3 simple steps to change your reality

I grew up with two older brothers. I learned at a young age how powerful the skill of observation was. I got to watch my brothers as they spread their wings and I learned what not to do when spreading mine (or at least how to get away with it when spreading my wings could end in trouble). For me, watching their mistakes gave me power over my environment. I didn’t have to change my environment to be successful; He simply had to understand the environment in which he was operating. Understanding the rules of engagement when it came to my father gave me the power to influence outcomes in my favor.

Over the years, I have developed several basic operating principles that have given me the ability to overcome where others struggle. That doesn’t mean I don’t have my struggles. I would never be so arrogant as to suggest that I have somehow cornered the wisdom market, because I haven’t. But I have been able to excel in situations where others get caught up in the chaos. I believe that applying these 3 steps can position you beyond even your own expectations.

  1. Develop a life project.

I want to share with you a real conversation that I had with someone not too long ago. To set the stage for the conversation, I was on a phone call with this person discussing how to request a raise and/or promotion from her manager. The conversation turned into a discussion about not having a plan for his life. It’s a bit of a long conversation, but it demonstrates the need to develop a life plan. The conversation when like this:

TB: “I told my boss I don’t want another promotion until I get paid for what I’m doing now, at the level I’m at and not <15% of the range within my current level."

KR: “good luck with that strategy”

TB: “I don’t have a strategy.”

KR: “Well, that shows. What level are you?”

TB: “I don’t know, it must be an L4.”

KR: “Don’t you know?”

TB: “No.”

KR: “You’re like Alice in Wonderland.”

TB: “I haven’t seen that movie in years… can you tell me what that means? I’m not sure how to take that…”

KR: “Check it out on my website… I have a little article there.”

After a moment of silence, while looking at my website, he came back and said…

TB: “Okay, point taken. I would have to say I agree then. Not with my whole life and decisions, but with regards to my current work situation. I’m not motivated by what I do or what my company does, per se. My goal in life is not to do what I’m doing here and now. I’m a people person and I feel motivated and inspired when I see others achieve their goals and I’ve helped them achieve them.”

KR: “This, what you do every day, should be a tool to achieve your ultimate vision.”

TB: “So, I guess, that’s why I say what I have to say about where I am here, right now. I don’t see a connection between what I want to do with my life and my career and what I’m doing here today.”

KR: “Helping others achieve their goals sounds like a good thing, but it’s a bit altruistic. I think it’s an excuse for not managing your own life well.”

TB: “Unfortunately, I am someone who puts others before myself. I think I manage my own life well, but I feel better when I know that others feel good about themselves.”

KR: “Sounds kind of co-dependent”

TB: “That may be true. I guess it depends on how I see myself, my life and others. There are many people who want and need help.”

KR: “In some way we all help and need help.”

TB: “I’m very aware of my shortcomings and who I am and how I act as a person, which can hurt sometimes, but I feel like it’s a strength. Yes, I feel that I have lived a very intense life, which has made me, as you have defined it, altruistic… good or bad. But from the life I’ve lived, I have a lot to offer people and I enjoy doing it.”

KR: “Do you realize that altruism has to do with selfless concern or devotion to others? The key word is ‘selfless’; that means you do things because it’s good for them and it has nothing for you.”

TB: “I interpreted altruism as being selfless and caring about others. I’m selfless…unfortunately, it’s a flaw.”

KR: “But your actions bring you satisfaction, therefore they are not altruistic”

TB: “The act of helping others gives me satisfaction, yes.”

KR: “So even if it’s not the best thing for a person, could you do something because it makes you feel good?”

TB: “No. I’m just talking about the act of helping others, in which I’m not selfish.”

KR: “So everything you do is what’s best for the person?”

TB: “If they’re accomplishing what they set out to do, and it’s positive, and they’re not hurting themselves or others… then I feel good. I wouldn’t use the word ‘all’.”

KR: “But how do you know what is best for that person?”

TB: “It’s through understanding what their intentions and goals are that I want to help them achieve. What was your mission with this?”

KR: “No mission really…just trying to understand your drivers and why you sell yourself so little.”

TB: “That’s fair. I underestimate myself. That’s something I’m working on… but like many things in life, it’s a work in progress. And I’ve got a long way to go.”

KR: “last question… so, are you going to keep walking?”

I shared this conversation because it is about someone who has never really developed a life plan. When he develops a life plan, he has no questions about the connection between what he wants to do with his life and career and his relationship to what he is doing today. I have always believed that every experience today is a springboard to the next level tomorrow. When you have a life plan, you can connect today’s pixels with tomorrow’s images. A life plan allows you to execute the second step to change your reality.

  1. Keep a laser like focus.

Having a life plan puts something tangible in your hands and in front of your face to keep you on track. Every decision you make must answer a critical question. How does this decision or action move me toward achieving my ultimate life vision? A properly structured life plan is a summary of your life vision. Your life plan has several layers. To give you a quick lesson in building a life plan, simply build the plan from the top down and execute it from the bottom up. Although I must warn you that narrowing your focus to actually writing a life plan is difficult in a world of chaos.

If you’re like me, there are so many distractions that can cause your mind to wander. To help you, take a look at my book Planned Excellence. It is a resource that will help in the life planning process. Maintaining a laser-like focus requires you to take proactive steps to develop and execute your life plan. Having a written life plan keeps a tangible reminder in front of you about your life and what it stands for.

I keep my life plan in a written document that I call my “Personal Life Plan and Strategic Business Model.” In this plan there are four essential elements. There is my Life Plan, which consists of my Vision, Mission, Purpose and Aspiration. There is my Achievement Plan which consists of my Strategic Imperatives, Goals and Objectives. There is also a representative release of claim deed that lists all of the things over which I have relinquished control. Finally, there’s the metrics tracker that captures all the data that shows me if I’m winning. These four elements help me stay focused on being successful.

Having this plan written allows me to recognize when I’m getting off track. It becomes the catalyst that motivates me to make decisions that ultimately lead to success. Focus is the ability to block out all the distractions and chaos in the world to achieve your ultimate wishes. Golf requires the player to focus on where the clubhead will contact the ball. Raise your head and you will straighten up and spike the ball. This ability to stay focused is critical to shooting success. If the player loses concentration it can mean the difference between a great approach shot or a shot set up in the woods.

Once you’ve developed a life plan and learned the discipline of staying focused, you need to be realistic with your execution. By anticipating that problems will arise, you can incorporate the discipline of persistence into your life. That is the third simple step that will change your reality.

  1. do not give up

It’s all too easy to convince yourself that when the going gets tough, success doesn’t matter. This is because you have been conditioned to quit when the perceived value of success is less than the perceived cost of success. Often the things that are hardest to achieve are the things of greatest value. I am convinced that on many occasions we give up just before achieving success. I know from personal experience there have been times when I did not have persistence. When I was in the military I enrolled in the college plan. I was financing my college education, but I lost focus. Like so many others, I got caught up in the chaos around me and lost sight of my dream. I made the fateful decision to withdraw my college fund to buy a 24-track mixer and pursue a chance to be in a rock band.

That decision cost me thousands of dollars and years of my life to gain what I had lost. I didn’t have a life plan, I lost focus and for a while I gave up. Four years after leaving the service, I regained my focus, spent thousands of dollars, and spent 6 years earning an Associate of Arts degree in Business Administration. It would be another 12 years before I went back to college to spend thousands more dollars and 3 more years of my life to get my Bachelor of Management. In all, that moment of losing focus and giving up took 21 years of my life and tens of thousands of dollars to accomplish what I could have accomplished in four years after my military service.

The point is this; When you have a life plan, your reality changes. Set a clear direction and chart a path to your success. Not having a plan leaves you dependent on fate. Last time I checked, fate had a bad record. Once you have a plan, you need to build the discipline of focus. Focus allows you to measure your progress. Success is based on success. In NASCAR racing it is said that precautions beget precautions. This means that after a booking, everyone competes for a position at the restart. If you have a life plan and stay focused, you will never have to restart. As someone who has been through multiple reboots, trust me, it’s better for you to run on clean air than have to reboot.

However, if you feel discouraged, remember to never give up. Having the necessary persistence to keep moving forward even in the face of strong headwinds. These three steps will make you successful. They will change your reality. You don’t have to depend on fate for your success. Write your last wishes. Stay focused on the straight and narrow, and never give up.

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