Have you ever wished at some point or another that life came with a reboot button? There are times when you have experienced a long, tedious stretch and you just feel the need to hit the reset. Sometimes life gets dull, the economy squeezes you really tight, breakups happen, jobs get tough and the list goes on. The start of a new year always feels like a chance to try new things and maybe even “start over” in every area of life. This is the perfect opportunity to reflect on what is and what isn’t working within your life, family, career and business. Taking the time to identify these things and then brainstorming ideas on how to keep the good going and reconfigure the bad will help make your life run smoother and will help you to be more effective in your pursuits. The best way to start the New Year is to begin with a clean slate. This doesn’t mean you have to take drastic measures, instead, you can take some simple steps to ensure that you are ready to start the New Year on a solid footing as you reboot.
Reboot on a Retreat
We all need to get away from it all from time to time, especially when we start to experience burn out. Chronic stress can make you feel exhausted–emotionally, mentally, and physically. In addition, stress can zap your motivation, interfere with your ability to concentrate, and even cause health problems. Going on a retreat can help you to leave the mayhem of the day-to-day behind so that you can reconnect with yourself and what really matters to you. A few days at a retreat can help you to clear your mind and gain new perspective.
Reboot Your Calendar
If you find that your calendar and daily schedule are jam-packed with activities and commitments, most of which fill you with dread, then it’s time to reboot your calendar. Sit down with a blank sheet of paper and start re-creating your calendar from scratch. Before you add anything back on your schedule, take the time to re-examine whether that task or activity really needs to be there. Question everything:
• Your commitments;
• The tasks that you carry out on a regular basis and whether they really need to be done;
• The amount of time that you spend on each task and how often you perform certain tasks;
Only put back into your schedule the things that you absolutely need to do, and the things that you love to do.
Reboot Your Goals
Once you’re clear in what you want, set goals so that you can work toward having what you want. Your goals should empower you to feel like your wants and needs are attainable, so put some thought into creating them. Consider the various aspects of your life in which you want to start over, such as your relationships, finances, education, career, health, and hobbies. Make long-term and short-term goals to keep you motivated and on-task
Acknowledge your emotions.
Don’t let past emotions hold you back or influence your ability to move forward. Start by acknowledging the emotions and recognize that you feel them, but they are not you. When you feel an emotion, label and say to yourself, “I feel angry” or “This is sadness.” Let your negative emotions exist, but don’t attach to them with judgment or identity. While running from your problems may alleviate stress or pain temporarily, it’s not a long-term fix. It’s better to acknowledge your emotions and work through them. If you’re starting over after a painful or stressful experience, recognize that you are more than this experience.
Express your emotions. Stress and emotions can often feel overwhelming, so find a healthy outlet to express yourself. Some ways to express your emotions might include dancing, listening to music, painting, crying, and talking with a trusted friend. Even if your friend can’t do anything to help, it’s often cathartic to share how you feel. Don’t hold onto your emotions when you feel them but try to express them in a healthy way. Expressing your emotions helps you move through your emotions, no matter how difficult they feel.
Forgive the people who have hurt you. While this can take time, remember that forgiveness is for you, not for anyone else. Make a choice to let go of the hurt, anger, resentment, or pain someone caused you. You don’t have to formally forgive them or even communicate to the person at all. Choose to forgive and let go of the pain you feel.
Write about the life you want. Define the things and people you want in your life. Write down your goals or ideals for your chosen career, romantic partnership, wellness, or current lifestyle. Having a list or journal entry can help you organize your thoughts and help you reflect on them and update them in the future. Perhaps you want to quit your job or make a career change. Write down what your ideal self would do for work and how it would make you feel. For example, think about the life you want right now, as well the life you want in 5 years or 10 years. Ask yourself what you would like to do, where you’d like to live, and what kind of lifestyle you would be living.
On Tuesday the 18th of December 2018, the tables seemed to have suddenly turned for United’s “Special One.” As Manchester United dispensed with José Mourinho’s services after two-and-a-half years, media and the football fraternity did not only take time out to look back at the highs and lows of his time in charge, but were immediately speculating on who could replace him. This is life. Life with its curve balls, entrances and exits. Stylish exit or not, and whether you are let go or you leave on your own, there is an impact. Of course, conventional wisdom says that everyone is replaceable. That may still be true, but the critical question is: how prepared are you for the shift?
Nature Abhors a Vacuum
The idea that you should be replaceable in your position is often negatively misinterpreted, but making sure you are replaceable actually promotes personal and team growth, whilst helping you become a stronger leader. The best thing you can do is let go of where you are and embrace where you are going. With all that said, the fact is that churn is such a huge part of nature! Our world is based on transition and change. Changing jobs is an integral part of your career path. When people move around, society benefits from knowledge sharing and new alliances that lead to great new ideas. Remixing is good for both individuals and organisations, so there is no way that churn will ever stop. The idea is to create an organization where intelligent, forward-thinking people want to work, find out who excels where, and shift additional responsibilities onto their plate to give them opportunities to grow, which in the end, benefits both the leaders and their teams. In creating these shifts, it often opens space to introduce additional people to the team with specific expertise.
Safe havens for slackers are rapidly diminishing, because they are losing out to smarter, more agile, and faster competition. The point is that whatever job you have now, the world can replace what you do or find an alternative without missing a beat. Nature abhors a vacuum. If what you did was valuable and awesome, someone else will learn to do it because humans are relentless in their quest for advancement.
Check your ego at the door.
If you're in a position of power within any organisation, there's one thing that needs to be checked at the office door: ego. Admitting that someone else may perform your role better than you can be difficult, but acknowledging this goes a long way. If you're constantly pushing that you're the most qualified person to take on every task, making sure no one else can do your job, you're stunting your own growth and that of your colleagues. Learn to shed the responsibilities that you've been collecting to build your own profile. Replace yourself to the point where you can deliver what you're best at and keep learning and contributing, rather than slowing down those around you. Being transparent about your abilities and organisation’s needs, while giving someone with the right knowledge the chance to excel frees up time for your own professional development. This opportunity to explore and find out where else you could make a difference as a leader is invaluable.
Make proactive growth a priority
While employee growth is a top priority, the best leaders know their own professional evolution is extremely important. To be an effective leader you have to recognize that there's always room for improvement. Leaders shouldn't allow themselves to get complacent, but rather, evolve with the growing business and inevitable challenges that come with innovation. Constantly ask yourself what you need to learn, how you can improve and what comes next - in a sense, you should be growing yourself out of your current role every six to twelve months by building upon your responsibilities and setting new goals.
You are Replaceable
If you're great at your job, it means you're replaceable, and that's a good thing. You should strive to be replaceable; it's how an organisation grows. There's a negative perception around what it means to be "replaceable" in the workplace -- it might sound like you don't have job security, or that you're leaving the company - however, the fact is that being replaceable means emphasizing learning and growth, and is the key to fostering a positive work culture with a healthy path for career progression and innovation. In an ideal business world, we're operating in an environment where we, and our colleagues, are constantly growing and receive opportunities to learn new skills to prepare for the next step in our careers. In this sense, the most successful leaders are ensuring they are replaceable. This doesn't mean they're no longer useful, it means they fully utilize and support their teams to complete initiatives at the highest quality and enable their future career growth. The better we are at our jobs, the more important it is to have someone even better than us. People with world class experience who can do parts of your job better than you allow you to free up some of your time that could be spent developing creative ideas, innovative solutions and working towards the next way to make greater impact for your organisation.
Create Something Meaningful
Be careful how you align with the argument that you should keep working until you are old because you owe something to the world. Work because what you do is meaningful to you and brings you joy. If your job doesn’t do this, then work just long enough to become financially independent and go do something that does bring you joy. If you really hate your job, then consider looking for another opportunity where you can create something meaningful. Life is too short.
Do you find yourself worried of being replaced? Do you think you are replaceable? To worry about being replaced is to be worried about the wrong things. Your focus should be progress oriented as you constantly prepare yourself for the shift which can come any day.
Most long distance runners pace themselves and know that it is the second half of the race that allows them to finish strong. They know how to conserve energy, deal with lows and not get too high, which are all important cycles that they must learn to go through. Sprinters train for a quick, short burst of energy. In life, we are marathoners not sprinters. The big difference is in each process and commitment.
Preparing for a marathon as a runner is a similar process as preparing for a long, successful life. Longevity takes a strong foundation, flexibility and willingness to change. One of the worst habits people get into is NOT regularly reviewing and refining their process, procedures and results. How willing are you to evaluate what’s really going on and make changes, to finish the year strong and set yourself up to launch into the new year with clarity and momentum? Remember back in January how we discussed setting goals for the New Year? You were excited, ambitious, specific and full of hope that this year would be amazing. So, how are you doing? We have a few days left in this year before we go through the process again. If you have been taking action and working on your goals this year, you should be very proud of yourself! Getting started on creating change is hard work. It forces you to get those creative problem solving juices flowing and super charges your work. Do not let the fact that you are running out of calendar days set you up to self-sabotage the great work you have left to do. Instead, focus on how you can finish strong and even get ahead moving into the next New Year.
How to Finish the Year Strong:
Remove small annoyances. It is the little things in life that suck up our mental bandwidth and make us feel unfinished. Over the next few days, when you see minor things hanging that you kept meaning to attend to in your life, take a few minutes to do something about them.
Clear out your space. The end of the year is a wonderful time to get rid of all the physical clutter in your life. It’s amazing how much stuff most of us have that we don’t need or use. Once the unnecessary possessions have been given away and the junk has been thrown out, you will definitely feel mentally and emotionally lighter.
Have important conversations. We often let minor confusions linger, generally because we are afraid to find out the answers to our questions. Find out. You’ll feel clearer, and you’ll have a better sense of what to do next. Is there something you’ve been carrying around with you and not saying? One way to tell is when you are having the conversation with the person in your head that you need to have out loud. Make an agreement with yourself to figure out how to bring up those tough topics before year end – and then do it.
Ask for what you want. When you’re having those tough conversations, don’t just complain - request. Some of the things we have been longing to have in 2018 are just a request away – we were just too afraid to gather the guts to request. Continuing to think about these things will continue to take up your emotional bandwidth.
Change a Few Habits. To finish the year strong, make a few strategic, key changes in some of the habits, approaches and attitudes that you know are holding you back. Look at time management, organization, commitment, consistency, flexibility, resilience and see where improvements can be implemented and make them.
Set Realistic and Achievable Goals. Goals are most effective when we set them realistically within what we know we are capable of. What is important is setting goals, committing to working on them and making progress. The problem we sometimes run into is that we set goals but then do not have an adequate system that gets us there.
Make use of your Mentors and life coaches. The most successful people I know have an active, diverse accessible support team and select mentors that they tap into and rely on. This builds our sense of community, of belonging and our service to others. The more we show we belong to our community, profession and industry, the more we will be included.
Be your authentic self. Nothing makes a bigger impact or is more memorable than a person’s authenticity. Be who you say you are and always lead with your best qualities, ideas, actions and thoughts. Get to know what your best assets are and use them for the greatest good. When we touch people with kindness, caring and help, we are doing our best and fulfilling our greatest purpose.
Commit to Your Health, Fitness and Well-being. Without our mental, emotional and spiritual health and well-being, we will never live up to our God given potential. The best personal commitment we can make to ourselves is to be the healthiest we can be each day. Success and well-being are great partners - they create a state of mind that helps us through the most challenging times, change and transition. We cross many finish lines but never really finish the race. It is important to keep training to maintain strength and alertness.
We are afraid of pain, so much that we do everything we possible can in order to avoid experiencing it. We try to escape from pain in any way we can, but the more we do so, the more we find it in front of our face, staring at us right into the eyes. If you have ever struggled with trying to find a purpose behind your pain, then you need to read this. Maybe it’s a sickness that has lingered far too long. Perhaps it’s a long-standing medical ailment that will only get worse over time, accompanying you for the rest of your mortal days. Maybe it’s a relationship that’s causing you pain, other family members unable to get a handle on life and you’re left suffering the collateral damage. Perhaps it’s a job that drains you or a boss whose only aim in life is to make you miserable. Or maybe your pain has to do with your faith. You could be feeling that God is silent, absent and not answering your prayers.
The purpose of pain
Pain is a universal experience that serves the vital function of triggering avoidance. The pain sensation is a necessary part of being human. Dr. Paul Brand, a great medical missionary, worked with lepers and saw the suffering that they went through. One of the problems with leprosy is that the leper can no longer feel pain in the leprous parts of his body, and Dr. Brand talked about what a tragedy that was. He said, "If I had the power to eliminate human pain, I would not exercise that right. Pain's value is too great."
There is a protecting purpose of pain. Dr. Brand said that when a healthy person has an injured leg, he develops a limp that causes him not to put weight down on it. A leper will sometimes wear away a wounded part of his body because he feels no pain. He might burn a cigarette down until it burns his skin and never feel it. He doesn't have pain to protect him. Pain tells us something is wrong and protects us from harm.
There's also a unifying purpose of pain. Pain unifies the body. Dr. Brand said, "I can tell the health of a human body by its reaction to pain. If the body doesn't react to pain, I know that something there is dreadfully wrong." Have you ever hit your thumb with a hammer? The first thing you do is grab it. Then, you pop it in your mouth. Finally, you do a little dance. I don't know what your knees have to do with your thumb, but you have to do that dance. When one member suffers, every member suffers with it.
Finally, there is a correcting purpose of pain. It tells us that something is wrong. If we didn't feel pain, we wouldn't know we were sick, and we wouldn't seek an answer. World changers typically have their greatest impact where they have experienced the most personal pain.
Are you afraid of confronting pain?
We live in generation today that feels pain, but rather than trying to get the pain settled, we seek a sedative. That's the reason why many are on drugs. That's why some people look to alcohol or get involved in an adulterous affair. Others watch television and live in a make-believe world because television may be the biggest sedative of all. But as much as we try to avoid it, we need the pain to tell us there is an infection, a sickness. It has to be dealt with.
We’re naturally drawn to seek pleasure and avoid pain. It’s encoded in our DNA and our brain. We’ve found myriad ways to distract ourselves from pain lest there’s a moment of silence when we might confront it. We push pain deep into our unconscious, and keep it there, buried yet well alive, and we’re always afraid that at any time in might erupt and we’ll come to experience it.
There is significant purpose in your pain.
Are you hurting? Is there pain? Do you have a broken heart? We all experience pain, and even suffering at some time in our lives. While our natural reaction to pain is to avoid it, get rid of it, or numb it; we need to realize that God allows pain. You can’t create a masterpiece without mashing, sculpting, and molding the clay–and then throwing the whole thing in the fire. Something significant happens to us when we are void of what we depended on. There is significant purpose and promise in your pain. The pain you are experiencing now might be your life’s purpose later.
When the private life of any individual is weakened, the resultant public life is nothing but a theatrical performance. It is only when we take time in assuming full accountability for our thoughts, feelings, actions, that the results can direct our lives towards optimum productivity. Accountability is about being answerable to someone for one’s action. It is necessary to become accountable to others because by nature we are likely to fail morally, spiritually, relationally and financially. When we have accountability structures in place this can help us to keep the blind spots in check. In reality, there is little difference between Responsibility and Accountability.
The purpose of accountability
Accountability is not comfortable since one has to pour out themselves before another, exposing their inner thoughts in the process. There is usually fear of abuse because of this level of vulnerability but the benefits of being accountable are more hence one has to just make sure that they choose the right people to be accountable to. The purpose of accountability is to enable an individual to develop a consistent lifestyle of integrity and optimal productivity. This becomes even more important for individuals in leadership positions. It is very easy for individuals in positions of leadership to stray off course when they continually experience a “friendship deficit” and when they fail to intentionally cultivate relationships in which they must give answer for their work, walk and words. In ethics and governance, accountability is answerability, blameworthiness, liability, and the expectation of account-giving. In leadership roles, accountability is the acknowledgment and assumption of responsibility for actions, products, decisions, and policies including the administration, governance, and implementation within the scope of the role or employment position and encompassing the obligation to report explain and be answerable for resulting consequences.
What does it mean to be "held accountable?"
Unfortunately, most people view accountability as something that belittles them or happens when performance wanes, problems develop or results fail to materialize. According to Webster's dictionary, the word "accountable" is defined as "Subject to having to report, explain or justify; being answerable, responsible." However, in order for us to embrace accountability as a culture we need to define it in terms of personal choice and ownership. This implies that our motivation for accountability is a result of our own personal choice to rise above our circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary for achieving desired results. When we embrace this definition our mindset and attitude becomes one of continually asking ourselves, "What else can I do to rise above my circumstances and achieve the results I desire?" This requires a level of ownership that includes making, keeping and answering for personal commitments.
Finding the right accountability partners
One of the biggest ironies of life in relation to our personal development is that the best time to develop personal accountability is when we do not particularly need it. Unfortunately, when the need for accountability strikes, most people do not have any significant relationships on which to lean. The failure to invest consistently in deep friendships can cause our isolation to increase in times of trouble.
When we consider the dangers of not being accountable, it becomes of paramount importance that we find the right and qualified people to speak to our lives. The process of finding a qualified person is very important since it determines success in the accountability process. We need to share with people who know how to keep our confidence and when to confront us about our unhealthy secrecy. We should seek people who model the traits to which we aspire.
In your pursuit to find the right accountability partner, you can ask yourself these questions:
1. Who do I highly respect?
2. Who would not be afraid to push me and keep me focused?
3. Who would I never think of disappointing?
4. Who is also interested in what I am involved in so that we can be accountability partners for each other?
5. Who knows me–and my tendency to procrastinate?
6. Who will follow through on this commitment to me?
7. Who has the time to help me?
As we prepare to embark on the journey of accountability the following guidelines can be very useful:
· Establish clear goals and appropriate measuring mechanism for expected results
· Seek and identify people who are available to you – mature and possess specific expertise in the area of needed growth. Set regular and specific times for meeting and agree on what, how, when of the way forward
· Articulate and predetermine the specific consequences by establishing, documenting and communicating the outcomes of success or failure
· Be faithful to goals set and willing to change
It’s been said that failure is often our best teacher. It’s not fun to make mistakes, but when you learn hard lessons, these experiences help you make better decisions down the road. That said, a major benefit of accountability is the opportunity to learn important lessons without going through the painful process of making your own mistakes. Just talking to someone, whether it be a mentor, coach or peer, gives you opinions and real-life experiences to help you avoid pitfalls that would cost you time, money or a combination of both.
As year-end approaches and the New Year beckons, sometimes we may feel that the going is getting tougher as we race to complete what we started earlier in the year. The temptation to throw in the towel and give up is great. These are the moments when you need motivation and inspiration to keep forging ahead against all odds. Derek Redmond, Wilma Rudolph, Kerri Strug, are examples of some of the iconic figures from the history of the Olympic games. They are all proof that strength comes from within and it conquers any obstacle, pain, and injustice.
You can pick yourself up
It was the summer of 1992, in Barcelona, and the Olympics 400m semi-final race was about to start. Derek Redmond was at the starting line, fully confident, as one of the favourites for gold. And he was entitled to feel that way. Seven years before, in 1985, he broke the British record for the 400m race. In 1986, he was already seen as a rising star, having won the 4×400 metres relay gold medal at both the European Championships and Commonwealth Games. And the awards kept on coming. But nothing comes without a price. His career was interrupted several times because of injuries. In fact, before the 1992 Summer Olympics, he had undergone eight surgeries. His mental strength and perseverance brought him back on the race track every single time.
In Barcelona, he was at the peak of his career. When the race started, he sprinted forward, focused on getting the gold. Then something unforeseen happened: he tore his hamstring, mid-track. He fell to the ground, in agony, but after a short moment of despair, something unbelievable happened. He got up and struggled through to finish the race, with the help of his father. It was an incredible scene that made headlines, summing up the power of the human spirit. The injury turned out to be much worse than anyone expected. After seven interventions over the course of two years, Derek was forced to retire from his career as a professional athlete. Yet, he continued to excel and went on to play basketball for England. Derek Redmond now continues to inspire people around the world. He is an acclaimed motivational speaker and trainer who uses his experience in sports to encourage others to achieve greatness in whatever they do.
From Disability to Olympic Glory
Wilma Rudolph is an absolute proof that nothing is impossible. Born prematurely, in a family of 21 children, with little to no resources to sustain a professional sports career, Wilma had to face even bigger challenges when she was stricken with polio. Not to mention this was the 1950s, which made things even more complicated. But she had a fire burning inside her, an unstoppable strength that nothing, not even polio or social barriers, could ever stop her.
By the time she was 12, she had overcome polio, started to walk again, to her doctor’s’ surprise, and took up athletics. Eight years later she was already an Olympic champion. Wilma defied all odds and won three gold medals at the Summer Olympics in Rome, in 1960. She retired shortly afterwards, in 1962, and then devoted the rest of her life to coaching underprivileged children.
The Power to overcome Pain
Until 1996, the United States had never won a gold medal in Women’s Gymnastics. Hence, there was a lot of pressure, hopes, and support for Kerri Strug and her team, which the press called “The Magnificent Seven”. In an unexpected turn, things weren’t looking too hot after U.S. gymnast Dominique Moceanu fell in both of her events, leaving Kerri Strug as the only answer to finish things off for the gold. And things actually got worse when Strug also fell on her first vault and somehow messed up her ankle in the process. But like the plot to good and predictable sports movie, the U.S. somehow pulled it together and beat everyone. Strug went on to the second attempt at the vault, sticking it perfectly on one ankle, only to fall to her knees in agony once it was all over. It was a heart-stopping moment that landed Kerri on the front page of newspapers around the world and catapulted her into the spotlight. She won the US the first gold medal. Kerri Strug’s heroic performance has made history. How is it possible to run and vault again perfectly with a broken ankle? Almost 2 decades later, Kerri talks about that moment and what mental strength you need to accomplish greatness.
You too can develop mental toughness
Mental toughness is an abstract quality, but in the real world it’s tied to concrete actions. You can’t magically think your way to becoming mentally tough, you prove it to yourself by doing something in real life. It’s about training yourself to deliver consistently, being disciplined, going the extra mile, being accountable and above all, engaging in spiritual disciplines that strengthen your inner man. You can’t become committed or consistent with a weak mind. Mental toughness is like a muscle. It needs to be worked to grow and develop. If you haven’t pushed yourself in thousands of small ways, of course you’ll wilt when things get really difficult. Mental toughness is built through small wins. It’s the individual choices that we make on a daily basis that build our “mental toughness muscle.”
Many professionals recognize the value of a SWOT analysis for their companies. Understanding a business' Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats gives leaders a new perspective on what the organization does well, where its challenges lie and which avenues to pursue. However, few people realize that a personal SWOT analysis can do the same for an individual in pursuit of their career or relationship goals. While most professionals look at their strengths and weaknesses, a SWOT analysis takes things a step further by forcing people to think about the external factors that bear heavily on the health and direction of their careers and relationships. The personal SWOT analysis is a combination of a Self-assessment tool and a Strategic planning activity. It is created in light of an individual’s personal mission statement and their vision of where they see themselves in the future. A personal SWOT analysis can also help people become the best versions of themselves.
Enhanced Self Awareness
Self-assessment is a key activity in striving to achieve a sense of one's personal best. The SWOT analysis exercise ignites an enhanced awareness of what one brings to the table in a balanced light of both advantages and challenges. Organizations roll out elaborate schemes to remain competitive as well as innovative. Why wouldn't individuals want to achieve the same level of excellence for themselves? In assessing strengths, an individual can examine the advantages they have that others don't have. They can also examine what it is they do better than anyone else. Strengths can also be defined in terms of what personal resources an individual can access. In assessing oneself, it is also important to consider what other people see as one’s strengths. An individual can also consider which of their achievements they are most proud of.
In assessing weaknesses, the individual can examine what tasks they usually avoid because they don't feel confident doing them. They can also look at what subject(s) they tend to struggle with as well as their negative habits and what they wish they were better at doing. In my personal development consultancy practice, I have found that most people struggle to draw up comprehensive list of their weaknesses in the same way that they excitedly do for their strengths. In light of this I always encourage them to get an independent and objective assessment from someone else who knows them.
Recognising your dominant weaknesses
The recognition and admission of your dominant weakness can save you emotional and mental fear of failure and devastation. Brilliant, articulate, and powerful people have permitted a weakness left un-addressed to eat away at their lives like a small cancer. Little weakness if permitted with time can become big and ruin an individual and all they have laboured for. Greed, lust, lying, pride, rudeness, rebellion, stubbornness, flippant tongue, stinginess, wrong communication skills, slander, intolerance, boasting, laziness, procrastination, disrespect for people’s time, time wasting lifestyle, inability to keep appointments, extravagant lifestyle, prayerlessness, and even gossip can grow until that weakness becomes a raging inferno. You cannot afford to ignore your weaknesses. They are like a living person within you, a living organism. It is a force, silent and deadly, that moves your life toward destruction. If ignored, it will destroy every dream, sabotage every worthy relationship, and ultimately make you a monument of disgrace.
Your weakness will pursue, embrace and seek any friendship that permits, feeds, or enjoys it. The contentious spirit in one person can infiltrate an entire community through those who allow it to exist unchecked and uncorrected. Beware of people in your life who feed negativity and division by feeding your weakness. All the comments and complaints of your family members, friends and colleagues at school and office about your character and behaviour are pointers to the weaknesses that must be overcome by you.
Your weakness has an agenda to overtake your life
Your weakness has an agenda and a plan to overtake your life. Your weakness will bond you with wrong people and influences. It will resist divine and purposeful relationships and make you uncomfortable in the presence of those who refuse to justify it. Your weakness loves to be kept in secret and can emerge without warning. What you fail to master in your early years will master you in your latter years. It is true, what you fail to conquer in your early youth will destroy you in the closing years of your life. It is never too late to turn things around. Your weakness is best dealt with in its early stages. Time weaves a steel thread that becomes and unbreakable chain. Many of the habits that we enjoy today may enslave us tomorrow. Overcoming your weakness brings great reward. What is the most dominant weakness in your life? What is it that consistently dilutes your testimony, breaks your focus, and creates depression? You may hide it for a season, but time exposes all things.
With a few weeks remaining in the season of the year, the pulse of time seems to race faster and often fails to match up to tasks that remain untouched or partially completed. For many this can be a nerve wrecking period of anxiety as they make concerted efforts to cramp in everything that escaped completion in the foregone months of the year. This time of year, many people's thoughts turn to taking stock — seeing how things went this past year, and how things need to be different next year. The best of intentions will be dominated by whatever system you have had in place. If you have no system, then either old habits or just plain chaos will dominate, regardless of your intentions and motivation. The choices you make to either build or empty your emotional bank account leads to definite consequences.
How much are you depositing?
Years ago, Stephen Covey introduced the Emotional Bank Account, a concept that is becoming more pertinent in this era of diminishing quality relationships. Covey's premise is that relationships are like bank accounts that begin with a zero balance. His advice is that we should never withdraw more than we deposit or seek to "get" before we give.
When continuous deposits are made with another person through positive, healthy and quality conduct, a reserve is built up in our emotional bank account with that person. Levels of trust towards us increase as we exhibit more integrity, appreciation and understanding. On the other hand, insensitivity, insincere actions, and being overly critical depress our account, because withdrawals are being made from it.
Take time to introspect
As we engage in strategic thinking which implies planning a roadmap to a place of success and significance in our lives, a critical area that we often overlook is that which pertains to the vitality of our immediate circles of influence. It is very possible that the relationships that matter the most to us can be diminishing every day without us being conscious of the depletion taking place. As we near the close of yet another year it is very important that we take time to introspect and review how well we have been paying attention to our emotional bank accounts in as much as we are conscious of the status of our deposits into our financial bank accounts. Whilst financial bank deposits can easily be tracked and accounted for, more conscious effort is required as we account for the status of our emotional bank accounts. The Emotional Bank Account (EBA) is a metaphorical expression of the amount of trust that has been built up in a relationship and relates to that feeling of safeness we have with another human being.
How consistent and deliberate are we in making deposits into healthy, vital relationships? Where large reserves of trust are not sustained by continuous deposits, organisational cohesiveness, families and marriages will deteriorate. If organisations, family members and partners find themselves operating from a generally defensive position it may be a reflection that their emotional bank accounts are overdrawn.
Relationships by their very nature are strategic instruments that can propel and accelerate our progress in ways that money alone could never achieve or match. As we pursue the creation of trans-generational wealth in our strategic plans, our goals and definitions of success would have a faulty premise if we overlook the depth of wealth that lies in our relationships. In the same way that we measure and account for every cent in our financial growth, we ought to also pay attention to every action and measure every word in our relational transactions. A Strategic Life Plan (SLP) which lacks an emphasis on how we plan to nourish and manage our personal, business and social relationships is at most not sustainable.
Are you loving things and using people?
Relationships should occupy a superior position which is clearly articulated in the vision, mission, strategy, goals and budget within our life plan. When we value relationships in our strategy we are less likely to fall into the temptation of “loving things and using people” but rather we develop a culture of “loving people and using things” to reach our ultimate goals. When we have a wealthy emotional bank account, there is stability to the extent that we can afford to have disagreements without immediately feeling the need to write off the relationship. Conflicts can be resolved when our account is not overdrawn. This requires thoughtfulness, kindness, loyalty, openness, honesty and truly trying to understand others.
If you were to list the most important people in your life and look at those bank accounts today what would you find? Strategic thinking starts by paying attention to the little things. As the year ends and as we prepare for the festive break, what little things could you do to nourish and replenish those accounts? In our review of the year gone past, may we take time to diagnose and assess the depth of withdrawals in our relationships with our family members, employees, colleagues and strategic spheres of influence.
Needless to say, the month of November invokes a myriad of emotions associated with the beckoning of the eleventh hour. For those who have met and surpassed their annual targets, plans are on the cards for a relaxed annual year end retreat. For others who are still frantically trying to play catch up with time, the panic button has just been activated. As the New Year beckons, this is the time to truly reflect on why you are spending your time doing the things you are doing. Who is directing the actions you take on a daily basis? Sometimes it is the outside forces that are calling the shots for you. Are you taking the actions that someone else wants you to take? Are they congruent with your goals? Are you climbing down the blind alley of someone else’s agenda?
Your dream or someone else’s?
Goal-setting and resolutions time is upon us. You might be loaded down with someone else's dreams for you. It's more common than we think - we unconsciously take on other people's wishes for us. It can be difficult to tell the difference between something we want for ourselves and something a cherished friend or relative wants for us. We care about others and know that they care about us. Caring isn't the problem. It's adopting their aspirations for us without examining whether we actually want them. Unless they're obviously nagging, it can be hard to tell where your dreams stop and someone else's start.
What matters most to you?
Many times when we are unsuccessful in achieving our goals, we lament that there is not enough time to get done what we want to get done. If we are honest with ourselves, we may find we waste a lot of time doing mind-numbing or mindless tasks. The bottom line? There are many things in both the public domain and in our personal lives that can serve to distract us. Instead of keeping our eye on the prize – our priorities – we end up wasting time watching and concerning ourselves with matters that take us away from living our lives according to what matters most. Personal investments in unfulfilling relationships, constant texting, celebrity gossip, … the list of potential time wasters is endless. What are the things that define your wasted time index? Which ones can you begin to avoid as you prepare for a more productive year?
Managing versus owning your time
Time is the raw material of getting anything worthwhile done. Time is precious and valuable. More valuable than money. Time is the only element in the world that is irretrievable when it’s lost. Lose money and you can make more. Lose a job and you can find another. But lose time and it’s gone forever. There are 168 hours every week. And you have an average of 2,400 minutes to yourself each week. That is a monumental amount of time. Where could it possibly go? Or better still, where are you spending all those hours? There are four real ways to spend your time: thought, conversation, actions and distractions. Choose wisely! You alone can take ownership of your time and decide how much time to spend on your thoughts, conversations, actions and even purposeful distractions that will lead to your success. “You can’t let other people set your agenda in life” says Warren Buffett.
Do you know what you want?
All the evidence shows that people who know what they want are more likely to get what they want. After all, if you don’t know what you want, you will end up working for someone who does. Without your own agenda you will spend the best part of your youth and energy delivering someone else’s agenda. What also seems true is people who do manage to know what they want possess a kind of ‘inner compass’ allowing them to make decisions and change their circumstances to move nearer to it.
Are your goals consistent with your values?
Maybe you don’t believe in doing what you said you wanted to do. What is the reason for this? Is it something you want? How do you want to feel when you achieve your goal? Are you prepared to tell anybody and everybody about your goals? Why not? Aren’t you proud of what you are going for in your life? Are you going after what you want or are you working someone else’s agenda?
There are ten questions that we must answer about our goals, in this instalment we will share the top three:
1. Are Your Goals Written Down? – Writing your goals down is powerful. It makes them real. It clarifies them, and helps bring definition and accountability to them.
2. Are They Your goals? – Before you pursue them, make sure that your goals are truly your own. Or are they goals that have been put upon you by expectations of your family, job, or society?
3. Do They Have a Deadline? – Goals without deadlines are like a race without an end. You need a finish line to define your goal and when you will accomplish it by.
Owning your time is not just about having more free time; it’s about knowing what you want and using the time you’re given productively to get there. Greg McKeown says that “Remember that if you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.”
“The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?”
This was the response that David Sarnoff received from his associates when they rejected a proposal for investment in the radio in the 1920s.
David Sarnoff's vision, inexhaustible energy, and aggressive personality led to the creation of 20th century radio and television broadcasting and the roots of our wireless communications today. Sarnoff was born on 27 February 1891, the oldest of five children, outside Minsk in imperial Russia. He and his family immigrated to the United States in 1900 and settled on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Sarnoff’s first job was as a newsboy; the existence of so much information so cheaply available was a revelation. At fifteen, his grade schooling finished, to support his family he found a job as a messenger boy for the Commercial Cable Company. When his boss refused him time off for Rosh Hashanah, he joined the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America as an office boy and then a telegrapher.
Driven to have an impact on the information industry, Sarnoff was by 1912 managing the new Marconi station atop Wanamaker’s department store in Manhattan. During the sinking of Titanic, Sarnoff sent and received wireless messages for 72 hours, gathering names of survivors for anxious relatives. Sarnoff learned about the business, the technology, and the customers, and more promotions followed.
In 1917, General Electric bought American Marconi and combined its radio patents to form a new telecommunications company, the Radio Corporation of America (RCA). Sarnoff was promoted to general manager of RCA in 1921. Although he had advocated broadcasting entertainment and information since 1915, his superiors continued to focus on point-to-point communications. That July, he helped promote a boxing match as the first broadcast sports event. Up to 300,000 people listened, helping drive sales of home radios, and RCA became a much larger company than anyone else foresaw.
But Sarnoff was not satisfied with home radio's success. He advocated the merger of radio with the phonograph, portable radios, network broadcasting (NBC), and development of sound on film for the movie industry. In addition, from 1929 to 1939, as RCA's president during the Depression, he allocated $10 million to develop an electronic television system, based largely on the work of Vladimir Zworykin, who invented a practical electronic camera tube. When other developers and their patents got in Sarnoff’s way, he fought them hard. Philo T. Farnsworth was one of the few who stood up to Sarnoff and won, while joining with RCA to advocate commercial TV in 1940-41.
During World War II Sarnoff served as a U.S. Army officer after bigotry kept him from serving in the U.S. Navy during World War I. He served on General Dwight Eisenhower’s staff, helping coordinate allied communications for the invasion of Europe, and was promoted to brigadier general. For the rest of his life, he would be addressed as “General.” After the war, Sarnoff championed electronic colour television in an eight-year battle with rival company CBS, which advocated an electromechanical system. His support of innovation at the RCA Laboratories, renamed the David Sarnoff Research Center in Princeton, New Jersey, led to the establishment of a colour TV standard in 1953.
Is it Rejection or Redirection?
As you look back on your life, you will realize that many of the times you thought you were being rejected from someone or something you wanted, you were in fact being redirected to someone or something you needed. Seeing this when you’re in the midst of feeling rejected, however, is quite tough. As soon as someone critiques, criticizes, and pushes you away – as soon as you are rejected – you find yourself thinking, “Well, that proves once again that I’m not worthy.” What you need to realise is that possibly, the other person or situation might not be worthy of you and your particular journey.
Rejection is necessary medicine; it teaches you how to reject relationships and opportunities that aren’t going to work, so you can find the right ones that will. It doesn’t mean you aren’t good enough; it just means someone else failed to notice what you have to offer. Which means you now have more time to improve yourself and explore your options.
Will you be bitter for a moment? Absolutely. Hurt? Of course, you are human. There isn’t a soul on this planet that doesn’t feel a small fraction of their heart break at the realization of rejection. For a short time afterwards you will ask yourself every question you can think of…What did I do wrong? Why didn’t they care about me? How come?
But then you have to let your emotions fuel you in a positive way! This is the important part. Let your feelings of rejection drive you, feed you, and inspire one heck of a powerful opening to the next chapter of your story.
Go beyond the pain of Rejection
Rejection wounds hurt deeply because rejection attacks the very person that we are. It destroys our self-esteem, our self-value, self-worth and our purpose in life. This is why it is one of the most common tools the devil will use to destroy a person's life. God never wanted us to feel rejected or abandoned. He desires for you to know who you really are, and realize how deeply God loves, accepts, and appreciates you, so that you can live out the fullness of what all God has ordained you to be.
The warm, sunny month of October heralds the beginning of last quarter of the year. In this part of the world, October is also beautifully punctuated by the lovely lush foliage of jacaranda tree flowers which sometimes span across boulevards, line the streets and dot the parks and gardens carpeting the floors with their bee-attracting blossoms. These are a beauty to behold for many yet a nuisance to others because of what they signal and represent. For students who are sitting for final exams the jacarandas are a loud reminder that a time of reckoning has arrived as exams beckon. As the last quarter of the year begins to unravel, many individuals and organisations are caught up in a frenzy of anxiety as they realise how far they are from their targets, goals and ambitions yet so near to the close of the year as the days seem to intimidatingly run over each other.
Tracking and Measuring Your Progress
When you’re heading towards a big, distant goal, it’s all too easy to get discouraged. Think of it like going on a long walk. If you have no idea how much further you have to go, or how far you’ve come, you’re likely to feel discouraged – even despairing – as soon as you start to get tired. But if you know you have already travelled five kilometres and have four more to go, you will feel encouraged knowing that you are over half way. Knowing where you’ve got to often provides additional motivation, and it can even become part of a challenge against yourself or against a friend. You may be focusing on a few key goals – and you are fully committed to them. You may feel that you are well on the way to succeeding, but there’s one crucial thing that can help- tracking and measuring your progress. Whatever your goal – getting out of debt, losing weight, starting your small business, writing a book – you’ll get there faster by tracking and/or measuring how you are doing. Tracking means keeping a record of what you’ve done. It’s about your actions. Measuring means knowing how far you have progressed. It’s about your results. So why bother? Why spend time and effort in writing down what you’ve done or what level you’ve reached? Some goals are not necessarily easy to measure. The problem here is that the “unmeasurable” goals are often the ones we really struggle to achieve. Because we cannot see what progress we have made, we end up feeling that we’re going nowhere
How far are you now?
Tracking your progress heightens the commitment, helping you see what is important, identify pitfalls, find trends, and celebrate successes. Before you can see how you are progressing, you need to know your starting point. Take a few minutes to think about where you are in relation to your goal at the moment. There are various tools and methods that can help you in tracking or measuring progress, in this article we will only look at one tool. This tool is called “Journaling.”
Journaling is ideal for goals where progress is not straightforward and linear. Journaling lets you work through feelings and ideas, and can help you to figure out where you are in relation to a particular goal. Three techniques that work well here are:
- Writing a simple list of actions you have taken during the day – a bit like a to-do list, but after the event. This can help encourage you to stay focused and take action each day.
- Writing down a list of things that went well, or things that you did better at, each day. This is a great way to concentrate on the areas where you’re growing.
- Writing a list of major achievements each week or month, with your goals in mind: a good way to see if you’re neglecting any goals. I call this an “achievements book”. Your journal can be handwritten or on your computer.
What Are You Measuring in Your Life?
As the saying goes, “You are what you count.” Is what you’re counting defining or defying you? Ask yourself if the goal is still relevant. Goals are established based on your situation at the time of setting them. Has your situation relevant to this changed significantly? If there has been a significant change, is it still necessary or are you still able to achieve this goal? Is this goal still what you really want to do? Remember, goals MUST be relevant otherwise you won’t have the motivation to achieve them. Remind yourself why this goal is really important to you, and ask whether this is still the case. Are you using your Action Plan? Your action plan is your road map to achieving your goal, which is your end destination. If you’re not using your map, how do you expect to get there? Think about how you have set up your action plan and whether there is another method that will suit you better. Are you achieving the deadlines on your action items – if not, why not? Deadlines are there for a reason – to keep up momentum! Perhaps your deadlines were unrealistic or your time has been directed to other more urgent activities – either way, think about why so you can adjust your action plan. Do you need to alter your action plan/ timeframe? If you said “No” to either of the above, you need to make an adjustment to your plan. Remember that action plans need to be flexible enough to allow changes where necessary and to keep the plan’s relevant, but don’t change the goal posts too often – try to plan more realistically in the first place.
Famed writer Elbert Hubbard is known to have said “To escape criticism do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.” Nobody likes being criticised but, unfortunately it is a fact of life. Criticism can be crippling and the fear of being criticized can be catastrophic. It can prevent you from taking those huge leaps that lead to greatness and hinder you from reaching your full potential. To be able to respond to criticism with nobility and detachment is an important life skill, which few people have.
The beginning of the new year is often characterised with great enthusiasm in goal setting and life planning yet many individuals are quick to set these aside when they hit tumultuous times and the year is not progressing as planned or hoped. Unfortunately, there is no way to avoid criticism, especially when you put yourself out there and do something bold and daring, but there are ways to learn how to handle criticism with grace. No one is perfect, we all have flaws and we can either embrace them as small foibles that make us who we are, or work on improving them.
Criticism falls into two categories - constructive and destructive. Sometimes when people give us helpful tips about how we can improve, commonly referred to as ‘constructive criticism,’ we immediately go into defensive mode and interpret it as destructive criticism. When someone is sincerely trying to give you tips and insights as to how you can better some area of your life, this should not be interpreted as mean or malicious. Rather than immediately dismissing what this person has to say, give it some thought and really consider whether it has merit.
How do you take criticism?
The more emotional we are, the more limited our thinking becomes, and the more questionable our reactions are. Handling criticism has much in common with handling failure, and indeed, criticism and failure frequently present themselves together. The natural immediate response to criticism is to feel discouraged and unhappy. However, as with failure, criticism has a very positive side. In the first place, if you are being criticised it may well be an indication that you have taken a risk and chosen to tackle something which is a challenge to you. Receiving such criticism may be infinitely preferable to being praised for something which is simple and predictable. Secondly, as with failure, criticism may be regarded as valuable feedback and a necessary part of the learning process. In some situations, criticism may be unjustified. If you feel that this is the case, you should try to respond courteously, but assertively. This may be difficult, especially if the other person is your senior. Where criticism is justified and presented to you in a constructive manner, you should express gratitude to your critic and seek to take appropriate corrective action. This may in some circumstances require you to make an apology. It can be difficult to deal with destructive, hostile criticism, and this can be especially hurtful to somebody who has low self-esteem. The main aim is to remain assertive and not mirror the critic's behaviour by responding aggressively. Since destructive criticism often arises from jealousy and spitefulness, the best policy may be to ignore it. Even constructive criticism can feel really uncomfortable. However, gentle feedback which includes drawing out all of your strengths allows you to learn something about yourself. Being defensive is not a helpful response because you will miss the point if you immediately react defensively. It is important to try not to automatically take it personally, react aggressively, immediately try and prove the other person wrong or to concentrate on finding fault in the other person. It is important to aim at developing a positive attitude to any criticism which comes your way. See it as a way of gaining self-understanding and as a contributor to your personal development. Unjust and destructive criticism can make serious demands on your inter-personal skills, and it can therefore be worthwhile developing these skills by attending assertiveness and other similar workshops.
Dealing with the biggest Critic in Yourself
Self-criticism and negative self-talk can be extremely damaging for your self-esteem. You should seek to nurture your self-esteem so that you are less susceptible to the negative effects of criticism. By criticizing ourselves all the time, we open the door for others to join the party. If you have a strong sense of confidence, one that really comes from within, you will find it less challenging to engage with criticism. When you find yourself falling into the trap of self-criticism it is important to take time to write down your achievements/accomplishments and also devote time for making loud affirmations to yourself regularly.
The post-election period in Zimbabwe has unravelled with it some very interesting insights about life which have provided me with boundless food for thought. Over the last few days I have listened to many conversations around meritocracy and the President’s choice of a “refreshed” cabinet. These reminded me of a conversation I had with a colleague earlier in the year, when we were exchanging notes about the benefits of a society that practices meritocracy. Our candid chat naturally gravitated towards China’s meritocratic model of governance and we discussed the pros and cons of this model and whether it could be adopted as best practice in society. This conversation was recently rekindled in my mind as I read and listened to different analysts’ comments on the new cabinet. Prior to the cabinet appointments, the President was under immense pressure to set up a “refreshed cabinet that would gain public confidence with capacity to turn around the country’s economic fortunes.”
Efforts and Reward Systems
This article is not another analysis of the cabinet nor is it about the selection criteria thereof. Rather, it is my intention, based on the aforementioned reflections, to inspire every individual, myself included, to interrogate our respective motives and efforts in light of the reward systems inbuilt in society. Many of us have ambitious aspirations based on what we believe to be our calling, life assignment or simply dreams and hopes. Based on these aspirations, we often invest great time and effort so that we can receive some type of commensurate reward or recognition on the same. These investments can be in our spiritual growth, our personal development, our relationships, our career advancement prospects, and in some instances political ambitions to serve the greater good of society. It is very natural to feel frustrated and disappointed when we do not receive the recognition or reward that we feel should be returned on these efforts. Let’s take a moment for self-introspection. When we invest our hundred and one percent effort into something of significance, what do we expect in return? What if the reward we receive is only internal fulfilment without public appreciation? How do we deal with the disappointment of not making it to a list we thought we automatically qualified for? What would you do if you feel short-changed by a process within an organisation you have faithfully paid loyalty and allegiance to? Would you seek to find redress if you felt that you are the man or the woman for the job yet you were overlooked on the list? Can we take it lying down if we believe that our efforts are not getting the recognition we feel they deserve?
Meritocracy and Recognition
Meritocracy is a political philosophy which holds that certain things, such as economic goods or power, should be vested in individuals on the basis of talent, effort, and achievement. It is an efficient system of assigning power positions in different structures which has proven to be effective over the time. Whilst meritocracy is based on the principle of rewarding a person’s effort, in doing so, it disregards the fact that not everyone starts on the same footing due to circumstances out of one’s control. One of the primary concerns with meritocracy is the unclear definition of "merit." It cannot be ensured that this merit is within the reach of all the members of a society. What is considered as meritorious can differ with opinions as on which qualities are considered most worthy, raising the question of which "merit" is the highest—or, in other words, which standard is the "best" standard. The reliability of the authority and system that assesses each individual's merit is another point of concern. As a meritocratic system relies on a standard of merit to measure and compare people against, the system by which this is done has to be reliable to ensure that their assessed merit accurately reflects their potential capabilities. These are some of the few pros and cons of meritocracy.
What is the motive behind your effort?
Having briefly reflected on meritocracy, it is needless to say that receiving public recognition is often a key to greater job satisfaction. It demonstrates that your contributions have been noticed and the work is appreciated. However, not every position lends itself well to inherently getting noticed, and that can leave you feeling as though your efforts are being taken for granted. Sometimes our greatest snare is the feeling of entitlement. We all need an occasional pat on the back—literal or metaphorical. In the final analysis however, we ought to ask ourselves why we are investing time and effort in what we are doing. Is it for public recognition or for life changing impact?
Back to my earlier reflections on post-election Zimbabwe, I hope you concur that every system is designed with inevitable limits, the number of cabinet seats included. In a recent conversation I had with a colleague who works in the Office of Participatory Governance in the Philippines, I realise that sometimes we limit our prospects, potential and what we can create for the greater good by assuming that we can only have impact if we are in a particular position. Whilst it is very natural to be fearful that the time and effort you are investing is not yielding the recognition that you had hoped for, I am convinced beyond doubt that we can live out the fullness of all what God has ordained in us to be if we all fully apply ourselves and lead with excellence from where we are. Instead of despairing that your obvious talents are going to waste - or at least are not being recognized, I propose that you examine the motive behind your effort and continue to lead strong from where you are.
Many pulses start racing wildly in this last quarter of the year and eyes take frantic glances at the clock as time seems to furiously tick away in shameless competition with “unticked” tasks on many To Do Lists. Piled lists of yet to be done tasks appear to monstrously overshadow the face of the last few weeks waiting anxiously to wrap up yet another year before unveiling a new season. The proverbial envelope that contains the achievements of the year teasingly swings its flaps as it impatiently waits to tuck in, seal and send off yet another year into history. Many people's thoughts continually turn to take stock, counting every minute and garnering the energy and strength required to immerse themselves into overdue tasks before the proverbial envelope is snatched from under their nose to be tucked away in another year past. Whilst so many are in the energised “execute, complete and wrap up” mode, procrastinators are paying a much higher price as everything they have casually tucked away further to another day during the year suddenly demands attention, speaking in the dark monotones of the eleventh hour. As if the shame of it all was not enough, some are entertaining the tempting thoughts of further moving the pending tasks into yet another New Year.
All of us occasionally put off boring or unpleasant tasks – clearing the piling in-tray, fixing broken furniture, paying bills or organizing dysfunctional areas of our lives. On the other hand, procrastinators repeatedly postpone acts that would lead to success or more fulfilled lives through self-defeating delays. In the previous instalments in this series of measuring our progress we examined the need to review set goals and making relevant adjustments where necessary. We also established the importance of developing a system of accountability to ensure ultimate success and avoid the risk of going through the next 12 months getting nothing but the same results of past years. If you have found yourself putting off important tasks over and over again, you are not alone. In fact, many people procrastinate to some degree – but some are so chronically affected by procrastination that it stops them fulfilling their potential and disrupts their careers. The key to controlling this destructive habit is to recognize when you start procrastinating, understand why it happens and take active steps to manage your time and outcomes better.
What is Procrastination?
You procrastinate when you put off things that you should be focusing on right now, usually in favour of doing something that is more enjoyable or that you are more comfortable doing. According to psychologist Professor Clarry Lay, a prominent writer on the subject, procrastination occurs when there is “a temporal gap between intended behaviour and enacted behaviour.”
Is it possible to Overcome Procrastination?
If you are honest with yourself, you probably know when you are procrastinating. The first step is to recognise that you are procrastinating. Some of the key indicators of procrastination include:
• Filling your day with low priority tasks from your To Do List
• Sitting down to start a high-priority task, and almost immediately going off to do something else
• Leaving an item on your To Do list for a long time, even though you know it is important.
• Regularly saying "Yes" to unimportant tasks that others ask you to do, and filling your time with these instead of getting on with the important tasks already on your list.
• Waiting for the “right mood” or the “right time” to tackle an important task at hand.
There are certain actions that can easily be mistaken for procrastination. Putting off an unimportant task for example, is not necessarily procrastination; it may just be good prioritization. Putting off an important task for a short period because you are feeling particularly tired is not necessarily procrastination either, for as long as you do not delay starting the task for more than a day or more. If you have a genuine good reason for rescheduling something important, then you are not necessarily procrastinating. However, if you are simply “making an excuse” because you really just do not want to do it, then you are guilty of procrastinating.
Once you have recognised that you are procrastinating the second step is to establish why you are prone to this behaviour. One reason is that people find a particular task unpleasant, and try to avoid it. Another cause is that people are disorganized. Organized people manage to fend off the temptation, because they work with prioritised “to–do lists” and schedules which emphasize how important the task is, and identify precisely when it is due. They will also have planned how long a task will take to do, and will have worked back from that point to identify when they need to get started in order to avoid it being late. Another major cause is having underdeveloped decision-making skills. If you simply cannot decide what to do, you are likely to put off taking action in case you do the wrong thing.
The way Forward
Habits only stop being habits when you have persistently stopped practising them, hence using as many approaches as possible will maximize your chances of beating them.
• Reward yourself for achievements
• Ask someone else to check up on you
• Identify the unpleasant consequences of NOT doing the task
• Plan your day each day, get organized and Keep a To-Do list. Delete or delegate from your To-Do List those things that do not relate to your top 3-5 goals.
• Break the project into a set of smaller, more manageable tasks
• Get clear about what you want in life and write down all your goals within set time frames
Procrastination is habit forming. Even if your honest intention is to only put something off temporarily, the very act of procrastinating sets up a chain reaction that makes it easier to do it again. Procrastination enlarges the task. The more often we put off doing something the more intimidating it feels. Eventually, the task gets out of proportion in our minds that chances are we will probably never be able to get ourselves to take the necessary actions.