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Take “Smart-Cuts,” Not Shortcuts
Shortcuts can backfire. Instead, adopt a simple, straightforward approach and use smart-cuts instead. This simple, smart approach – based on planned, efficient actions that produce a sizable benefit with a minimum of effort – offers the most direct strategy for success.
Simple strategies are “appetizing” so you like them, they’re “digestible” so they’re easy to use and they’re “memorable” so you can recall them when you need them.
“People will always be in pursuit of something. It’s the way our minds work.”
If you run into a stressful situation, evaluate it with the “fit, fight or flight” formula. If the circumstance fits you, stay with it. If not, fight to make it better or take flight and leave it behind.
To attack a problem, adopt the three-part “successful intelligence” strategy developed by Dr. Bob Sternberg, author of Successful Intelligence: 1) Be “analytical” to evaluate problems and ideas, 2) be “creative” to develop innovative approaches, and 3) be “practical” to use your ideas and evaluations to tackle problems.
“We may as well identify what that something is and set a strategy to get there and fast.”
Four “Building Blocks”
Taking a new, simple approach to life calls for establishing these “four foundations for success”:
- “Psychological swagger” – Generate self-confidence by merging how you “think, feel and act” to combine your physical and psychological strengths.
- ”Reading” – Operate in a constant learning mode; be open to learning about yourself. Heed criticism as well as praise. To learn something new, “see it” by developing a visual image of what you want to learn, “say it” by speaking aloud what you’re learning; and “start it” by taking action so new information becomes part of your repertoire.
- “Leading” – Develop the ability to think quickly and focus deliberately.
- “Accelerating” – Build momentum and hold yourself accountable for your progress.
“Our minds are very powerful, and we can either help ourselves by guiding our thoughts or hurt ourselves by letting them go on autopilot.”
“Install a Security System”
The more confident you are, the more you can vanquish your insecurities and the more secure you’ll feel about your life and yourself. Confidence is the bedrock of your personal security system. To boost your confidence, target learning a useful new skill. Develop it by reading or watching videos to learn everything you can. As you develop your new skill, ask your friends and colleagues for feedback on how well you’re doing.
Create a “confidence corral” of everything that supports your self-confidence. This could include your clothes, the people with whom you spend time and your internal conversations.
“Often, people end up somewhere they don’t want to be because they had a blind spot from only listening to those things they wanted to hear.”
Challenge Your Doubts
Hanging on to self-doubt has a decidedly negative effect. Self-doubts can be as corrosive to your overall welfare as the doubts that other people may raise about you. You are in charge of the “emotional beliefs” you create. Often, self-doubts aren’t realistic. Use six steps to eliminate them:
- “Scan for your doubts” – Write them down as they enter your mind.
- “Understand and verify” – As you target a doubt, ask helpful questions, for example: What is the origin of this doubt? Does it make any sense?
- “Identify what the doubts are preventing” you from accomplishing – Gain “forward momentum” by identifying what you could accomplish if you didn’t have doubts.
- “Put doubt in your doubts” – Ask, for instance, “What if I was confident right now?”
- “Shout out the doubt” – Use psychological swagger to transpose doubts into positive statements. Turn “I wasn’t afraid” into “I know how to manage my fear.”
- “Repeat” – As you continue to identify and attack your doubts, they will vanish and your self-confidence will grow.
“The action you take at decreasing your blind spots and decreasing the blind spots of others will have a direct impact on your success.”
“Releasing Control to Gain Control”
Your natural instinct is to stand up for what’s important to you. That’s human nature. But standing up for yourself in every possible instance just amounts to “stubbornness.” Avoiding stubbornness requires a three-step process of giving up control:
- “Recognize” – Be aware when you slip inadvertently into obstinacy.
- “Release” – Temporarily let go of old attitudes. Ask if your idea is “worth fighting for.” Determine “will this matter to the big picture?”
- “Revisit” – Review your thinking: Do you still have the same feelings?
“If you are intentional and strategic about how you approach your work and life goals, you can get there faster and directly.”
“Become an Owner”
Accept ownership of your life and operate with an “ownership mentality,” not “victim mentality.” Don’t give in to that. Instead, recognize that you, not someone else, are in full control of your thinking and point of view. An ownership mentality requires making the conscious decision to maintain a positive attitude. Don’t constantly complain about your situation and circumstances.
“Mind Muscle Memory”
Athletes spend countless hours practicing so that they don’t have to spend even one crucial microsecond thinking before they act during competition. Their constant practice eventually creates muscle memory. Employ the same principle with your mind. Program your mind so it works automatically in powerfully positive ways. Create sustaining “positive thought patterns.”
“Doubts are emotional beliefs that we create and give power to. You need to analyze your doubts just like you would analyze a business decision.”
Mind muscle memory leads to “success and optimal performance.” As you develop mind muscle memory, be careful that your thoughts are positive, not negative. If you constantly think negative thoughts, you’ll program your mind accordingly.
“Getting Stuck in Reverse: Shifting Gears”
You spend more time with yourself than you do with anyone else, so do yourself a favor: Start giving yourself positive, encouraging self-advice on a regular basis. Consciously avoid negative thinking that can put your life into reverse mode.
“We all have insecurities. Those of us who use them can lose them.”
Retired basketball superstar Michael Jordan is great at positive thinking. He wouldn’t get discouraged when he missed a shot. He would stay upbeat, which gave him the best opportunity to make his next shot. Use similar positive thinking to keep upgrading your performance.
“Selective Listening and Talking Back”
Conventional wisdom states that people should be good listeners. This is not always the best idea. Sometimes, other people purposely communicate negative messages that only bring you down. Listening respectfully to people who want to injure you can be self-destructive.
“When we feel progress, that gives us confidence and motivation and we move forward fast.”
Even more destructive is internalizing the negative messages some people use to hurt you. To illustrate, an unthinking but common negative, hurtful statement might be, “You won’t be able to do this.” Taking that message to heart creates a “barrier belief” – something that can limit your potential. Don’t let barrier beliefs take root in your thinking.
“Be Savvy, Not Slimy”
Politics rules in business and in life. However, many people find politics distasteful. They think of political actors as artificial, unscrupulous people who play games to get ahead. However, developing relationships and amassing influence are legitimate, necessary skills. Think of these skills as evidence of your “political savvy.”
“The best way to recognize if you are focusing too much on yourself is to ask one simple question: “Do I understand a point of view other than my own?”
Having political skills enables you to develop essential “relationship capital.” People will support those who possess a broad network of friends and connections. Work to develop relationships with other people. Be alert for those who could help you.
“Judge a Book by Its Cover”
Leverage your instincts – your “reaction radar” – to make the best decisions. Most often, trusting your gut is the right decision. See your intuition as one just data point among many that are available to help you figure things out. Use this three-part approach:
“Taking action toward something is much more powerful than hiding or moving away from something.”
- “Read” – When you first encounter a new person or a new situation, take note of your gut feelings.
- “Reset” – Put aside your initial reaction and consider the person or situation from multiple perspectives.
- “Respond” – Now that you’ve weighed your initial reaction and considered other points of view, you can make a reasoned, reliable judgment.
“Analysis Paralysis; Decision Precision”
Thinking things out is good, but overthinking and taking forever to decide is not a good idea. When you take too long to make decisions, people lose confidence in you. But people feel confident in you when you make quick, smart choices. Follow this proven, three-part plan for making decisions:
“A willingness to give something up to gain something is not novel, but it is effective. Think about how many Olympic athletes exchange a normal and relaxing life to make it as an elite competitor.”
- “Define” – Be specific about the problem you need to resolve, determine who else you should involve and know the deadline for making a decision.
- “Deliberate” – Think about your different options, the various outcomes and the impacts each choice will generate.
- “Decide” – Make your choice. Your goal should always be forward motion.
“The Pressure Cooker”
Leaders must learn to handle constant pressure to earn the confidence of their followers. Pressure manifests itself as stress due to three factors: “lack of control,” given that most people have little real control over the things that affect them; “lack of capability,” based on being asked take on challenges beyond your reach; and “lack of connection,” which manifests as not having needed support in tough situations. To reduce your stress, build your abilities by taking these steps:
“The biggest mistake people make with setting priorities is they confuse them with preferences. A preference is something that is nice to have….A priority is something that comes first, as in prior to your preference.”
- “Control” – Make two columns on a sheet of paper: “Can control” and “Can’t control.” Sort all the factors pressuring you into these two categories. Make plans to deal with the items you can control.
- “Capability” – Combine visualization with deep breathing to help you feel more capable. When you feel calm, spend 20 minutes visualizing improved performance in the areas where you feel less capable.
- “Connection” – The more connections you have, the more people will be available to support you when pressure builds.
Terrible bosses and dysfunctional colleagues can ruin your life at work; difficult people can make your life outside of work miserable. But dealing with genial people at work and at home is a joy. Yet, troublesome people make you feel far worse than the genial people make you feel good.
Don’t let difficult people get to you. No matter they say or do, stay “strong and keep moving ahead.” Use conversation to redirect confrontational and challenging behavior. Plan your conversations with difficult people in three stages:
- “Reflect” – Establish that you want to create a common ground with another person. Communicate that you are confident and feel good about yourself.
- “Redirect” – Ask leading questions to get the conversation moving. Be “assertive,” so the person you’re talking do can’t derail the interaction.
- “Reinforce” – Review your discussion, and talk about how you will relate in the future.
Keep It Simple
Be “simple and strategic.” What you believe governs how you behave. If you think you can be great, you have a much better chance of becoming great. Don’t expect to change everything overnight. You are a continual work in progress.