How to achieve your goals by improving your self-discipline

Breakfast is not just the most important meal of the day, but also the most important meeting you’ll have: a chance to check in with yourself, remember what it’s all about, and strengthen your resolve to succeed. Success in business means not just managing your assets, your network, and your office, but above all: managing yourself. Ambition and hard work are a good start, but without rhythm and regularity it is easy to lose your flow, and wind up stranded from your original vision.

Simply put, in business there is no sustainability without self-discipline. If you are concerned that your dwindling energy levels are compromising your ability to fulfill your potential, that you are hiding from responsibilities that require regular attention, or that you’re giving in too frequently to distractions, it is time to take a serious look at your levels of self-control.

Fortunately, there are a number of techniques for doing so, many of which have been suggested or verified by experts. These can be as simple as hiding temptation from your sight or avoiding distractions. If you find yourself reaching for your smart phone every two minutes when you know you should be concentrating on your spreadsheets, hide it. Put it in a drawer or, better still, out back in your locker. Tests have shown this works with kids and candy – and what is that smart phone if not candy for your bored eyes?

Then there are more grown-up, professional methods you can try. We all become jaded with our ambitions from time to time. We forget why we got into the game in the first place, or are dragged down by the sensation that our competitors are achieving more with less. Giving in to these feelings will just make things worse. Instead, highlight the positive values that drive your daily work. Make a list of the reasons it’s important for you to stay strong and fulfill your responsibilities. And visualize the end results: not just how they will affect you, but the benefits they will have for other people. These techniques have been shown to strengthen the user’s willpower.

It can also be a question of lifestyle. Poor sleep invariably leads to poor self-discipline. This is not just a matter of fatigue-induced laziness: sleep deprivation actually affects the way your prefrontal cortex operates. That’s the part of the brain responsible for self-regulation, so it’s worth making sure it’s in top working order when it’s online! Another lifestyle factor is the company you keep. You need two kinds of friends (and hopefully they overlap a bit). The first kind is the type that exercise their own self-control in an exemplary manner. Hanging out with well-disciplined people makes you better disciplined. (Probably your mother told you that when you were hanging out with wrong’uns as a child!) The second type of buddy you need is someone who’s prepared to look out for you. Having friends or family members that give you regular reminders to stick to your good intentions can be really effective.

All the same, it’s important to make sure that you’re not chasing somebody else’s dream. It has been shown in studies that our willpower soon runs low if we’re trying to please others instead of focusing on our own desires. If you’re not sure whether this is you, return to our first method: make that list of personal values. If they don’t match the goal for which you’re aiming, maybe you’re honing your discipline towards the wrong goal.

Now that you have a pretty good idea on how to pursue your self-discipline workout regime, one last tip: start with a bang. Don’t try to segue softly into your new mode of operation, but choose instead a specific start point and call it Day Zero. Research has shown that setting a date to start your new regimen can actually make you more likely to see it through.

For a step-by-step plan on how to integrate these ideas and more into your self-discipline campaign, have a run through this new visual guide. Self-discipline is not just a trait you are born with or without: it is a skill you can build on and practice on your rise to the top.

G. John Cole is a digital nomad and freelance writer. Specialising in leadership, digital media and personal growth, his passions include world cinema and biscuits. A native Englishman, he is always on the move, but can most commonly be spotted in Norway, the UK and the Balkans.

Image: Flickr

Excuses or Solutions

We each face obstacles at times that prevent us from achieving our goals as quickly and effortlessly as we would like.

In your professional life, difficulties may result from factors outside your control: fierce competition, lack of customer demand, or a new well-heeled company entering your industry.

Hurdles can also result from factors a little closer to home: outdated skills, insufficient experience, or a weak reputation.

Obstacles may be unavoidable, but we do have a choice about how we respond to them.

One option is to search for excuses, stories that make us feel safe by allowing us to avoid the difficulty by giving up on the dream. “Success is impossible, I’m too old, I’m too young, I’m too busy, I’m too tired, I’m too inexperienced.”

If you are in the habit of searching for them then excuses will always be easy to find, but they come at a cost.

By adopting excuses you are making a choice to live in a more constrained world, to accept defeat in advance, and to rule out the most favorable versions of the future that are open to you.

There is another option.

By clinging to the possibility of success, however unlikely it may seem, you give yourself the chance to learn and grow from the experience.

What are you trying to achieve? What is standing in your way? And what steps can you take to bolster your position or move in the right direction?

A relentless search for solutions will keep you on the front foot and allow you to discover openings that may have remained hidden had you not taken the trouble to look.

7 Keys to Success

Success is what you attract by the person you become

Success

(Source: Flickr)

THE late Jim Rohn once said, “success is what you attract by the person you become”.

A pithy saying, but how do you become a person who attracts success?

Here are seven thoughts to get you going:

  1. Skill development – It is natural to learn from experience and improve at an activity through repeated effort. You can do this by yourself or, for accelerated progress, you can work with a skilled mentor.
  2. Reputation – In the corporate world this is known as a “brand” and in the religious world they call it a “spirit”, but the effect is the same. How many people know you? Is the number growing? What are they saying about you when you’re not in the room?
  3. Network – Your reputation is “who knows you” while your network is “who you know”. Who do you know? Have you been in touch with them lately?
  4. Lifestyle design – You can maximise the use of your time by automating activities that can be automated, turning helpful behaviours like exercise into a habit, de-cluttering your house, and reducing expenditure on consumables and luxury items that are likely to eat up your time.
  5. Leverage – This appears fifth but is probably the biggest one. Do you have leverage? That is, do you have the benefit of a large amount of human effort which you can bring to bear at a single point in time?  Financial leverage is the most obvious one, but there are many others. Government officials benefit from the efforts of tax payers, partners in a professional services firm benefit from the efforts of employees, manufacturers benefit from advanced production machinery, an author benefits from her book, an academic benefits from prior years studying the same topic and from large class sizes, and Google benefits from anyone with a website or who has ever uploaded an image online.
  6. Unique style – Young people are typically made to conform to norms of behaviour, which are enforced by parents and schools. Ironically though, in the real world, unless your goal is to be the low cost producer in your industry, being the same as everyone else is a strategic mistake. As people mature they often gain the confidence to express their unique personal style, and this can help them be more authentic and memorable in the marketplace.
  7. Communication skills – Learning to communicate in a clear and compelling way can multiply your success in two ways. Firstly, writing well can help you be more persuasive and influential. Secondly, learning to speak in public can open up opportunities to be seen and bring people together.

Do you agree with our 7 success factors? We would love to hear your personal experience. Please share your thoughts in the forum.

Forgiveness

An act of personal empowerment that gives you freedom from the past and allows you to retain the initiative

Forgiveness

(Source: Flickr)

FORGIVENESS is a noble sentiment, but shouldn’t our tormentors be punished?

What about truth? What about justice? What about revenge?

Breathe, breathe, everything will be okay.

The deceptions and betrayals of those around us can sometimes infect and overwhelm the mind. The feelings aroused from past hurts make it difficult to see clearly, the blood boils and the mind can replay the situation many times, thinking of how we were wronged and counting the ways we might be able to get even.

This kind of thinking is not particularly healthy or helpful, and you risk becoming trapped in an endless cycle of negative emotions.

You feel hatred today, because you felt it yesterday, because you felt it the day before that.

Forgiveness has value because it frees us from this cycle and liberates mental energy to focus on the matters at hand.

Thinking about it this way, we can see that forgiveness actually has nothing to do with the person(s) who wronged us (they may not care less about your feelings), but it instead confers a benefit on the person who forgives.

Past hurts afflict the mind only for so long as you hold on to them, and by letting them go you regain your freedom.

Another way to think about forgiveness is as an act of personal empowerment. People who hurt us are able to do so by wielding some kind of power: money, influence, strength, a seductive story, a daring feat, shiny packaging, or anything else which allows them to attract attention or control the game. This power can sometimes be used to hurt us, and the negative emotions that result leave us feeling dis-empowered.

Forgiveness puts you back in control.

If you can forgive, then it gives you an opportunity to learn the lessons hidden in the rubble.

Was it just bad luck, or did you enable your competitors to defeat you through bad judgement, poor execution and inferior strategy?

The situation may reveal something about the other person’s character or about your own. It may show you a blind spot in your vision, or uncover a shortage of critical resources and capabilities.

By practicing forgiveness and learning your lessons, you can retain your freedom and seize the initiative going forward.

How to Use Envy to Build Success

There will always be greener pastures. Accept what you have, and build from there

YOU may have found yourself envying the position of others.

In a former life, I worked as a finance lawyer and often dealt with investment bankers. They worked about the same hours as I did, their job seemed much less challenging than mine was, and they enjoyed doing deals while I often had deals foisted upon me at the 11th hour. Despite their job being more appealing, and to add insult to injury, they were also paid 4 times as much money.  It seemed a great injustice.

You may have shared a similar experience. You might be a management consultant looking at a corporate director who is about your age but earns more money for less work.  You might be a manager for a bricks-and-mortar company looking at a more-highly-paid manager at a tech firm that didn’t exist 10 years ago.

Envy is a powerful emotion.  The sobering reality though is that there will always be someone with more money, more prestige, more power, or who is younger and smarter than you are.

Recognise envy when it appears. But instead of giving in to feelings of resentment, consider directing your energy towards a re-examination or your strengths and how you might use them to create more value for others.

Success is attained by building on strength, not by wishing you are something you are not.  By understanding your talents and skills, you can find ways to use them.  By giving in to envy, however, you lose control of your own story and may wind up following a path that leads you nowhere. Such was the unfortunate fate which befell a certain Stone Cutter in the Eastern folk story recounted below.

There was once a stone cutter who was dissatisfied with himself and with his position in life. One day he passed a wealthy merchant’s house. Through the open gateway, he saw many fine possessions and important visitors. “How powerful that merchant must be!” thought the stone cutter. He became very envious and wished that he could be like the merchant.

To his great surprise, he suddenly became the merchant, enjoying more luxuries and power than he had ever imagined, but envied and detested by those less wealthy than himself. Soon a high official passed by, carried in a sedan chair, accompanied by attendants and escorted by soldiers beating gongs. Everyone, no matter how wealthy, had to bow low before the procession. “How powerful that official is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a high official!”

Then he became the high official, carried everywhere in his embroidered sedan chair, feared and hated by the people all around. It was a hot summer day, so the official felt very uncomfortable in the sticky sedan chair. He looked up at the sun. It shone proudly in the sky, unaffected by his presence. “How powerful the sun is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be the sun!”

Then he became the sun, shining fiercely down on everyone, scorching the fields, cursed by the farmers and laborers. But a huge black cloud moved between him and the earth, so that his light could no longer shine on everything below. “How powerful that storm cloud is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a cloud!”

Then he became the cloud, flooding the fields and villages, shouted at by everyone. But soon he found that he was being pushed away by some great force, and realized that it was the wind. “How powerful it is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be the wind!”

Then he became the wind, blowing tiles off the roofs of houses, uprooting trees, feared and hated by all below him. But after a while, he ran up against something that would not move, no matter how forcefully he blew against it – a huge, towering rock. “How powerful that rock is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a rock!”

Then he became the rock, more powerful than anything else on earth. But as he stood there, he heard the sound of a hammer pounding a chisel into his hard surface, and felt himself being chipped away piece by piece. “What could be more powerful than I, the rock?” he thought.

He looked down and saw far below him the figure of a stone cutter.

Impossible is Nothing

“IMPOSSIBLE is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”

~ Muhammad Ali / The Greatest / The Champ

I love my job! …

… do you?

YOU may be one of thousands of people who finished a vocational university degree (engineering, law, accounting etc.) and thought, “I need to get some professional experience to my name … and then I’ll branch out and do what I love!”  Two years later and you are still an engineer/accountant/lawyer.  You’ve learnt a lot and met some interesting people, but it wasn’t meant to be this way.  You have dreams of success and personal fulfillment!  Is now the right time to switch?  Is the economy strong enough or should you wait? There is no right time to stand up and go after what you’ve always wanted, but just don’t wait too long!

I Love My Job

I love my job, I love the pay.
I love it more and more each day.
I love my boss; he/she is the best.
I love his boss and all the rest.
I love my office and its location.
I hate to have to go on vacation.
I love my furniture, drab and gray,
And the paper that piles up every day.

I love my chair in my padded cell.
There’s nothing else I love so well.
I love to work among my peers.
I love their leers and jeers and sneers.

I love my computer and its software;
I hug it often though it don’t care.
I love each program and every file,
I try to understand once in a while.

I’m happy to be here, I am, I am;
I’m the happiest slave of my Uncle Sam.
I love this work; I love these chores.
I love the meetings with deadly bores.

I love my job-I’ll say it again.
I even love these friendly men,
These men who’ve come to visit today
In lovely white coats to take me away.

(source unknown)

TEDx Emerald City

LAST night I attended my first independently organised TED event, TEDx EmeraldCity.

The event was organised by the ever dynamic and always delightful Melissa O’Young. The name of the event sounds pretty random, and it is, but it is also quite clever. Since this was an Australian TED event the thinking was as follows: Australia – Oz – Wizard of Oz – Emeral City … but of course!

There were twelve of us at the event, all from a diverse range of backgrounds: artist, journalists, lawyers, bloggers, photographer, fashion design, financier, film producers, travellers, and entrepreneurs.   It certainly was an interesting and unlikely group of people to be assembled in the one place, not your ordinary pizza and beer night.

The evening was driven by the high minded desire to share interesting and important ideas, watch a number of TEDTalks videos, network with people from outside our normal group or friends, and to get inspired by new ideas, projects and opportunities. It was an engaging and thought provoking evening, and I feel lucky to have been a part of it.

Over the course of the evening we watched four TEDTalks videos, all very different, all of them fascinating. If you’re interested, I have linked to each them:

  1. Alain de Botton: A kinder, gentler philosophy of success
  2. Dave Eggers’ wish: Once Upon a School
  3. Rick Smolan tells the story of a girl
  4. Eric Lewis plays chaos and harmony

My personal favourite is the one by Alain de Botton on his kinder, gentler philosophy of success.  This talk is particularly relevant and eye opening to all of us who strive for “success”, what ever that may mean. Check it out!