaphragm when we breathe out). This can include deep breathing exercises, such as box breathing in which we breathe in while slowly counting to four, hold our breath for four seconds, slowly exhale for four seconds, and then hold our breath again. (Each of these four steps forms one side of an imaginary box.) Then repeat the process.

Being aware of your breath forces you into the present moment—
the key to all inner transformation.
-Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth

Engage in mindful, offline activities. When we’re doing something—anything—place our attention on what we’re doing and only that. Focus on the sensations of washing the dishes on our hands or the taste, texture, and smell of the food we’re eating. Meanwhile, we should engage more in real-world offline activities. Read a book. Play a musical instrument. Go for a walk. Watch the squirrels and birds in our backyard. And we should be mindful and present while doing it, bringing our attention back to the moment when it wanders.

Play the “game of fives.” Writer Marelisa Fabrega recommends pausing our thinking and noticing five things in our vicinity that we see, hear, or smell. Then, fully experience them. It may help to pretend that it’s the first time we’ve ever experienced that sight, sound, or smell. When we do this, all our attention moves to the present moment.

Reduce distractions. It seems like the modern world is designed to agitate our monkey mind with a barrage of inputs and distractions, from texts and emails to videos, breaking news alerts, streaming shows, and social media posts. Put our smartphones away (out of sight) and turn off notifications. The key here is breaking our addiction to numbing and distraction, in which our brains are constantly flooded with stimuli designed to capture and control our attention. Along these lines, we should wean ourselves from the habit of taking out our smartphone every time we get bored. That mindless, compulsive behavior only stimulates the monkeys in our mind to race quickly from thought to thought as we keep swiping.

Take breaks in between activities. Grab a cup of coffee. Gaze at the horizon. Get some fresh air and sunshine. Take some deep breaths. Take a nap. Even short breaks are restorative.

There is more to life than increasing its speed.
-Mahatma Gandhi

Journal. Jotting down our thoughts and feelings in a diary or journal can be beneficial because it allows us to express our emotions freely, clear out distressing thoughts, organize our thoughts, gain new insights, recover a sense of control, find patterns, and deepen our understanding of the events in our lives (and ourselves). According to research studies, journaling can help with anxiety, hostility, and depression. It’s been linked to measurable effects on our health and immune system response. Tip: For best results, include both thoughts and feelings when journaling (and avoid rehashing troubling thoughts over and over), and consider adding some drawing or doodling to the text as well. (For a great summary of the research, see “How Journaling Can Help You in Hard Times.”)

Practice self-care. Engage in regular self-care practices, including sleep, exercise, nutrition, and relaxation. Turn these into habits and regular routines. All of these can have calming effects on our minds through various mechanisms that are well documented.

Find sanctuary. Create a space of sanctuary associated with a calm mind, such as a place to think or write, or a place to meditate or pray. It can be a place of worship, a quiet retreat in the backyard, a trail in the woods, a quiet park nearby, or a peaceful kayaking outing on a lake. For some people, it can simply be a centering practice, and not necessarily a place.

Get out into nature. More than a hundred studies have documented the benefits of being in or living near nature—and even viewing nature in images and videos. According to the research, it can have positive impacts on our thoughts, brains, feelings, bodies, and social interactions—including reduced stress, enhanced recovery from illness, and changes in our behavior that improve our mood and overall wellbeing. Viewing nature can calm our nervous system and lead to a cascade of positive emotions that can in turn promote things like creativity, connection, cooperation, kindness, generosity, and resilience. Experiencing nature can also induce powerful feelings like awe, wonder, and reverence. Unfortunately, many of us today suffer from what environmental writer Richard Louv calls “nature deficit disorder.” (For a great summary of the research, see “What Happens When We Reconnect with Nature.”)

Do deep work. In his book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, Georgetown University computer science professor Cal Newport notes that to produce at our peak level we need to be able to do “deep work”—working “for extended periods with full concentration on a single task free from distraction.” Such deep work is now as valuable as it is rare, and it will be a big differentiator for those who develop the capacity to do it well. It requires discipline and weaning our minds from the easy comforts of distraction. “Efforts to deepen your focus will struggle if you don’t simultaneously wean your mind from a dependence on distraction.

Write things down. If our monkey mind is bouncing between several thoughts and worried about missing or forgetting things, the simple act of writing things down can be surprisingly reassuring for many of us.

Use a shutdown ritual at the end of each workday. Newport also recommends implementing a strict shutdown ritual at the end of our workday. For every incomplete task, goal, or project we face, we should either have a plan for its completion or capture it in a place where we can revisit it later. That way, we’ll know “it’s safe to release work-related thoughts for the rest of the day.”

Engage in activities that put us in a state of “flow.” Professor Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi characterized flow as a state of complete absorption, almost effortless attention, and peak performance. In flow, he writes, we invest our attention fully in the task at hand, and we function at our greatest capacity. When in a flow state, we’re so engaged in what we’re doing that we stop thinking about ourselves as separate from the activity. We’re so absorbed in it that time seems to slow down or stop for us. How to experience flow more often? We need three things:

  1. a clear set of goals
  2. clear and immediate feedback so we can tell if we’re advancing toward our goals
  3. the right balance between the challenges we face and our skills (if there’s too little challenge, we’ll get bored, and if there’s too much challenge, we’ll feel anxiety)

Serve others. The monkey mind tends to be ego-centric, focusing mostly on ourselves. We can disrupt that narcissistic loop by focusing instead on serving others—and being present in the act of contributing.

Find and embrace things worthy of our focus. Too often, our monkey mind is ruminating about things of little significance. We should be disciplined in dedicating more of our lives to things that matter—to things that honor our purpose and core values and allow us to contribute to others and make an impact—with consistent routines.

If you want to win the war for attention, don’t try to say ‘no’ to the trivial distractions
you find on the information smorgasbord; try to say ‘yes’ to the subject that arouses a terrifying longing,
and let the terrifying longing crowd out everything else.”
-David Brooks, “The Art of Focus

 

Conclusion

We’ve seen that the monkey mind can cause great suffering in our lives and be a real disruptor in our work. And we’ve covered many ways to address it.

The result should be a mental disposition that more often than not is the opposite of monkey mind—one of tranquility and inner peace. A disposition of acceptance (or “nonresistance” as the Buddhists call it) and of equanimity and ease.

Filipe Bastos from MindOwl makes a distinction between monkey mind and “monk mind,” which entails presence, focus, compassion, discipline, perspective, and consciousness. See the image below.

Monkey Mind and Monk Mind
Source: MindOwl

The good news is that our brains have an amazing capability to rewire their neural pathways. With neuroplasticity, our brain’s neural networks can change through growth and reorganization. As a result, investments in our focus, attention, and consciousness can pay real dividends over time if we commit to daily practice over time.

Science writer Winifred Gallagher notes that the findings from many disciplines “suggest that the skillful management of attention is the sine qua non of the good life and the key to improving virtually every aspect of your experience…. Who you are, what you think, feel, and do, what you love—is the sum of what you focus on…. I’ll live the focused life, because it’s the best kind there is.”

Here’s to a life in which we can focus attention on things that are worthy of it, thus lifting us up.

Personal Values Exercise

Complete this exercise to identify your personal values. It will help you develop self-awareness, including clarity about what’s most important to you in life and work, and serve as a safe harbor for you to return to when things are tough.

 

Reflection Questions

  1. Are you struggling with the chaos and disruption of a monkey mind, with thoughts swinging wildly in different directions, causing distraction and anxiety?
  2. How is it affecting your quality and enjoyment of life and work—and your productivity and performance?
  3. What will you do about it, starting today?

 

Related Articles

 

Related Books

Tools for You

 

Postscript: Inspirations on Calming Our Monkey Mind

  • “Nothing can harm you as much as your own thoughts unguarded.” -Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha)
  • “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” -John Milton, Paradise Lost
  • “What your future holds for you depends on your state of consciousness now.” -Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth
  • “Learn to watch your drama unfold while at the same time knowing you are more than your drama.” -Ram Dass
  • “When you are tempted to control your mind, stand back and realize that the task is impossible to begin with. Even the most disciplined mind has a way of breaking out of its chains.” -Deepak Chopra
  • “As you walk and eat and travel, be where you are. Otherwise you will miss most of your life.” -Jack Kornfield
  • “Many people are so completely identified with the voice in the head—the incessant stream of involuntary and compulsive thinking and the emotions that accompany it—that we may describe them as being possessed by their mind…. The greater part of most people’s thinking is involuntary automatic, and repetitive. It is no more than a kind of mental static and fulfills no real purpose. Strictly speaking, you don’t think: Thinking happens to you…. The voice in the head has a life of its own. Most people are at the mercy of that voice.” -Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth

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Appendix: Some Common Type of Meditation Practice

  • Body scan meditation, in which we direct our attention to sensations happening in our body. We can mentally scan over every part of our body, from head to toe.
  • Focused attention meditation, in which we focus on one thing, such as our breath, and when our mind wanders to other thoughts, we gently bring our attention back to our breath.
  • Loving kindness meditation (also known as metta meditation), in which we silently repeat in our mind phrases of benevolence or good wishes directed at ourselves, people we love, neutral people, rivals, animals, and/or the world or universe.
  • Mindfulness meditation (also known as open monitoring meditation), in which we observe our thoughts nonjudgmentally without reacting to them, acknowledge them, and then let them go. It can also include deep breathing and bringing our attention to our mind and body. (3)
  • Transcendental meditation, in which we use a silent mantra repeated in our mind for 15 to 20 minutes twice a day, with an eventual aim of experiencing what they call “pure awareness” or “transcendental being.”

(1) The term “monkey mind” is attributed to the Buddha, and there are later uses of “mind monkey” expressions from the Later Qin dynasty in China. Side note: Apes are the ones that usually swing through the trees, while monkeys more often run on tree branches rather than swing.

(2) Source for this tip: Leo Babauta, “Monkey Mind: Shifting the Habit of Feeling Distracted Throughout the Day,” ZenHabits.net, undated.

(3) The default mode network includes regions of our brain that are active when our brains are idling (i.e., not focused on a specific task) and moving from thought to thought by default. According to researchers, mindfulness meditation can deactivate the regions of the brain associated with this network, perhaps even changing the structure of the brain over time, allowing us to switch off this network more and more.

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Gregg Vanourek is a writer, teacher, TEDx speaker, and coach on leadership and personal development. He is co-author of three books, including LIFE Entrepreneurs: Ordinary People Creating Extraordinary Lives (a manifesto for integrating our life and work with purpose, passion, and contribution) and Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations (a winner of the International Book Awards). Check out his Best Articles or get his monthly newsletter. If you found value in this article, please forward it to a friend. Every little bit helps!

Escaping the Trap of Our Ego

Article Summary: 

Ego is a problem for all of us. It comes with many related problems, including selfishness, arrogance, self-importance, and mental suffering. How to escape the trap of our ego.

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There’s a long list of people who have famously been captured by their ego, from celebrities and CEOs to politicians and professional athletes. It’s a well known problem, and one that keeps causing mayhem.

“Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” -Proverbs 16:18

But this is a problem for all of us, not just the rich and famous. There’s a long list of related problems that come with an unhealthy attachment to our ego: selfishness, arrogance, condescension, self-importance, superiority, hyper-sensitivity, hyper-competitiveness, and corruption.

With ego traps, we see perfectionists, overachievers, and underachievers (our ego prefers us on the sidelines so we don’t run the risk of coming up short), as well as curmudgeons (who express disappointment or disgust every waking minute). It’s a parade of dysfunctions.

“Ego clouds and disrupts everything.” -Jocko Willink in Extreme Ownership

 

How to Know When We’ve Been Captured by Ego

Our ego-driven thoughts are there to protect us and help us perform for others in a way that buttresses our chosen identity.

When we’ve been captured by our ego, we tend to bask in praise and let it go to our heads. We resist or ignore negative feedback or things we should consider improving. Our defense mechanisms kick in, placing us in a protective shell in which we’re not open to reality. We get caught up in defending an image of ourselves—an image of how we want to be seen to be.

When we’ve been captured by our ego, we tend to be or feel:

  • selfish
  • judgmental
  • critical of others
  • arrogant about our abilities and contributions
  • bad at listening
  • needy for attention, recognition, or praise
  • agitated
  • unwilling to admit our mistakes
  • resentful of things that happened in the past
  • worried about what may happen in the future

These feelings are all signs that our ego is doing a number on us.

“When everybody loves you, you can never be lonely…. when everybody loves me, I’m gonna be just about as happy as I can be.”  -The Counting Crows in their song, “Mr. Jones”

Personal Values Exercise

Complete this exercise to identify your personal values. It will help you develop self-awareness, including clarity about what’s most important to you in life and work, and serve as a safe harbor for you to return to when things are tough.

 

The Problem with Our Ego

Ego is one of the worst traps in our lives. It affects everything when it’s in charge of our thinking, from our happiness and quality of life to our relationships, work, and leadership. And it affects us all. It’s one of the great challenges of being human.

“There are two kinds of egotists: Those who admit it, and the rest of us.” -Laurence J. Peter

At its worst, our ego does many things. It:

  • traps us in obsessive thought loops in which we ruminate on negative thoughts and feelings
  • leads to an unhealthy preoccupation with ourselves at the expense of our family, organization, community, or society
  • places us in a state of fear, in which we’re operating out of the more primitive parts of our brain and nervous system
  • hands control over our happiness and wellbeing to others and to circumstances beyond our control
  • hides our weaknesses and shortcomings, leading us to inaccurate self-assessments
  • makes us feel defensive when we receive negative feedback, in some cases causing us to “shoot the messenger,” thereby detracting from our ability to learn and improve
  • harms our relationships and leads to disconnection from others as we get so absorbed in our own career or image
  • prevents us from showing the vulnerability that leads to deeper human connection
  • inhibits our compassion
  • leads to more conflict (with each person’s ego needs escalating demands and resentments)
  • reduces trust in our family and teams
  • gets us stuck in harmful patterns of emotional reactivity to people and situations
  • causes us to focus excessively on success and material things
  • keeps us trapped in the past as we continue to litigate old sleights and harms
  • makes us feel inferior to others
  • makes us feel resentful when the idealized state of the world that our ego keeps unrealistically expecting never appears
  • pushes us into a “fixed mindset” (in which we believe our capabilities are set in stone), making us want to avoid challenges and risks
  • drains our energy and robs us of peace when things change (as they always do)
  • traps us in a logical fallacy of conditional happiness: “When I get or achieve X, then I’ll be happy” (see my article, “The Surprising Relationship between Success and Happiness”)
  • degrades our happiness and wellbeing
  • makes us feel perpetually unsatisfied, as it inevitably defaults to wanting and needing more attention and praise no matter how good things are in our lives
  • drives us to workaholism and all its attendant costs, including health and relationship problems
  • becomes a lifelong addiction in which go through our days just trying to protect and satisfy our fragile and insatiable ego
  • keeps us from connecting with God and living with grace from our heart and soul

Our ego craves attention. It desperately looks for situations in which it can receive recognition and praise or in which it can create conflict so it can feel agitated or superior.

“Most people are in love with their particular life drama. Their story is their identity. The ego runs their life. They have their whole sense of self invested in it.” -Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now

Our ego thrives on superficial comparisons in which we look good at the expense of others. It clings to an idealized image of reality and self so much so that, when change occurs, as it always does, the ego barrages us with negative thoughts and feelings, making us anxious and unhappy.

Our ego tells us lies about ourselves and others and, since these mischievous thoughts come from our own minds, we tend to take them as truth.

We may have a sense of this in the abstract, but there’s a real challenge at work in our daily experience: we’re often not aware when we’ve been hijacked by our ego. The master illusion is that our ego is ourself. We may get glimpses of the illusion when we invoke our deeper consciousness and observe the thought stream of our ego in action as a watcher of our own thoughts. (The question arises about who’s doing that watching? The answer, it follows, is our true self.)

This ongoing lack of awareness means that the ego has a firm grip on our psyche nearly all the time, and it explains why it’s so rare for us to escape that grip. Even as we consider whether our ego is a problem, our ego secretly kicks into denial mode and tells us that, while it may be a problem for others, for us it’s not a big deal.

Addressing our ego is also tricky because of the cognitive dissonance that comes from knowing that having confidence is good for us. We want to avoid being a wallflower and getting stepped on, but humility doesn’t mean insecurity, just as confidence doesn’t mean arrogance.

Quality of Life Assessment

Evaluate your quality of life in ten key areas by taking our assessment. Discover your strongest areas, and the areas that need work, then act accordingly.

 

How Ego Degrades Our Leadership

Ego is one of the great killers of effective leadership.

“The ego is seductive, the kiss of death to true leadership…. For too many leaders, their ego is their worst enemy.” -Bob and Gregg Vanourek, “Your Ego Is Not Your Amigo

Our ego takes us away from a focus on our team and our purpose, instead swapping in a focus on how we appear to others. It gets us so focused on managing our image that we’re not accomplishing nearly as much as we could if we just focused on getting the job done.

People can sense it when we’re in it only for ourselves and not a loyal member of the team committed to the shared purpose.

They can also sense it when we’re full of ourselves and breathing our own vapors, assigning ourselves all the credit and neglecting all the contributions of others through the organization. They can see it when we’re unwilling to admit it when we’re wrong, causing us to lose our credibility, one of the most valuable assets for any leader.

“Arrogant leadership is toxic to an organization. It looks like strength but is a debilitating weakness.” -Ira Chaleff

When we’re hijacked by our ego, we unconsciously hire people who are like us to please our delicate ego, or people who are agreeable and will let our ego get away with its self-absorbed shenanigans. This leads to a weaker team without the diversity of thought, skills, and experience to make breakthroughs and without the will and wisdom to speak truth to power.

Dr. George Watts and Laurie Blazek also point out that it leads to teams that are immature, hyper-competitive, dishonest, political, and dysfunctional. They note five ego traps of leaders, depending on a person’s foundational personality traits:

  1. The need to be superior, based on a fear of not receiving the status we feel entitled to
  2. The need to be admired, based on a fear of not receiving the recognition we feel we deserve
  3. The need to be liked, based on a fear of not being included as much as we want
  4. The need to be correct, based on a fear of being judged for making a mistake and being viewed as less than perfect
  5. The need to win, based on a fear of not succeeding or coming out ahead
“Unchecked egos are the most destructive force in business.” -Bo Peabody, entrepreneur and venture capitalist

Ego also threatens to ruin or degrade our experience with big challenges and transitions such as a job change, layoff, empty nest, or retirement, when we’re too attached to our role or position. (See my related article, “Is Your Identity Wrapped Up Too Much in Your Work?”)

“Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it.” -Colin Powell

Leadership Derailers Assessment

Take this assessment to identify what’s inhibiting your leadership effectiveness. A critical and often overlooked tool for your leadership development.

 

How to Get Beyond Ego

Clearly, there are big downsides to having our thoughts captured by our ego. So how do we escape this trap? It turns out that there are many things we can do to get beyond our ego, from simple practices to mindset changes. We can:

  1. recognize that the ego is a false and misleading identity that causes us suffering because we grow overly attached to it
  2. develop our self-awareness so that we can notice more often when our ego is hijacking our thoughts and see ourselves and our behavior with greater accuracy and clarity
  3. develop the courage to be imperfect and vulnerable, embracing the “audacity of authenticity” and replacing perfectionism with healthy striving, as Brene Brown recommends
  4. stop comparing ourselves to others and focus on contributing to others instead
  5. stop thinking about ourselves so much, since it’s a recipe for unhappiness, and start thinking more about other people, a cause, or God
  6. give credit to others and learn to enjoy recognizing their efforts and contributions
  7. submit to a committed relationship with our spouse, family, community, and/or faith, recognizing the emptiness of focusing on individual material success
  8. recall that success, wealth, and fame are fickle, that they can change in a heartbeat, and they’re not the point of life or the source of our lasting happiness and fulfillment
  9. keep learning new things and exposing ourselves to people and experiences outside our zone of expertise
  10. get deeply immersed in something (e.g., a challenge or sport or performance) and focus on developing mastery to get out of our own head
  11. solicit feedback and get good at receiving it openly, without resistance or rationalizations
  12. develop a keen focus on the work itself and the process of doing it—perhaps even leading to a sense of flow—instead of a focus on the potential results and how we may look or feel if we achieve them
  13. become a servant of a higher purpose that contributes to the lives of others instead of focusing on advancing our own interests or agenda
  14. join a small group and share openly with each other, developing trust and camaraderie so group members can call each other out when egos get inflated
  15. stop complaining, since it only fuels the ego with negativity and pulls us out of the present moment and into resentments about the past*
  16. think about what we’re grateful for
  17. engage in what researchers call “self-distancing,” in which we view ourselves from the perspective of an outsider or imagining that we’re observing ourselves from a distance (researchers have found that people who do this recover more quickly from negative feelings and reduce their anxiety about future concerns)
  18. stop identifying with things and ideas, instead allowing ourselves to remain free and present in the moment
  19. find sanctuary—a place or practice of peace, quiet, and tranquility that restores our heart and soul (e.g., in nature or a house of worship)
  20. contemplate the vastness of the universe, putting our small egos in perspective
  21. realize that our mental suffering will continue as long as we’re captive to our ego

 

Conclusion

Our ego can be a mega-trap in our lives, secretly running a mental script that doesn’t serve us and that takes us away from a life we’d want to live. It causes pain, anxiety, and anguish, over and over again on a nefarious loop.

When we get beyond our ego, it can have profound effects on our experience of life. We can be and feel calm, accepting, forgiving, selfless, peaceful, trusting, serene, still, and complete.

 

Reflection Questions

  1. Is your mental script captured by ego most of the time?
  2. How is it impacting the quality of your life?
  3. What will you do, starting today, to get out of this trap?

 

Related Articles

Take the Traps Test

We all fall into traps in life. Sometimes we’re not even aware of it, and we can’t get out of traps we don’t know we’re in. Evaluate yourself with our Traps Test.

 

Tools for You

 

Postscript: Quotations on Ego

  • “Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, your worst enemy already lives inside you: your ego.” -Ryan Holiday, Ego Is the Enemy
  • “There is an unhealthy desire for prestige and money that is ruining people’s lives. The desire for prestige and money is why we: 1) spend an outrageous sum of money on education, 2) kill ourselves at jobs we don’t like, 3) put up with colleagues and bosses we despise, 4) never pursue our dreams, 5) neglect our children, and 6) eventually fill our hearts with regret.” -Sam Dogen, the “Financial Samurai”
  • “You shouldn’t worry about prestige. Prestige is the opinion of the rest of the world…. Prestige is like a powerful magnet that warps even your beliefs about what you enjoy. It causes you to work not on what you like, but what you’d like to like…. Prestige is especially dangerous to the ambitious.” -Paul Graham, “How to Do What You Love”
  • “Self-image is constructed by the ego. It gives you a facade that you can show the world, but it also turns into a shield behind which you hide…. real change requires a relaxed attitude. Sadly, most people extend untold energy in protecting their self-image, defending it from attacks both real and imagined.” -Deepak Chopra, Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul
  • “The ego is only an illusion, but a very influential one. Letting the ego-illusion become your identity can prevent you from knowing your true self.” -Wayne Dyer
  • “The bigger your heart, the more you love, the more you control your life. The bigger your ego, the more you’re scared, the more others control your life.” -Maxime Lagacé
  • “We must do our work for its own sake, not for fortune or attention or applause.” -Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
  • “As long as the egoic mind is running your life, you cannot truly be at ease; you cannot be at peace or fulfilled except for brief intervals when you obtained what you wanted, when a craving has just been fulfilled.” -Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now
  • “Don’t confuse confidence with arrogance. Arrogance is being full of yourself, feeling you’re always right, and believing your accomplishments or abilities make you better than other people. People often believe arrogance is excessive confidence, but it’s really a lack of confidence. Arrogant people are insecure, and often repel others. Truly confident people feel good about themselves and attract others to them.” -Christie Hartman
  • “Arrogance is a self-defense tactic to disguise insecurities.” -Caroll Michels
  • “Conceit is God’s gift to little men.” -Bruce Barton
  • “Pride is at the bottom of all great mistakes.” -John Ruskin
  • “…the ego needs problems, conflict, and ‘enemies’ to strengthen the sense of separateness on which its identity depends.” -Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now
  • “…the ego-self is like a small, comfortable hut, while what the soul offers is a vast landscape with an infinite horizon.” -Deepak Chopra, Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul
  • “The ego doesn’t know your only opportunity for being at peace is now.” -Eckhart Tolle
  • “When the ego dies, the soul awakes.” -Mahatma Gandhi
  • “The ego, for all its claims to running everyday life, has a glaring defect. Its vision of life is unworkable. What it promises as a completely fulfilling life is an illusion…. When you become aware of this defect, the result is fatal for the ego. It can’t compete with the soul’s vision of fulfillment…. The difference between a prisoner captive in his cell and you or me is that we have voluntarily chosen to live inside our boundaries. The part of our selves that made this choice is the ego.” -Deepak Chopra, Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul
  • “As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.” -C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

* Note that refraining from complaining can be very difficult to pull off. Consider starting small, e.g., by trying to not complain for a whole day, and then a week, or start a complaining fund in which you drop a dollar into a jar every time you complain.

** Featured image source: Adobe Stock.

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Gregg Vanourek is a writer, teacher, TEDx speaker, and coach on leadership and personal development. He is co-author of three books, including LIFE Entrepreneurs: Ordinary People Creating Extraordinary Lives (a manifesto for integrating our life and work with purpose, passion, and contribution) and Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations (a winner of the International Book Awards). Check out his Best Articles or get his monthly newsletter. If you found value in this article, please forward it to a friend. Every little bit helps!

The Problem with Lacking Clarity in Your Life

Article Summary: 

Many people aren’t clear about what they want and where they’re going. Lacking clarity is one of the most damaging traps we can fall into.

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Do you know who you are?

What you want?

Where you’re going and why?

We may have a vague sense of these things but no real clarity. We lack a clear vision that pulls us forward toward its sweet and compelling destination.

Meanwhile, we keep our heads down and stay busy as a form of avoidance. Sometimes this situation continues for a very long time, placing us in an extended state of drifting.

Lacking clarity is one of the most damaging traps we can fall into. Why? Because lacking clarity affects everything, including our quality of life, relationships, work, leadership, and dreams. And because having clarity is a superpower. Life is so much better and richer when we have a clear vision of a better future, anticipation about what it will feel like when we realize it, and conviction about what’s important and meaningful.

 

What We Should Get Clear About

Okay, so clarity is important, but clarity about what? Here are the ten most important things we should get clear about:

  1. purpose: why we’re here; our reason for being
  2. values: the things that are most important to us; what we believe and stand for
  3. vision: what success looks like—a mental picture of what we want to be, do, and contribute in life and with whom
  4. strengths: what we’re good at, including our knowledge, skills, and talents
  5. passions: what we get lost in, consuming us with palpable emotion
  6. goals: what we want to accomplish
  7. priorities: the relative importance of our top aims
  8. strategies: how we’ll achieve our vision and goals and what we’ll focus on given our available time and resources
  9. capabilities: what knowledge and skills we need to develop to realize our vision
  10. service: who we seek to impact and how

Personal Values Exercise

Complete this exercise to identify your personal values. It will help you develop self-awareness, including clarity about what’s most important to you in life and work, and serve as a safe harbor for you to return to when things are tough.

 

 

Signs We’re Lacking Clarity

There’s a big price to pay when we don’t have enough clarity about these things. When we lack clarity, we tend to:

  • suffer from anxiety, stress, self-doubt, indecision, and frustration
  • struggle with knowing where to begin
  • question ourselves and our actions
  • procrastinate
  • begin projects without finishing them
  • struggle with minor decision-making
  • feel like we need advice from others before making most decisions
  • feel overwhelmed and burned out
  • agree to too many things
  • feel confused and uncertain about what to do next
  • be more prone to distraction and disorganization
  • keep comparing ourselves with others
  • put in inconsistent effort
  • remain too busy and frazzled to think about and work toward a better future
  • see a decline in motivation and performance
“Lack of clarity is the primary reason for failure in business and personal life.” -Brian Tracy

 

Benefits of Clarity

On the flip side, there are many powerful benefits that flow from having clarity in our lives. For example, having greater clarity:

  • eliminates distractions and helps us focus
  • helps us establish a definitive direction
  • makes it easier to identify actions to take and prioritize them
  • helps us overcome fear and doubt
  • makes it easier for others to help and support us because they have better insights into what we want
  • allows us to put our energy into what we want
  • helps us get things done
  • makes it easier to say no to things that don’t matter to us
  • helps us manage challenges more effectively
  • reduces feelings of overwhelm and helps us manage stress more effectively
  • helps us make better decisions and reduces decision fatigue
  • allows us to set and enforce boundaries
  • helps us save money since we avoid spending it on things that don’t matter
  • helps us feel contentment and happiness
  • provides the serenity that comes from knowing what matters most
  • leads to healthier relationships
  • boosts our confidence
  • facilitates better performance
“…compared with their peers, high performers have more clarity on who they are, what they want, how to get it, and what they find meaningful and fulfilling.” -Brendon Burchard

Quality of Life Assessment

Evaluate your quality of life in ten key areas by taking our assessment. Discover your strongest areas, and the areas that need work, then act accordingly.

 

How to Get More Clarity

Given all the compelling benefits of achieving greater clarity, the question then becomes how to go about it. What can we do to bring more clarity to our lives? Here are 16 actions we can take:

  1. Eliminate distractions, clear out clutter, and create more white space in our lives. This makes room for self-awareness, pattern-mapping, and new insights.
  2. Do one thing at a time.
  3. Take more action more often. Many people assume they need clarity before acting, but sometimes clarity comes from taking action. Act, assess, learn, and adjust. Then repeat.
  4. Reflect after acting. Step back periodically to see how things are going. What’s emerging and what’s getting in the way?
  5. Talk to others. Share what we’re unclear about and ask for their input. They may be able to see things we can’t from their vantage point. (Consider doing this in small groups.)
  6. Develop a clear vision of what life will be like when we’re living the life we want. Start by defining what success looks like in different areas, including family, relationships, health, work, education, community, and more.
  7. Spend more time thinking about our desired future. Also, engage in planning and actions that move us toward that future. Best to schedule time for it on our calendar.
  8. Journal about what’s going on and what isn’t clear yet. Write freely and let thoughts appear uninhibited.
  9. Start acting like the person we want to become. Bring our desired future into our present.
  10. Turn our purpose, values, and vision into a daily mantra or affirmation.* This will help embed them into our consciousness and build them into the fabric of our days.
  11. Ask what we would do if we had less time. By doing so, we force tough choices about what to focus on.
  12. Reduce exposure to negative influences. They extract a tax on our energy and attention. And they pull us away from our own priorities.
  13. Engage in regular centering activities. Take breaks and go for walks. Try deep breathing or meditation.
  14. Follow a regular, daily routine. Be sure that it includes time for quiet reflection.
  15. Make time for systematic self-care. Don’t neglect good habits of nutrition, hydration, movement, and sleep.
  16. Work with a coach or mentor. Focus on getting more clarity on purpose, values, vision, strengths, passions, goals, priorities, strategies, capabilities, and service opportunities.

 

Related Traps

Lack of clarity is common, and it can be pernicious, affecting so much of how we think and what we do. It’s also accompanied by several associated traps:

Take the Traps Test

We all fall into traps in life. Sometimes we’re not even aware of it, and we can’t get out of traps we don’t know we’re in. Evaluate yourself with our Traps Test.

 

Achieving clarity about who we are, what we want, and where we’re going can be very challenging. But lacking clarity leads to drifting and settling. And having clarity is a superpower that adds energy and richness to all we do.

 

Reflection Questions

  1. To what extent are you clear about who you are, what you want, and where you’re going?
  2. What more will you do, starting today, to achieve greater clarity in your life and work?

 

Tools for You

 

Postscript: Inspirations on Clarity

  • “Clarity precedes success.” -Robin Sharma
  • “Clarity is essential. Knowing exactly what you want builds your self-confidence immeasurably.” -Brian Tracy
  • “Clarity is the child of careful thought and mindful experimentation.” -Brendon Burchard
  • “Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.” -Paolo Coelho
  • “As you become more clear about who you really are, you’ll be better able to decide what is best for you—the first time around.” -Oprah Winfrey
  • “It is essential to know yourself before you decide what work you want to do.” -Stephen R. Covey
  • “People often complain about lack of time when lack of direction is the real problem.” -Zig Ziglar
  • “Clarity about what matters provides clarity about what does not.” -Cal Newport
  • “It’s a lack of clarity that creates chaos and frustration. Those emotions are poison to any living goal.” -Steve Maraboli
  • “Unhappiness is not knowing what we want and killing ourselves to get it.” -Don Herold
  • “…as your inner world becomes more orderly and clear, your actions in the outer world should follow suit.” -Deepak Chopra
  • “Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.” -Carl Jung
  • “Clarity is the most important thing. I can compare clarity to pruning in gardening…. If you are not clear, nothing is going to happen.” -Diane von Furstenberg
  • “The more sand has escaped from the hourglass of our life, the clearer we should see through it.” -Niccolo Machiavelli
  • “…the world’s wisdom traditions offer a valuable secret. They teach that the unsettled mind comes about through one thing only: losing sight of who we really are…. The answer lies in finding out who you really are—a conscious agent who can choose, at any time, to live from the level of the true self.” -Deepak Chopra
  • “We want luminosity—the sense of possibility and promise we feel when we absolutely know that all is well and that we’re doing what we’re meant to be doing, right here, right now. We reach luminosity through a different quality of action—clarity, focus, ease, and grace in action.” -Maria Nemeth
  • “Everyone sees the unseen in proportion to the clarity of his heart, and that depends upon how much he has polished it. Whoever has polished it more sees more—more unseen forms become manifest to him.” -Rumi

* Brendon Burchard recommends choosing three aspirational words that describe our desired future self (e.g., “kind, loving, joyful”) and making them a daily smartphone alarm to keep them top-of-mind.

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Gregg Vanourek is a writer, teacher, TEDx speaker, and coach on leadership and personal development. He is co-author of three books, including LIFE Entrepreneurs: Ordinary People Creating Extraordinary Lives (a manifesto for integrating our life and work with purpose, passion, and contribution) and Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations (a winner of the International Book Awards). Check out his Best Articles or get his monthly newsletter. If you found value in this article, please forward it to a friend. Every little bit helps!

How to Be More Decisive in Your Life and Leadership

“Should I stay or should I go?” -the Clash

We make many decisions every day. Many are trivial, but some are consequential and taxing. Which career to pursue (or transition into). When to make a big move. Who to live with, work with, or hire. Whether to start a new venture.

To live and lead well, we must get good at making decisions.

On the leadership front, do we want leaders who wallow and waffle? Or leaders who move forward despite uncertainty; home in quickly on the key issues; actively gather input before deciding; involve others in decisions; invoke their experience, judgment, wisdom, and gut instinct; and remain calm under pressure?

There’s a lot at work with making good decisions. The neurological mechanics of decision-making are breathtaking. When we make decisions, we’re using the brain’s prefrontal cortex for what’s called “executive function.” We’re drawing upon an array of cognitive processes, including: attentional control; cognitive inhibition; working memory; cognitive flexibility; reasoning; problem-solving; differentiation between conflicting thoughts; value determinations (good, bad, better, best, worse, worst); prediction of outcomes; and more.

No wonder so many people sometimes struggle with indecisiveness—wavering between different courses of action and having trouble deciding and moving on—and its related problem of “analysis paralysis.”

Truth be told, getting good at decision-making isn’t easy. This isn’t a new challenge. Even Aristotle mused about the absurdity of the idea that “a man, being just as hungry as thirsty, and placed in between food and drink, must necessarily remain where he is and starve to death.” Indecisiveness indeed.

The challenge can be even more complex with making decisions in organizations. As expected, there’s much room for improvement here as well. According to a McKinsey Global Survey, only 20 percent of respondents say their organizations excel at decision making. What’s more, a majority report that much of the time they devote to decision making is used ineffectively.

Clearly, we have work to do.

Quality of Life Assessment

Evaluate your quality of life in ten key areas by taking our assessment. Discover your strongest areas, and the areas that need work, then act accordingly.

 

The Problem with Indecisiveness

“Indecision may or may not be my problem.” -Jimmy Buffett

Indecisiveness has many drawbacks—and sometimes costly and painful consequences. For example, indecisiveness can:

  • make an already difficult situation worse
  • create delays that have spillover effects, impeding important progress
  • cause frustration
  • reduce productivity, effectiveness, and credibility
  • inhibit innovation
  • bring about stress
  • lead to team and organizational stagnation, breakdowns, and failures
  • prevent us from realizing new opportunities
“Indecision is the greatest thief of opportunity.” -Jim Rohn

When making decisions, we can experience “choice anxiety”: feeling distressed because we can’t seem to determine what’s right, with the fear of making the wrong decision shutting us down.

Psychologist Barry Schwartz talks about the “paradox of choice” and claims that the freedom to choose, while sounding nice, is actually one of the main roots of unhappiness today, in part because we live in such abundance. Choice overload leads to anxiety. We fear making the wrong choice or fear missing out on the “right” choice.

Schwartz cites an intriguing “jam study” in which a store gave one set of shoppers a range of six jams to consider, and another set of shoppers a range of 24 jams. In the end, shoppers were ten times more likely to purchase jam from a range of six jams than from the much larger set. 10x.

Choice overload can easily lead to not making a choice. We simply walk away. (See my article, “Choice Overload and Career Transitions.”)

Another big problem is second guessing—when we keep revisiting previous decisions and agonizing over whether we should change them. An unproductive and frustrating doom loop.

 

Causes of Indecisiveness

There are many causes of indecisiveness. Here are eleven of the leading causes:

  1. personality (e.g., our levels of neuroticism and anxiety)
  2. fear of making the wrong choice: we’d rather not decide than risk making the wrong decision, due to loss aversion
  3. fears of failure or of rejection or loss of social status
  4. lack of confidence
  5. excessive risk aversion
  6. lack of clarity about what we want or where we’re going
  7. conflicts between our own preferences and the expectations of others
  8. decision fatigue (a state of mental overload and depletion from making many decisions)
  9. family or cultural conditioning (such as excessive punishment for making mistakes)
  10. lack of accountability for indecisiveness
  11. a history of perfectionism

 

Personal Values Exercise

Complete this exercise to identify your personal values. It will help you develop self-awareness, including clarity about what’s most important to you in life and work, and serve as a safe harbor for you to return to when things are tough.

 

How to Be More Decisive

Thankfully, there are many things we can do to become more decisive. Note that decisiveness doesn’t mean making hasty, impulsive, or rash decisions. It means making decisions quickly, firmly, and effectively. Here are 22 tips and techniques for developing our decisiveness:

  1. recognize that decisiveness isn’t a set trait, and that decision-making is a skill that can be practiced and developed
  2. acknowledge that indecisiveness is a form of self-sabotage, only making things harder for ourselves and others
  3. become clearer about what we want—including clarity about our personal purpose, core values, and vision of the good life
  4. build our confidence (the good kind, which is earned through hard work and disciplined attention to growth and development), since this is a key factor in decisiveness
  5. develop systems to make as many decisions as possible habitual, routine, or automatic—such as having a regular reading or workout routine at a certain time on certain days (this helps us avoid decision fatigue and frees up cognitive resources for other decisions)
  6. increase our self-awareness so we know under what conditions we work and decide best (and worst)
  7. recall that most decisions involve uncertainty, which tends to come with anxiety, and learn to expect and account for that
  8. develop mechanisms for coping with anxiety and stress, since these contribute to indecisiveness
  9. recognize the difference between fear and actual danger, noting that our fears are often exaggerated versus the actual dangers we face
  10. recognize that being decisive isn’t about always being right (instead, it’s about being able to make clear decisions—even tough ones—quickly, firmly, and confidently despite uncertainty)
  11. distinguish between irreversible and reversible decisions (Jeff Bezos wrote about this in his 2015 letter to shareholders with the distinction between one-way doors, where there’s no going back, and two-way doors in which you can simply “reopen the door and go back through.” He lamented that too many big companies use one-size-fits-all decision making, treating all decisions like one-way doors and in the process slowing everything down.)
  12. get curious and investigate why we avoid making decisions
  13. build our decisiveness and decision-making courage by working to make decisions more quickly and more boldly—and then take stock of how things turn out
  14. start small and make less consequential decisions more quickly at first, building from there to bigger decisions
  15. divide bigger decisions into smaller ones (or a series of steps) that are less intimidating and more manageable
  16. summon more urgency into our lives, since time is precious and wasted time is a common regret
  17. set deadlines for making decisions
  18. “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” as the expression goes. Look for the point where we have enough information to make a reasonable decision instead of waiting until we have nearly all possible information, variables, and scenarios accounted for. Focus on pursuing learning and growth instead of perfection when making decisions.
  19. recognize that we can’t control our future and that we can’t make perfect decisions
  20. use the “only option test”: imagine that only one of the two options were possible and then see how it feels; then imagine that the other option was the only possible one and see how it feels; then consider whether we have two good options, and it doesn’t really matter so much which one is chosen*
  21. focus only on the most important things and don’t get caught up in the rest, thereby reducing the total number of decisions to make
  22. pray on or sleep on important decisions, summoning deeper wisdom and grace
“If you were omniscient and had a time machine, you would know everything you need to know about the [the results of your decision], but the problem is that we don’t have either of those things, so we don’t have perfect information when we’re making a decision.” -Annie Duke

The key isn’t just decisiveness. What we really want is skills in making good decisions. It’s about both decision-making quality and decisiveness. Surely it’s easier to be more decisive when we know we have a good decision-making process. So what does that look like?

 

How to Get Better at Making Decisions

A good decision flows from a good process for deciding. Here are several ways we can get better at making decisions:

  • look into whether there’s more information readily available that would be important for making a good decision—or not—and gauge whether we have enough of the right kind of information to decide
  • get input on decisions from trusted friends and colleagues
  • evaluate the likely impact of a decision before making it
  • invoke our intuitive sense (gut instincts) as well as our reason and logic when making important decisions
  • distance ourselves from the situation (e.g., project forward decades into the future and think about which choice will serve us the best over time)
  • view the issue from a different perspective (e.g., ask ourselves what we’d advise our best friend to do in the situation at hand)
  • look for innovation solutions such as creative combinations or trials* (example: when I was in graduate school, I did two different summer internships to get a feel for both opportunities—and learned that neither was a good fit for me)
  • get feedback and coaching or mentoring on decision-making

Take the Traps Test

We all fall into traps in life. Sometimes we’re not even aware of it, and we can’t get out of traps we don’t know we’re in. Evaluate yourself with our Traps Test.

 

Final Thoughts

One of the keys to decision-making and decisiveness is learning to trust ourselves more. Without self-trust, all of this can fall apart quickly. We don’t need to be perfect. We just need to apply ourselves consistently at getting better.

Once we make a decision, it’s important not to dwell and not to agonize. We must let go of the myth of the one perfect decision and focus more on making the best of the decisions we’ve made. Focus more on developing and using a good decision-making process instead of on whether any decision is “right” or “wrong,” and then trust in that process to serve us well over time.

Refuse to live in a state of regret: take full responsibility for our choices and move on. Make changes when needed. Give ourselves credit for doing our best.

Finally, consider this: If we can get good at making decisions and being decisive, it will help us with everything we do. There’s incredible leverage that comes from improving this. Wishing you well with it.

 

 

 

 

-Gregg Vanourek

 

Reflection Questions

  1. To what extent is indecisiveness causing you problems (and in which areas)?
  2. What can you do to improve your decision-making process?
  3. What will you do, starting today, to become better at making good decisions with urgency and resolve—at becoming more decisive?

 

Tools for You

 

Related Articles

 

Resources on Decision-Making

 

Postscript: Quotations on Decisiveness and Decision-Making

  • “Indecisiveness is the number one reason for failure. Lack of ability to make a decision in a timely manner causes most people to fail with their projects and plans. Identify this challenge and decide to no longer let it be a setback from your success.” -Farshad Asl
  • “Be decisive. A wrong decision is generally less disastrous than indecision.” -Bernhard Langer
  • “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” -Theodore Roosevelt
  • “Ambivalence is like carbon monoxide—undetectable yet deadly.” -Cherie Carter-Scott
  • “A person’s greatest limitations are not genetic, but imposed by self-doubt, insecurities, indecision, and timidity.” -Kilroy J. Oldster
  • “What is fear after all? It is indecision. You seek some way to resist, escape. There is none.” -Anne Rice
  • “It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped.” -Tony Robbins
  • “When you make the best decision you can at a particular time, it’s never worth looking back. Getting stuck in ‘I should have’ or ‘I could have’ is only a waste of precious time and energy.” -Dr. Carla Marie Manly
  • “A real decision is measured by the fact that you’ve taken a new action. If there’s no action, you haven’t truly decided.” -Tony Robbins

* Source: Erin Bunch, “Decisiveness Is a Learned Trait—Here Are 11 Tips To Master the Art of Decision-Making,” Well and Good, March 22, 2021.

** Featured image: photo by Jon Taylor on Unsplash.

Gregg Vanourek’s Newsletter

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Gregg Vanourek is a writer, teacher, TEDx speaker, and coach on leadership and personal development. He is co-author of three books, including LIFE Entrepreneurs: Ordinary People Creating Extraordinary Lives (a manifesto for integrating our life and work with purpose, passion, and contribution) and Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations (a winner of the International Book Awards). Check out his Best Articles or get his monthly newsletter. If you found value in this article, please forward it to a friend. Every little bit helps!

The Trap of Blaming Others

When things aren’t going your way, it may be tempting to deflect attention from your own role in things and blame others. Perhaps you’re blaming your spouse. Or boss. Perhaps you’re blaming a friend or colleague. Or the economy or inflation—or politicians, the media, or a rival political party. Your parents, or your circumstances.

Blaming may give you a feeling of satisfaction as you look outside for responsibility and wallow in the unfairness of it all. But that feeling is fleeting. In the meantime, you haven’t moved forward at all. In fact, you’ve moved backward.

No good comes from blame.” -Kate Summers

 

Signs of Blaming

How to tell if you’re blaming others? When blaming, you’re likely:

  • holding others responsible for your own frustrations and problems
  • expecting others to change to suit your needs
  • showing defensiveness
  • causing emotional escalation with the person and issue at hand
It is far more useful to be aware of a single shortcoming in ourselves than it is to be aware of a thousand in somebody else.” -Dalai Lama

Quality of Life Assessment

Evaluate your quality of life in ten key areas by taking our assessment. Discover your strongest areas, and the areas that need work, then act accordingly.

 

The Problem with Blaming Others

kids blaming each other

Wherever you find a problem, you will usually find the finger-pointing of blame. Society is addicted to playing the victim.” – Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Though it may feel good in the moment, blaming comes with many problems:

  • Most importantly, it doesn’t work. You don’t move forward in any way, shape, or form when you’re blaming. (“The blame game is a waste of time. Any time you’re busy fixing blame, you’re wasting energy and not fixing the problem.” -Rick Warren)
  • It often backfires, making things worse.
  • Blaming robs you of your own agency.
  • It makes people defensive.
  • Blaming damages relationships. (People don’t like it at all when they’re the target of blaming.)
  • It reduces your productivity and effectiveness.
  • Blaming often entails lying—bending the truth to minimize or eliminate your own responsibility while exaggerating the fault of others. As such, it harms your credibility.
  • You suffer the most, not the person you’re blaming.
  • Blaming leads to escalation into bigger issues—especially when it’s unfair blame or blame that misses important contextual factors because you don’t have all the information you need.
  • You don’t learn from mistakes since you’re focused on the fault of others.
  • Blaming can lead to other negative emotions—such as anger, resentment, or even hatred or rage—which are even worse.
  • It can rob you of your potential influence on others.
  • Apparently, blaming can be contagious, leading others to fall into this trap as well in a downward spiral.
Blame is fascinating—it shapes our lives. It can be a benign way of positioning ourselves, a gentle joust or banter, or it can be poisonous, hurtful, or devastating for its victims. It can tear apart marriages and fracture work relationships; it can disable major social programs; it can inflict damage on powerful corporations; it can bring down governments; it can start wars and justify genocides.” -Stephen Fineman, The Blame Business

 

Take the Traps Test

We all fall into traps in life. Sometimes we’re not even aware of it, and we can’t get out of traps we don’t know we’re in. Evaluate yourself with our Traps Test.

 

Why You Blame

It’s natural and common to play the blame game. But that doesn’t mean it will serve you well. Your brain my subconsciously leap to blaming by default. What’s going on here?

Blaming is an odd combination of defense mechanism and attack strategy. You’re defending your precious ego by attacking another person with the assignment of fault. It’s a way to avoid or release negative emotions.

Blaming preserves your self-esteem by helping you avoid responsibility for mistakes. You want to be right and win the argument to protect your fragile ego. By blaming others, you feel like you can escape guilt and responsibility.

Blaming is also a form of social comparison, allowing you to feel superior and gifted with greater social status, at least in the situation at hand.

Also, blaming can come with perfectionism, giving us a way to maintain our illusion of perfection as we find fault in others instead of ourselves.

 

How to Avoid the Blame Game

So far in this article, you’ve seen what blaming is, the signs of blaming in action, the many problems with it, and why we do it so much.

But you can’t stop there. You need to know what to do about it—and what to do instead. Here are six top tips for avoiding the blame game:

  1. Stop ruminating on the problems at hand and turn your attention instead toward something more positive.
  2. Practice empathy and try to understand the context, motivations, and feelings of the other person. Work to account for the other person’s perspective. Ask questions and explore their perspective.
  3. Focus on finding a solution, not a scapegoat. In the end, that’s most important.
  4. Instead of assigning all the blame to another person, try a “50-50” split instead: assume equal responsibility for the problem, or at least joint responsibility. Ultimately, the allocation of blame matter much less than resolving the issues well.
  5. Focus on collaboration, not blame. Consider ways in which teaming up to address the issues may benefit you both and avoid unnecessary emotional potholes.
  6. Take full responsibility for your life, choices, behaviors, and outcomes, even if there are outside factors present (as there always are). It’s a powerful practice that will serve you well.

 

Final Thoughts

Though blaming is common and natural, don’t trade in it. It’s a trap. Blaming gets you nowhere fast and will even take you backward and cause damage. By avoiding the tram of blaming, you can improve your mental state, quality of life, relationships, leadership, and effectiveness.

It’s always easy to blame others. You can spend your entire life blaming the world, but your successes or failures are entirely your own responsibility.” -Paolo Coelho, Brazilian novelist

 

Reflection Questions

  1. Are you playing the blame game?
  2. Is it serve you well—or harming you?
  3. Which of the top tips for avoiding blame will you try, starting today?

Wishing you well with it.

 

 

 

Gregg Vanourek

 

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Join our community. Sign up now and get Gregg Vanourek’s monthly inspirations (new articles, opportunities, and resources). Welcome!

 

Tools for You

 

Postscript: Inspirations on Avoiding the Blame Trap

  • “When we blame, we give away our power.” – Greg Anderson
  • “To grow up is to stop putting blame on parents.” – Maya Angelou
  • “One of the most important ways to manifest integrity is to be loyal to those who are not present. In doing so, we build the trust of those who are present.” – Stephen R. Covey
  • “You become a victim when you blame yourself or others for some problem or error.” – Jay Fiset, Reframe Your Blame, How to Be Personally Accountable
  • “A loss is not a failure until you make an excuse.” – Michael Jordan
  • “Blame is the demonstrated lack of self-respect choosing to deposit one’s negative actions onto others to reinforce one’s view of being of good, fair, and approved.” – Byron R. Pulsifer
  • “Stop the blame game. Stop! Stop looking out the window and look in the mirror!” – Eric Thomas
  • “Blame means shifting the responsibility for where you are onto someone or something else, rather than accepting responsibility for your role in the experience.” – Iyanla Vanzant

 

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Gregg Vanourek is a writer, teacher, TEDx speaker, and coach on leadership and personal development. He is co-author of three books, including LIFE Entrepreneurs: Ordinary People Creating Extraordinary Lives (a manifesto for integrating our life and work with purpose, passion, and contribution) and Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations (a winner of the International Book Awards). Check out his Best Articles or get his monthly newsletter. If you found value in this article, please forward it to a friend. Every little bit helps!

How to Choose a Co-Founder

When we think of entrepreneurship we tend to think of famous entrepreneurs.

Elon. Steve Jobs. Oprah. Mark Zuckerberg. Richard Branson. Jack Ma. Sara Blakely.

Can you think of any companies with co-founders?

It’s more than you might think.

 

Prominent Companies Started by Co-Founders

  • Airbnb
  • Alibaba Group
  • Apple
  • Baidu
  • Ben & Jerry’s
  • Birchbox
  • DropBox
  • Facebook
  • Google
  • Hewlett-Packard
  • Infosys
  • Instagram
  • Intel
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • Microsoft
  • Netflix
  • PayPal
  • Rent the Runway
  • Skype
  • Snapchat
  • Sony
  • Spotify
  • Twitter
  •  YouTube

 

The Myth of the Solo Entrepreneur

We’re enamored with the myth of the solo entrepreneur, but in reality entrepreneurship is a team sport.

Entrepreneurship is a team sport.

It’s hard to know exactly what percentage of companies are started by solo entrepreneurs versus co-founders. Researcher Dr. Lerong He, writing in the Journal of Business Venturing, estimates that 50-70 percent of new firms are started by partners (more than one founder). Of the top 20 Y Combinator startups (in terms of valuation) recently, all of them have at least two founders.

When I taught entrepreneurship at the Stockholm School of Entrepreneurship, I used to enjoy asking my students if they knew what the following startups had in common: Birchbox, Bright Horizons, Dropbox, Google, HP, Rent the Runway, SoundCloud, and Yahoo? Any guesses?

Their co-founders were all classmates. If you’re in school, part of your job is to study and learn and pass your exams. Another part of your job is to meet interesting people that may become great friends or, who knows, partners.

 

The Critical Co-Founder Decision

Choosing your co-founder(s) is clearly one of the most important decisions you’ll make. Yet many people overlook it. And then it comes back to bite them.

Many have likened the co-founder relationship to a marriage, with all the time spent together, the pressures, the importance, and more. Too often, it devolves into blaming and mistrust. And sometimes into a painful divorce (and one that can destroy the venture).

“The moment of truth is when you ask, ‘Are these the people I want to be in trouble with for the next five, ten, fifteen years of my life?’ Because as you build a new business, one thing’s for sure: You’ll get into trouble.”John Doerr, Kleiner Perkins

How to Pick Co-Founders

In his article, “How to Pick a Co-founder,” entrepreneur Michael Fertik outlines ten helpful criteria for choosing a co-founder:

  1. Complementary temperament
  2. Different operational skills
  3. Similar work habits
  4. Self-sufficiency
  5. History of working together
  6. Emotional buoyancy
  7. Total honesty
  8. Comfort in own skin
  9. A personality you like
  10. The same overall vision

That’s a great list, and I’d underline a few—history of working together, emotional buoyancy, total honesty, and comfort in own skin—as being especially important.

 

What to Probe For

I’d also add eight things to probe for when considering someone as a potential co-founder:

1. Integrity. Fertik mentions total honesty, but integrity goes beyond that. It includes a strong moral compass, a commitment to ethical decisions and actions (”doing the right thing, even when it’s costly or hard,” as we defined it in Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations), and the sense of wholeness that comes from knowing who you are, embracing that, and not living a divided life. 

2. Affinity. Do you like her? Are you energized by her, or drained? Do you resonate with her?

3. Admiration. Is this a person you look up to, at least in some ways? Someone who can bring out the best in you and help make you better?

4. Culture. Do you agree on the type of organizational culture you’d like to build? Have you talked about it, and are you in sync about this critical piece (one that many startups overlook, at their peril)?

5. Commitment. Given the level of risk you’ll be taking on together with a new venture in brutal conditions of time pressure, resource constraints, uncertainty, and chaos, are you certain that this person is fully committed to this venture? And do you have evidence of this in their actions and investments, not just their words?

6. Emotional intelligence. Can he recognize and understand emotions in himself and others? And can he use that awareness effectively to manage his relationships and actions? Does he have emotional blind spots or triggers that get the best of him?

7. Different experience and outlook. You don’t need a clone. You need someone who comes from a different vantage point, with a different background, and with a different viewpoint on things. This will cause some confusion and conflict, but if you can manage through it you’ll end up making much better decisions in the long run.

8. Head and heart.” In Triple Crown Leadership we noted that most people tend to focus on “head” characteristics (like knowledge, skills, technical competence, and intelligence) when evaluating people, while ignoring “heart” characteristics (like courage, passion, resilience, and authenticity). The latter can be just as important, and sometimes even more so—especially when you’re under fire together.

“My biggest mistake is probably weighing too much on someone’s talent and not someone’s personality. I think it matters whether someone has a good heart…. Starting and growing a business is as much about the innovation, drive, and determination of the people behind it as the product they sell.” -Elon Musk

 

Helpful Assessments

It can be hard to know a lot about someone before working closely with them over time. Sometimes assessments can provide more information as you explore complementarity and fit. Some examples:

Of course, assessments have their limitations.

The best way to vet this is to work with someone intensively under challenging conditions. Then you can really get a sense of how well you work together, your trust levels, and how well you work through challenges and conflict.

Bottom line: Look before you leap, and choose wisely. You’ll be very glad you did.

 

Reflection Questions

  • How much scrutiny do you use in assessing co-founders?
  • What’s your process, and how might it be improved?
  • What are you looking for?

 

Articles on Co-Founders

 

Videos on Co-Founders

 

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Gregg Vanourek is a writer, teacher, TEDx speaker, and coach on leadership and personal development. He is co-author of three books, including LIFE Entrepreneurs: Ordinary People Creating Extraordinary Lives (a manifesto for integrating our life and work with purpose, passion, and contribution) and Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations (a winner of the International Book Awards). Check out his Best Articles or get his monthly newsletter. If you found value in this article, please forward it to a friend. Every little bit helps!

What Are Your Leadership Derailers?

Here’s the thing: we all want to be better leaders.

But too often we focus on what to do as leaders while neglecting what not to do.

That’s where leadership derailers come in—the things that take us off track and inhibit our leadership effectiveness. If we want to be good leaders, we must be aware of our derailers and begin working on them.

“Most books about leadership tell us what a person ought to do to become effective and powerful. Few tell us what to avoid. But the latter may be even more valuable because many people on the road to success are tripped up by their mistakes and weaknesses.”David Gergen, political commentator and senior advisor to four U.S. presidents, from his book, Eyewitness to Power

10 Common Leadership Derailers

Here are ten common derailers, based on my research and work with leaders from many different industries, sectors, countries, and stages of career development:

  1. Avoidance: avoiding difficult tasks, situations, or conflicts.
  2. Burnout: becoming run-down and feeling exhausted, often due to lack of self-care.
  3. Bottleneck: feeling you must make all decisions or taking on too much work yourself, causing delays.
  4. Delegation: not entrusting tasks to others sufficiently, leading to reduced motivation.
  5. Feedback: not providing feedback well or often enough, or not soliciting it enough or receiving it well.
  6. Insecurity: lacking confidence about leading or feeling unqualified to lead; being unassertive.
  7. Perfectionism: setting unrealistic expectations for yourself or others; needing things to be flawless.
  8. Procrastination: putting things off until later or the last minute.
  9. Short Game: failing to invest in the future and deciding important things without considering the long term.
  10. Workaholism: being addicted to work and struggling to switch it off or stop thinking about it.

While these are common derailers, there are many more. In fact, I’ve identified more than sixty derailers that inhibit leadership effectiveness.

What are your top leadership derailers? And what will you do about them?

See our new Leadership Derailers Assessment to find out—and then get to work on improving your leadership.

Leadership Derailers Assessment

Take this assessment to identify what’s inhibiting your leadership effectiveness. A critical and often overlooked tool for your leadership development.

 

Reflection Questions

  1. What do you struggle with as a leader?
  2. What will you do about it, starting today?
  3. Who will you ask for help?

This always works best when colleagues openly discuss it together. We all have derailers. We all have work to do. So get real. And get busy with the important work of intentional leadership development. Reach out if you think I may be able to help.

Gregg

 

Tools for You

Leadership Derailers Assessment

Take this assessment to identify what’s inhibiting your leadership effectiveness. A critical and often overlooked tool for your leadership development.

 

Postscript: Inspirations on Leadership Derailers

  • “Instead of learning from other people’s success, learn from their mistakes. Most of the people who fail share common reasons, whereas success can be attributed to various different kinds of reasons.” –Jack Ma, Chinese entrepreneur, investor, and philanthropist

Gregg Vanourek’s Newsletter

Join our community. Sign up now and get Gregg Vanourek’s monthly inspirations (new articles, opportunities, and resources). Welcome!

 

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Gregg Vanourek is a writer, teacher, TEDx speaker, and coach on leadership and personal development. He is co-author of three books, including LIFE Entrepreneurs: Ordinary People Creating Extraordinary Lives (a manifesto for integrating our life and work with purpose, passion, and contribution) and Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations (a winner of the International Book Awards). Check out his Best Articles or get his monthly newsletter. If you found value in this article, please forward it to a friend. Every little bit helps!

The Power of Taking Full Responsibility for Your Life

Responsibility.

It’s a word we hear a lot. We take on more responsibilities as we go through life. Responsibility for the rent. Car payments. Mortgage. Deadlines. Getting the job done. These things can be daunting.

But there’s another aspect of responsibility that cuts the other way, that empowers us: taking responsibility for our lives.

And not just responsibility. Full responsibility.

 

What Does It Mean to Take Full Responsibility for Our Lives?

What does this mean? Carry out the logic and it leads to a sweeping conclusion:

Taking full responsibility for our lives means taking full responsibility for everything in our lives.

Carry out the logic still further and it leads to a stunning insight, one that’s capable of transforming our lives:

Taking full responsibility for our lives means taking full responsibility for everything in our lives, regardless of what has happened or why.

That means taking full responsibility for our thoughts, feelings, words, actions, circumstances, and impacts. It means taking full responsibility for our health, relationships, education, career, finances, choices, behaviors, and free time.

Our ability to accept responsibility for things depends on our sense of agency: our perceived ability to influence events and direct them toward the achievement of our goals.

Quality of Life Assessment

Evaluate your quality of life in ten key areas by taking our assessment. Discover your strongest areas, and the areas that need work, then act accordingly.

 

 

Locus of Control

That brings us to what psychologists call “locus of control”: the extent to which we feel that we have control over the events of our lives. Are we the captains of our fate, steering the ship toward our horizon of choice, or are we drifters on a raft, being carrier by the current and winds randomly out to sea?

Drive and direction matrix from the book, LIFE Entrepreneurs, by Christopher Gergen and Gregg Vanourek

 

Researchers distinguish between an internal locus of control (when we believe that control over what happens resides within us) and an external locus of control (when we attribute success to luck, fate, or other outside influences). Note that locus of control occurs on a continuum; it’s not a one-or-the-other situation.

According to researchers, people with an internal locus of control tend to:

  • be healthier
  • report being happier
  • exhibit more independence
  • achieve greater success in the workplace

So far, we’ve seen that it means to take full responsibility for our lives. It sounds simple enough. But it’s quite difficult to do it consistently—and it’s exceedingly rare.

 

How to Know If You’re Not Taking Full Responsibility?

Most people bounce back and forth between taking responsibility for their lives and shirking that responsibility. How to know if we’re not taking responsibility?

When we’re avoiding responsibility, we’re tending toward the following:

  • blaming others
  • complaining about things
  • feeling hopeless
  • experiencing “learned helplessness” (when we stop trying to change things because we’ve become conditioned to believe that a bad situation is inescapable)
  • feeling powerless
  • drifting through life without traction on our deeper aims
  • settling for a less than ideal situation

 

Take the Traps Test

We all fall into traps in life. Sometimes we’re not even aware of it, and we can’t get out of traps we don’t know we’re in. Evaluate yourself with our Traps Test.

 

The Incredible Benefits of Taking Full Responsibility

Taking full responsibility for all aspects of our lives, regardless of what has happened or why, is one of the most important things we can do to improve the quality of our lives, relationships, and work outcomes. It comes with many benefits. Taking full responsibility can:

  • boost our confidence
  • provide us with a more resilient sense of calm which isn’t dependent on others
  • increase our decisiveness
  • improve our health
  • reduce our stress levels
  • lead to taking more action in life
  • help us achieve our goals
  • free us up to see the good in people and situations
  • help summon our courage
  • lead to better relationships
  • help us improve our follow-through
  • invoke our power to choose
  • dramatically improve our leadership
  • help us craft our life intentionally

 

What We Must Give Up When We Take Full Responsibility

Clearly, the benefits are extensive. But they come at a price. Taking full responsibility means giving up on several bad habits and guilty pleasures. For example:

It means giving up on complaining.

“What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.” -Maya Angelou

It means giving up on making excuses.

“He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.” -Benjamin Franklin

It means giving up on blaming others.

“An important decision I made was to resist playing the Blame Game. The day I realized that I am in charge of how I will approach problems in my life, that things will turn out better or worse because of me and nobody else, that was the day I knew I would be a happier and healthier person. And that was the day I knew I could truly build a life that matters.” -Steve Goodier

It means giving up on being a victim.

“Abandon the idea that you will forever be the victim of the things that have happened to you. Choose to be a victor.” -Seth Adam Smith

What to do instead? Instead of complaining, making excuses, blaming, or playing the victim, change your mindset toward one of agency and accountability. Instead of deflecting toward others (or toward bad luck), turn your gaze within and ask:

What is my role in this?

How have I contributed to this?

What will I do about it now?

Get curious about what happened and why, and what you might do differently in the future to make it better or avoid the same mistake.

 

What Taking Full Responsibility Doesn’t Mean

Taking full responsibility means holding ourselves totally accountable, but it doesn’t mean being a “Lone Ranger,” disconnected from others.

Even as we take full responsibility for our life, we can—and should—reach out to others for help. We can ask for their input, or for them to help hold us accountable.

For most people, strong social relationships are the most important contributor to enduring happiness. We’re wise to take full responsibility for our relationships too, instead of expecting others to know what we want or waiting for others to change.

Being accountable doesn’t mean being alone. It means being the captain of our lives, being a “life entrepreneur.”

And it ultimately means changing the trajectory of our lives toward more fulfillment and better outcomes.

“The luckiest people are those who learn early… that it’s essential to take charge of your own life. That doesn’t mean you don’t accept help, friendship, love, and leadership—if it’s good leadership—from others. But it does mean recognizing that ultimately you’re the one who’s responsible for you.” -John W. Gardner

 

Reflection Questions on Taking Responsibility for Your Life

  1. In what areas are you:
    • complaining?
    • making excuses?
    • blaming others?
    • being a victim?
  1. What will you do, starting today, to take back the initiative and take full responsibility for the situation?
  2. Are you taking full responsibility for everything in your life, regardless of what has happened or why?

 

Gregg Vanourek’s Newsletter

Join our community. Sign up now and get Gregg Vanourek’s monthly inspirations (new articles, opportunities, and resources). Welcome!

 

Tools for You

 

Postscript: Quotations on Taking Responsibility for Your Life

  • “Self-leadership means taking responsibility for our own lives.” -Andrew Bryant & Ana Kazan, from Self Leadership
  • “Character—the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life—is the source from which self-respect springs.” -Joan Didion
  • “The degree to which you accept responsibility for everything in your life is precisely the degree of personal power you have to change or create anything in your life.” -Hal Elrod
  • “Personal responsibility is the foundational key that opens the door to freedom…. the moment you choose to accept personal responsibility for all your inner experiences independent of what appears to have caused them, the escape hatch automatically swings open, providing you with the opportunity for passing into the land of freedom. You become authentically empowered, and you discover there really is a calm at the center for the fiercest hurricane where you can reside. In fact, eventually you realize that you are that calm.” -H. Ronald Hulnick and Mary R. Hulnick, from Loyalty to Your Soul
  • “Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anyone else expects of you. Never excuse yourself.” -Henry Ward Beecher
  • “Don’t believe the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.” -Robert J. Burdette, 1883
  • “A man can fail many times, but he isn’t a failure until he begins to blame somebody else.” -John Burroughs
  • “Unless a person takes charge of them, both work and free time are likely to be disappointing.” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
  • “Never tell your problems to anyone… 20 percent don’t care and the other 80 percent are glad you have them.” -Lou Holtz
  • “Don’t complain; just work harder.” -Randy Pausch
  • “See if you can catch yourself complaining, in either speech or thought, about a situation you find yourself in, what other people do or say, your surroundings, your life situation, even the weather. To complain is always nonacceptance of what is. It invariably carries an unconscious negative charge. When you complain, you make yourself into a victim. When you speak out, you are in your power. So change the situation by taking action or by speaking out if necessary or possible; leave the situation or accept it. All else is madness.” -Eckhart Tolle, from The Power of Now
  • “I had to take complete ownership of what went wrong. That is what a leader does—even if it means getting fired. If anyone was to be blamed and fired for what happened, let it be me.” -Jocko Willink, from Extreme Ownership
  • “You are responsible for the energy that you create for yourself, and you’re responsible for the energy that you bring to others.”  -Oprah Winfrey

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Gregg Vanourek is a writer, teacher, TEDx speaker, and coach on leadership and personal development. He is co-author of three books, including LIFE Entrepreneurs: Ordinary People Creating Extraordinary Lives (a manifesto for integrating our life and work with purpose, passion, and contribution) and Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations (a winner of the International Book Awards). Check out his Best Articles or get his monthly newsletter. If you found value in this article, please forward it to a friend. Every little bit helps!

The Incredible Benefits of Being Action-Oriented

One of the greatest assets we can build in our lives is an action orientation. No great things are possible without action. Are you action-oriented?

Dreams and visions are good, but worthless without action. Plans may impress, but they lose all value if not acted upon. Opportunities fade if we don’t seize them soon enough.

If we want a good life with good work, we must get good at taking action—and putting ourselves in a position to be able to do so. Too often, we hesitate. We wait to long before acting, as we try to line things up perfectly. A costly mistake.

“Action is the foundational key to all success.” -Pablo Picasso

 

The Incredible Benefits of Being Action-Oriented

There are many benefits of being action-oriented, and their effects accumulate and compound over time. Here are 14 of the top benefits:

1. Being action-oriented builds our confidence.

When we’re out in the world making things happen, we naturally begin to trust ourselves more. We develop self-assurance, which becomes increasingly valuable for future scenarios.

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” -Dale Carnegie

2. It helps develop our courage.

The process of taking action and dealing with the consequences shows us that we can overcome fear and survive challenges, often becoming stronger in the process. Courage is one of the most important qualities we can develop, because most great things in life are impossible without it.

“Often the difference between a successful man and a failure is not one’s better abilities or ideas, but the courage that one has to bet on his ideas, to take a calculated risk—and to act.” -Maxwell Maltz, surgeon and author

3. Being action-oriented helps us avoid the cost of regret for not trying.

Most people have regrets. Some of the most common ones are about the things we wished we had tried: the new ventures we dreamed of starting, the new relationships we wished we pursued, the places we longed to visit.

“The price of inaction is far greater than the cost of making a mistake.” -Meister Eckhart, German mystic

4. It comes with a learning premium.

We develop knowledge and insights from trying things and seeing how they go. Learning is one of the best investments we can make. It pays rich dividends.

5. Being action-oriented changes our self-identity.

Suddenly, we think of ourselves as doers. As people with power, potential, and agency. We become the kind of people who act when others are watching or waiting.

Personal Values Exercise

Complete this exercise to identify your personal values. It will help you develop self-awareness, including clarity about what’s most important to you in life and work, and serve as a safe harbor for you to return to when things are tough.

 

6. We learn about ourselves when we take action.

It reveals our character and our tendencies. Our doubts and fears. It gives us a glimpse of our resourcefulness and persistence—and the things we need to work on to get better.

“Self-knowledge is best learned, not by contemplation, but by action. Strive to do your duty and you will soon discover of what stuff you are made.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, German poet, scientist, and statesman

7. Being action-oriented expands our sense of possibility.

Entrepreneur Steve Jobs spoke about this in an interview—about how everything changed for him when he learned to stop accepting life as it is and start poking and pushing it instead (and, in his case, start building things). When he realized that things around him were made by people who weren’t smarter than he was, he felt excited about improving his life and putting a “dent in the universe.”

8. Being action-oriented builds momentum.

Things start to click, almost moving of their own accord once we’ve done the heaviest lift of beginning. Things pick up speed and start bouncing around. The game is afoot.

“The path to success is to take massive, determined action.” –Tony Robbins, author

9. It positions us as a doer and leader—and people respond to that.

The best leaders and entrepreneurs are doers, with a strong bias toward action. People respect us for trying, for starting, for daring. They respect us for getting things done—and for being the kind of person to jump into the fray. It inspires them to start doing so as well.

“The world has the habit of making room for the man whose actions show that he knows where he is going.” -Napolean Hill, author

10. Being action-oriented yields better results over time and increases our probability of success.

We get better results in part because we get more attempts. (There’s simple math at work here.) Also, we learn what works and what doesn’t, and we develop experience, confidence, and resilience.

“You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.” -Wayne Gretzky, legendary hockey player

11. Being action-oriented invites serendipity.

When we take action, we start making unintended or unexpected but fortunate discoveries.

When we’re taking purposeful action and following our bliss, as Joseph Campbell advises, we start meeting people who can help us, and doors open for us, almost like magic.

12. It’s more fun to be in the game than on the sidelines.

Do we want to watch others play, or be the ones in the maelstrom facing challenges and having a chance to prevail?

13. Being action-oriented gives us more chances at breakthroughs.

Windows of opportunity are only open for so long. Without taking action consistently, even when we don’t feel fully ready, we’re prone to missing big chances, including opportunities for breakthroughs.

14. Since there’s no such thing as a perfect time or “the right time,” we might as well get started.

What’s the point in waiting? Where does that get us? How many times will we sit and watch opportunities pass us by?

“Do not wait; the time will never be ‘just right.’ Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.” -Napolean Hill

Take the Traps Test

We all fall into traps in life. Sometimes we’re not even aware of it, and we can’t get out of traps we don’t know we’re in. Evaluate yourself with our Traps Test.

 

What It Takes to Be Action-Oriented

Clearly, there are many powerful benefits to being action-oriented. It changes our trajectory and prospects.

But it’s not easy. It requires at least five big things from us:

1. Being action-oriented requires motivation.

We must summon our drive to achieve, and our desire for a better future. We must get off the couch and get to work.

2. It requires courage.

It requires a willingness to act in spite of our fears. A willingness to go for it, despite the risks.

3. Being action-oriented requires a willingness to pounce when opportunities arise.

We must be willing to strike, even when the picture isn’t fully clear. This requires tapping into our warrior spirit.

“All of us, whether or not we are warriors, have a cubic centimeter of chance that pops out in front of our eyes from time to time. The difference between an average man and a warrior is that the warrior is aware of this, and one of his tasks is to be alert, deliberately waiting, so that when his cubic centimeter pops out he has the necessary speed, the prowess, to pick it up.” -Carlos Castaneda in Journey to Ixtlan

4. It helps to have a growth mindset.

A growth mindset is a belief that our intelligence, abilities, and talents can be developed. By contrast, if we have a fixed mindset, we’ll be preoccupied with the prospect of looking bad or being wrong, without realizing that it doesn’t matter as much as we may think because we can always learn and develop.

5. It helps to be clear about what we want and where we’re heading.

Action is must better when it’s pulled from a powerful vision of success, a motivating dream of a desired future, as opposed to being pushed from a troubled situation we seek to flee.

 

Warrior and Sage

Of course, being action-oriented isn’t the only thing we need to succeed. We need discernment and insight. Experience and wisdom.

We’re better off when we iterate between action and reflection, when we flex between being warrior and sage. We’re better off when we take action, then learn and adjust. But too often, people get stuck in thought and doubt when what they really should be doing is getting started.

Quality of Life Assessment

Evaluate your quality of life in ten key areas by taking our assessment. Discover your strongest areas, and the areas that need work, then act accordingly.

 

Reflection Questions

 

What are you waiting for?

 

Tools for You

 

Postscript: Quotations on Being Action-Oriented

  • “Those who say it cannot be done should not interrupt the people doing it.” -Chinese proverb
  • “Successful people start before they’re ready.” -James Clear, author
  • “Do not wait till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking.” -William B. Sprague
  • “I think the number one advice I can give is: you just have to start it. Just get your feet in the water and do it. I learned a lot from just trying it out.” -Yoshikazu Tanaka, Japanese entrepreneur
  • “I said to myself, You know what? This is the wrong time to do it, but there is never a perfect time. We have the right idea, and I’ve got to try.” -Seth Goldman, social entrepreneur, when thinking about launching Honest Tea

Gregg Vanourek’s Newsletter

Join our community. Sign up now and get Gregg Vanourek’s monthly inspirations (new articles, opportunities, and resources). Welcome!

 

+++++++++++++++++
Gregg Vanourek is a writer, teacher, TEDx speaker, and coach on leadership and personal development. He is co-author of three books, including LIFE Entrepreneurs: Ordinary People Creating Extraordinary Lives (a manifesto for integrating our life and work with purpose, passion, and contribution) and Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations (a winner of the International Book Awards). Check out his Best Articles or get his monthly newsletter. If you found value in this article, please forward it to a friend. Every little bit helps!