The Importance of “Important”

The late Stephen Covey was well-know for his classic book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”  Habit #3 is entitled, “Put First Things First.”  It’s all about knowing what is important and honoring it by our actions.  Looking at the culture, it would seem that defining importance is more difficult than one would think.  People seem to be confused by this.  What happens?  Confusion becomes a barricade to any action, much less the right action.

Newton’s first law of motion says that a body at rest will remain at rest unless an outside force acts on it.  This is a great metaphor for human behavior.  A person will move from inaction to action only when motivated by something sufficiently important.  Most barricade-busting motivation fits into the following categories: Wants, Needs, and Responsibilities.

  • Emptiness Chooses Wants. — People fill voids with something they want.
  • Pain Chooses Needs. — People relieve pain with something they believe they need.
  • Conscience Chooses Responsibilities. — People choose right actions in obedience to their consciences.

Importance is established when one or more of these motivators takes center stage in the person’s mind and heart.  Sometimes people coincidentally choose Right Actions when Responsibility does not play a significant role.  That is, we sometimes do the right thing for the wrong reason.

Admittedly, the formula is not quite so straightforward.  The strength of the motivators is constantly rising and falling because of emotional fluctuations, changes in personal perspectives and changes in external circumstances.  It’s a dynamic environment.

Here’s what I am certain about.  When an opportunity intersects with importance, we give it the red carpet treatment.  Which means, we mark the calendar.  We rearrange appointments.  We set aside funds.  We post reminders. We tell people.  We tweet.  We follow through.

It doesn’t matter whether the opportunity is one you created or a gift from someone else.  Importance is still the motivation necessary to cause action.  Until then, the opportunity is just another competing option in our busy lives.  Only what we perceive to be truly important finds its way onto our calendars, into our budgets and into our conversations.

What’s on your calendar?  What’s in your budget?  What are you talking about?

Thoughts About Growth

It’s easy to learn and grow, right? How hard is it to slide an educational CD into the player and push the play button? Is it not just as easy to attend a workshop or read a book as it is to go fishing or watch TV? Throughout human history, there have never been more readily-available opportunities for learning and personal improvement than there are today.

At the same time, it’s just as easy to NOT do these things. In our culture of comfort and security, people more often learn passively by coincidence or by accident rather than strategically and intentionally. So, they end up with an MBA (Masters in Barren Activities) or an MFA (Masters in Fruitless Acts) from the “School of Hard Knocks.”

Growth is a change process that begins with a single step. Few types of change are more important than those related to learning and growth. I’m compelled to ask, what steps are you taking to become the person you were meant to be? How do you feel about your growth process?

“We began to realize that if we wanted to change the situation,
we first had to change ourselves. And to change ourselves effectively,
we first had to change our perspectives.”

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, p. 18.

A growth program looks different for everyone. Yesterday I participated online in a Webinar. I also set aside 30 minutes to reread portions of a phenomenal book about leadership. Today, I will pick up where I left off in “E-Myth Mastery” by Michael Gerber. These kinds of development activities are helping me become more efficient, effective and balanced in my life and business. If it wasn’t working, I would have stopped years ago.

How do you approach your personal and professional growth? Maybe a good book is your next step. This week, many are mourning the death of Stephen Covey, the brilliant thinker, writer and teacher who gave us “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Have you read his book or listened to his audio recordings? If not, consider getting started today on adopting these seven habits.

1. Be Proactive

2. Begin With The End In Mind

3. Put First Things First

4. Think Win/Win

5. Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood

6. Synergize

7. Sharpen The Saw

How long has it been since you attended a workshop? Recently I attended workshops in Houston and Chicago, but you don’t need to travel that far. A small business owners’ workshop is coming to Dayton on September 20, 2012 featuring Tom Ziglar and Howard Partridge.  It’s called “Born to Win.”  Get the details and register at: www.HowardPartridge.com/borntowin/

“Never become so much of an expert that you stop gaining expertise.
View life as a continuous learning experience.”
— Denis Waitley (1933- )

Completing the Mission

Life consists of countless small missions and hopefully some Big, Hairy Audacious ones, too.  Whether big or small, there is one common denominator — the human factor.  People are susceptible to distractions that cause them to lose focus on the mission.  Sometimes the distractions are real, sometimes they are figments of the imagination.  But, the fact is, human beings are “focus challenged.”  I suspect there’s a little ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) in all of us.

What distracts you from completing your mission?  What can you do about it?  There are useful tips for enhancing focus, such as developing a personal mission statement.

“… develop a personal mission statement or philosophy or creed.  It focuses
on what you want to be (character) and to do (contributions and achievements)
and on the values or principles upon which being and doing are based.”

— Stephen Covey, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, p. 106

Great advice!  But, as valuable as a mission statement is, I’m sure Stephen Covey would agree that it is only the beginning.  The ability to get focused, stay focused, and restore focus when we lose it requires a comprehensive, on-going  program of preparation.  Such programs are often called “personal development” or “professional development” or “leadership development.”  The point is, if consistent and strategic physical conditioning prepares us for our physical challenges, doesn’t it make sense that intellectual, emotional, and spiritual development is at least as important?  I wonder how you are conditioning yourself to become stronger and more effective in dealing with the challenges of your mission.

Here’s my invitation to you.  Watch this cool video I discovered about staying focused on the mission.  It’s a humorous and powerful presentation that will have you ROFL.  When you’re back on your feet, think of ways you can develop yourself to deflect distractions and complete your mission.  Maybe its learning to prioritize, reading a personal growth book, or devoting time each week to reflect on your life’s purpose.  It probably means more, like engaging in a leadership development program or hiring a business coach.  Whatever you decide, strike while the iron is hot.  Get started right away and start enjoying the satisfaction of completing the mission.