The 3 Gaps That Are Holding You Back From Where You Need To Be

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What are the three gaps that separate you from where you are today and where you want to be?

If ever you’ve felt out of sync or filled with uncertainty, you may have stumbled upon the three gaps. What you believe, what you value, and what you spend your time on are all key points in creating a harmonious life. So how do you narrow those gaps or close them altogether?

Hyrum Smith is one of the original creators of the popular Franklin day planner, co-founder of the Franklin Covey Company. He is a bestselling author and known for his high impact speeches. His latest book is The 3 Gaps: Are you Making a Difference? I recently interviewed Hyrum on the LEADx podcast to better understand how we can approach the gaps between our goals and ourselves. (The interview below has been lightly edited for space and clarity.)

Kevin Kruse: You say that if we close the gaps in three areas of our life: ‘Beliefs,’ ‘Values,’ and ‘Time,’ we will live a more balanced, productive life. Let's talk about the ‘Beliefs’ gap and what you call the ‘Belief Window’. What is that?

Hyrum Smith: The question that we have to ask with the belief gap is: Is there a gap between what I believe is true and what is actually true? If there is a gap between that, then I'm going to be in some pain. For example, suppose I believe that gravity only works in the morning. That may be a problem for me in the afternoon. The issue is, is my belief system lined up with reality?

We've discovered and created a simple blueprint that we talk about in the book on how to identify and understand what our belief system is. The ‘Belief Window’ is a simple idea that we have in front of us hanging from a little wire attached to our head, this window that hangs right in front of our face. We call it the ‘Belief Window’. We look out through this window. We accept information from the world through this window. On that window we have placed our beliefs and the principles that we believe are true. Whether those principles and beliefs are true or not is a whole different matter but we happen to believe they're true.

For example, suppose I believe that my self worth is dependent on my possessions. If I believe that's true, what will I spend my life doing? I'm going to spend my life acquiring stuff. You see a lot of people who have a lot of stuff. Fancy cars, big house, and they're miserable because maybe that's not what my self worth is all about. Here's another example that— you'll love this one —suppose I believe that men are better than women. I go to work and my new boss is a woman. Have I got a problem? Absolutely. Has she got a problem? Short term. Trust me, it's a short term problem.

The whole idea behind the ‘Belief Window’ is, are the principles and beliefs on my belief window true? How will I know if they're not? Well, the behavior that is driven by those beliefs will work or it won't. The question I have to ask is, are the results of my behavior meeting my needs over time? If the answer is “No”, that means I have a bad belief or an incorrect belief on my belief window. This simple model, we call it the ‘Belief Model,’ helps people challenge their beliefs and ask the question: “If I believe this and it drives this behavior, is that behavior going to work for me?” If it doesn't, then we do surgery on our belief window.

Kruse: We can have limiting beliefs that we don't think we're capable of something, as an example. 

Smith: Absolutely. If I believe in my mind that I can't do math and I'm a junior in high school, I'm not going to do well in math. Of course, that was true in my case. I couldn't do math. Our behavior is driven by our beliefs–our good behavior and our bad behavior. The issue is it changes the whole conversation. Instead of attacking behavior, I start asking the question, what are the beliefs on my belief window that made me do that? When you get into the ‘time gap’ and the ‘value gap’, what I believe on my belief window has a whole lot to do with how I manage my time and what I do with my value system.

Kruse: Tell me more about the ‘values gap.’

Smith: The question that comes out of the values gap is, is there a gap between what I value, what matters most to me, and what I'm actually doing? If there's a gap here–and this is a big one, I have to tell you–I'm in pain. For example, suppose I value being physically fit but I weigh 350 pounds. I'm in pain. Why am I in the pain? Well, there's a whole lot of reasons why I'm in pain but one of the biggest reasons is because what I'm doing isn't in line with what I have decided matters most to me. Suppose I value being financially okay, but I've half a million dollars in debt then I'm in pain.

How do I experience this inner peace, this self assured okayness? I've got to close that gap. I've got to bring what I do in line with that value. The blueprint that we've discovered here is really quite simple. I'm just going to flash through this for you. What we ask people to do is to write their own personal constitution in three simple steps.

Number one: identify what your governing values are, and write them down. Two, write a statement describing what they mean to you. Three, prioritize the values. This is not rocket science nor is it easy. It's simple, but not easy.

One of the things I try to do is I take people through the experience I call the ‘eye beam.’ I put an eye beam over the Grand Canyon. It's four inches wide, and it's 1,100 feet straight down. I find someone who's got a child under the age of two and I say, “Would you come across this eye beam for $1,000?” “Are you kidding?” “No.” “Would you come for $2,000?” “No.” “$10,000?” “No.” “I have your two-year-old by the hair over the edge of this. Would you come for your two-year-old?” “Dang right, I would.” Now we just discovered one of their governing values and that value is ‘I love my child’. Safety has value, money has value, but I think I'd risk the eye beam for the child.

The question that I ask people to write down and to tattoo on their right side is “What would I cross an eye beam for?” The answer to that question comes out in, “What are my values? Do I really value my family? Do I really value integrities? Do I really value physical wellness? Do I value education?” Then this issue… If I value that, what am I doing about it? That's how those three steps bring you into this wonderful, personal constitution.

We built a nation on this. That's what our founding fathers did in 1787. They say in a meeting in Philadelphia, where you are right now, and they yelled and screamed at each other for four months. They basically said to each other, “What would we cross an eye beam for?” They just crossed a hellacious eye beam: the Revolutionary War. Principles, values, ideas came up like the freedom of speech, religion and all the rest of it. Then they wrote a paragraph describing what those meant and that became our Constitution. No law is ratified in this nation until it's measured against our set of values for consistency.

Why not manage your life like that? The values gap. You close the values gap and I will tell you, it's an unbelievable experience. It's a fabulous control of one's life happens when you write your own constitution.

Kruse: Have you changed or updated your personal constitution?

Smith: Yes. Every year, I update my personal constitution. What I have discovered personally is that I haven't dropped any values, but I add them. I started out with four or five. I now have 16. The number of them isn't important but what is important is, is it what I really value, or is it what somebody else thinks I ought to value? That's really, really critical. The values don't change but what does change is the written description of them. As we grow and mature, we discover the whole idea of integrity grows and the paragraph grows. It means more to us. The whole idea of physical wellness… When I first wrote my physical wellness thing, it just had something about how much I weighed. Now it's got all kinds of stuff in it about my cardiovascular wellness and what I eat.

Your constitution does change, you amend it, but the basic values don't change.

Kruse: My three main values are usually health wealth and relationships, but the important part is to reflect on what they mean to you.

Smith: Oh, absolutely. Those are three wonderful values. I will tell you that most human beings probably share those three values you just described. If I really sit down and put in writing what those values are, what they mean to me, the likelihood of my doing something about them goes up dramatically.

The actual process of writing that constitution is amazing.

Kruse: You also quote Edward Bliss who said “The more time we spend on planning a project, the less total time is required for it” Is putting the time in ahead important? 

Smith: Yeah. You know what's interesting is that the time management books that have been written over time, if you go back and look at the Top 20 Time Management Books in the last 100 years, the basic principles in each book haven't changed one iota. How we implement them has changed, the tools with which we implement them has changed, but the basic principles have not changed.

When it comes to the time gap, here's the question you have to answer in the time gap: Is there a gap between what I did today and what I said I'd do today? If there's a gap there, then I have a problem. What's the blueprint for closing that gap? If there's one simple idea that has the biggest impact on my personal productivity, it’s the concept of and a commitment to taking 10 to 15 minutes every single day and planning my day. Now, that sounds simple. Oh yeah, everybody does that. Baloney. No. Ninety-two percent of the American executives in this country do not do that. When you ask them, “Why don't you?” Do you know what they say? “I don't have time.” I say, “Are you kidding me?” All kinds of studies have been done about that.

On a project that's going to take three hours, if you spend an extra 20 minutes planning, you can cut an hour off the execution of that project. Happens every single day. If there's one thing I would ask people to do, morning or night, whatever it is, you find a place to be alone and decide what matters most to you the next day or that day.

The problem is a lot of people say, “Well if I plan my day, then I won't have any flexibility.” What happens is when you plan your day, you have now given yourself a shield against the unexpected. What's the unexpected? That's the interruptions. You know what an interruption is. This is when somebody comes into your office under the mistaken belief that you care. The issue is how do I get that person out of my office? The whole idea is that the unexpected is going to happen. Interruptions are going to happen. If I don't have a plan and an interruption comes up, I'll always go to the interruption. If I have a plan, I can ask myself a question: “Which has the greatest value to me right now? The interruption, the unexpected, or my plan?”

I will tell you, the impact that has is remarkable as well. Quite often, the unexpected will trump the plan. I understand that. It's a conscious decision. It's a proactive decision and not a reactive decision. Most people spend their lives reactive everyday. They get to their office, they turn on their computer, “You've got mail,” and I'm screwed the rest of the day. Maybe in my plan I set apart 80 minutes to do emails and that's it. I'm going to take care of those and then I got other stuff I'm going to do. I'll tell you, if you take control of your life like that… When you have plan, you develop an unbelievable power to say “No.”

Kruse: I always like to challenge our listeners to get 1% better each and every day. Is there something specific that you can challenge us to try out today?

Smith: Absolutely. I would go right to that 10 to 15 minutes committed planning every single day. If people did that for 45 days–10 to 15 minutes isolated. This is not shower time. This is not travel time. This is isolated time with myself deciding what I'm going to do today and the sequence in which I'm going to do it today, people would be absolutely stunned. Not only would they be stunned, but they'd intimate everybody in their office.

Kevin Kruse is a New York Times bestselling author, host of the popular LEADx Leadership Podcast, and the CEO/Founder of, which provides free world-class leadership training, professional development and career advice for anyone, anywhere.

CEO of LEADx, and NY Times bestselling author, of Great Leaders Have No Rules and Employee Engagement 2.0. Get a FREE demo of the LEADx platform at