One of the most important things about leadership is influence, and the most important person to influence is none other than yourself. Because that’s true, the question is, “How can we best influence ourselves?”
Here are five ways the smartest people do this.
1. Make peace with the uncontrollable.
Figure out the things you can change, and then change them. If you can’t change something, learn to live with it. This means changing your attitude about the uncontrollable. You learn to live with it by making peace with it. I’ve discovered (repeatedly) that worrying about something is not a good problem-solving technique. Yet it becomes my default mode unless I replace it with something else. If I make peace with it, then I can quit worrying about it.
You feel like you’re doing something, but it only makes things worse. By not worrying, you make space for new thoughts and ideas to enter. Every life has positive and negative dimensions. Let go of what you can’t control. Invest your energy in things you can. Your attitude is the first place to start.
2. Let go of the past.
Nothing is gained by pointing out what others did, or what’s wrong with them. Yet we do this with ourselves. Focus on how to make the future better rather than why the past was bad. We learn from the past, but we don’t live there. We learn from the past and invest in the future by living today.
Preparing today will eliminate repairing tomorrow. Take note of the beauty of today unfolding around you. If you assign it to the future, you will never experience it. If you fixate on the past, you have already missed it.
3. Focus on what’s important.
Life is full of bunny trails. Don’t waste physical and emotional energy on the trivial. This will help eliminate what Marshall Goldsmith refers to as vicarious living. Vicarious living gets us nowhere. We do this through TV, gossip columns and our personal gossip groups. It’s easy to talk about the exploits of the Kardashians, the latest meltdown of Bill Cosby or the hottest information about a mutual acquaintance. It’s the trap of talking about others rather than discovering how we can make a difference.
Is the investment on the topic really worth it? What’s it worth 10 hours from now? Ten days from now? Ten years from now? Playing it forward will help you determine its present value. You can discuss, debate, argue and be right, but is it worth it? Train your mind to use the 10/10/10 approach before you invest time in the discussion.
4. Invest in yourself.
This is not an act of selfishness. If I don’t take care of me, I can’t take care of you. Investing in me allows me to invest in you. Investing in yourself might mean putting some money, time and energy on the line to contribute to your growth and personal development. It’s the natural flow in life. You cannot give what you don’t have.
5. Invite feedback as an opportunity to be transparent.
Feedback allows you to learn new information and skills. But it also makes you more transparent. It helps you develop an openness about who you are. Feedback is not about pleasing others. It’s an exercise in learning about yourself.
Growing in your personal curiosity and openness is attractive. This kind of person is trustworthy, optimistic, flexible, poised and cheerful. Transparency helps produce these traits.
One of the greatest challenges in life is influencing yourself in a world that’s constantly pressuring you to conform your image to theirs. It can be immobilizing. Someone is always richer, prettier, smarter, stronger, younger, wiser and funnier than you. The paradox is that the more we influence ourselves to be ourselves, the more people like us. And we like ourselves more, too.
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