Think “present past” or “future back.”

“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.”

Winston Churchill

Do you choose to see the world through a lens of positive or negative opportunities? Is your first inclination to look for the reasons why something won’t work? Or do you have a tendency to see the silver lining in every cloud? How you choose to answer these questions will have a profound impact on your life.

Everything that happens creates an opportunity for growth and development. One technique that I have found helpful is to reframe the current situation and think as if I were recalling it a year from now. Ask yourself this question. One year from today what is the biggest opportunity that was presented I am so glad I didn’t let slip through my fingers?

In many ways, the bigger the difficulty, the larger the opportunities that exist to change your world, and the world of those around you. Reframe your mind to think about the world from a “future back” perspective and suddenly all those challenges will present themselves as opportunities…

Who are you?

“I have found that the greatest help in meeting any problem with decency and self-respect and whatever courage is demanded, is to know where you yourself stand. That is, to have in words what you believe and are acting from.”

William Faulkner

Do you have a written list of the things that you hold most dear? A list of principles or values that you use to guide your thoughts and actions? How long is your list? Is it a list of things that describe the person you want to be or the one that you actually are? I would suggest that if you list is longer than three things it is too long. You can’t be everything to everyone. Your values can’t be aspirational or only apply some of the time. It must be the deep bedrock of who you are as a person so that no matter what storm is going on around you, you have a very clear picture of what is really important.

If you don’t have this written down then carve out some time to think about it. Brainstorm a long list of all the principles that matter to you and then narrow it down so that you can have, in writing, that which truly matters. Look at it every day and ask yourself this question.

Am I living my life in a manner that reflects what I believe?

Endurance…

“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

I recently read “The Shackleton Way” and was absolutely fascinated by the leadership skills and expertise that Sir Earnest Shackleton displayed during the epic “Endurance” expedition attempt to cross the Antarctic continent. It intrigued me so greatly that I then read “South” which is Shackleton’s book on the topic and am in the process of reading “Endurance” which is considered to be the seminal work on the subject.

I am continually amazed by the fact that in the face of the greatest of unknowns, and with no outside influence or support, that men could rise above the uncertainly of the next moment and survive for months at a time in the most grueling of conditions. The name of their ship, the “Endurance” was incredibly apt for what was to come.

Knowing that others have survived conditions that are far beyond contemporary understanding helps put everything in perspective. Having a positive attitude and focusing on what is truly important is how one perseveres. On the other side you will be far stronger than how you went in…

Advise vs. compel…

“To advise is not to compel.”

Anton Chekhov

When someone asks you for advice are you focused on giving them your perspective or your permission? If you are offering advice in a “tell people what to do” manner then you are creating and reinforcing a hierarchal culture that seeks permission before acting. So be very careful that when you offer advice isn’t seen as a directive.

If you cross the line and deliver a message that is focused on compelling others to do things your way, and only your way, you are killing creativity, innovation, engagement and discretionary effort. There is a time and a place for issuing a mandate, but by and large it isn’t when people are seeking advice or perspective.

Quicksand…

“The more sand that has escaped from the hourglass of our life, the clearer we should see through it.”

Jean Paul

How is it that you only start to really understand the value of life and time when you have gained some experiences and taken a few knocks? As the sand in our hourglass slides past are we focused on maximizing the value of each grain? Or are we lost because we are focusing on the next big thing that may or may not be important at all?

Don’t let a single grain of sand slip through unappreciated and unvalued. This is our one and only life. Why would you waste any of it?

Are you willing to be wrong?

“Always be willing to look at both sides of the argument. Understanding the other side is the best way to strengthen your own.”

Jim Rohn

Are you willing to be wrong? Maybe a better question to ask is “do you have to be right?” As a leader how do you make it safe for others to be wrong?

Following the wisdom outlined in the quote above is a great way to gain perspective and show your team and those around you that you don’t have all the answers. It demonstrates a willingness to be wrong, a capacity to be vulnerable. Understanding the other side of the argument might reinforce your own beliefs but it just might give you perspective that you didn’t have before you sought the additional information.

And just what if along the way to seeking understanding and perspective you learned something that changed your mind? What if the other side of the argument provided the answer you didn’t have before? What if you were wrong? In order to truly learn, you have to be willing to be wrong…

Surrender your ego…

“He who closes his ears to the views of others shows little confidence in the integrity of his own views.”

William Congreve

If you aren’t willing to listen to, and learn from others, then by default you are saying that your ideas are better, your thoughts are better, and that you are always right. That’s a pretty big gamble if you ask me.

I assume that others might know more, have a different perspective, or offer something that I haven’t considered. There is a great advantage in seeking input from others but only if you surrender your ego and truly listen to learn.

Outside in…

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

Wayne Dyer

What challenge or opportunity in your life would be improved if you could get an outside-in perspective? There are only two ways to make this happen. Ask for help, or seek to change your own perspective. What’s preventing you from doing either one?

%d bloggers like this: