Life is a series of choices about attitude and action. We wake up, we make choices — consciously or not — about how we plan to approach our days and what steps we plan to take. All of these choices are driven by something deeper . . . what we value, our particular worldview, our thoughts about what will or won’t affect the day ahead of us. And these days turn into weeks, months, years and decades.
So in the end, what do we want to have done? How do we want to have lived? What do we want others to say about us at our funeral?
The most powerful tool I’ve ever learned is to identify outcomes (end results; changes to skill, knowledge or attitude) before thinking about methods (tactics, plans, action steps). I learned this as a planning tool when I first became a manager, but over many years of implementation, I’ve come to think of it as a brain-wiring strategy, a mental Swiss Army knife, and a way of life.
If, for example, our outcome is to look back on each day, week, etc. with a sense of accomplishment, pride, integrity, and joy, we have a clear path for figuring out how to get there — our methods can be to identify the values we want to live by and our most important priorities, then take action driven by those deep roots.
I’ve found a three-tense benefit to this way of thinking:
- It can drive us forward, knowing that our action plans are driven by deeper meaning. Exercising regularly means something different when it’s in service of the higher goal of living well for as long as possible to spend as much time as we can with the people we love. Even at 5 AM, love is a powerful motivator.
- It can make us more accepting of the present moment. Sitting in an airport waiting for a delayed flight is maybe never great, but is more okay when we know it’s in service of our value of pursuing adventure. (And that, to me, just feels better. You can’t change the fact that the flight is delayed, but you can change how you feel about it. Every time. It’s like having a superpower.)
- It gives us a way to reflect, assess, and ultimately, grow. Did that action align with who I want to be? If not, can I take action now or in the future that is in line with my values? Imagine (totally hypothetically of course) that, in a fit of bad mood, you snap at someone you love. It happens. And when we look at it through this lens, we have a couple of choices — do nothing (maybe not in line with who we want to be, but easier), or repair it (perhaps harder, but ultimately the thing that we’ll be most proud of).
Dig deep, show up, win your day.
If you’re thinking differently than you were before reading this post, and like it, don’t stop now. I offer a limited number of free 30-minute coaching calls each week, and one of them could be yours. All you need is yourself and a desire to see what’s possible. What are you waiting for?