One of my favorite quotes comes from E.B. White, best known perhaps for authoring Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little:
“I arise in the morning torn between the desire to improve the world and the desire to enjoy the world. It makes it hard to plan the day.”
Indeed, each of our days start with a huge number of choices – what to wear, what to eat, what to do, what to say. In Progress Not Perfection: Your Journey Matters, I encourage readers to make choices by first considering their MAPs: their Mantras, Attitudes and Perspectives. Without a deep understanding of your MAPs, making choices can become random acts of ineffectiveness.
- Remember that small choices make a big difference. At the beginning of each day, bring your goals to mind. Each small choice matters.
- Enjoy the journey. Your journey matters because of what you notice, whom you impact, and the legacy you leave. You can put your head down and plow through all the responsibilities, challenges and activities – and miss the good stuff. Or, you can slow down to enjoy your journey. It’s your choice.
- Don’t stop learning. Are you uncomfortable admitting that you don’t know something? Well, time to get over it. The sooner you acknowledge limited knowledge and become a proactive learner, the more quickly you’ll evolve into a stronger leader.
- Make choices that won’t lead to regret. When facing a tough decision, ask yourself, “Which choice will lead to the least regret?”
- Enter a time warp. At the moment you’re making a choice, envision the possible futures as a result of that choice. For example, ask yourself, “In ten minutes, after I’ve eaten this huge chocolate chip cheesecake (that undoubtedly will find a home in my thighs), will it be worth it?” or “If I criticize my colleague without first considering my motives, how will our relationship look like in the next few days?”
- Scale your choices. Consider on a scale of 1 to 10 how important something is to your physical, emotional or spiritual well-being. Consider what it would take to move that importance to a 10, thereby providing additional motivation.
- Make gratitude your attitude. Your attitude influences your perspective, your perspective influences your self-talk, and your self-talk influences your beliefs. So choose to be grateful for all you have and experience, and write it down in a gratitude journal. We grow more through the adversity of a storm than the peace that follows. Besides, gratitude research shows that saying “thank you” increases happiness, improves relationships, and even lowers your blood pressure and strengthens your heart.
- Consider your motives. Why do you want to be an effective leader or increase your physical health or live life more deliberately? The more you’re aware of what really drives you, the better you become at making choices and dealing with obstacles to your success.
- Build reserves. Do you want to stop rushing through life, completely fatigued, yet driven by overwhelming professional and personal demands? Then it’s time to set boundaries to establish reserves of time, energy and mind space. Increase the margins between your commitments so you have time to consider your choices.
- Put pen to paper. You can find amazing clarity by simply jotting notes, drawing pictures, describing situations or people, making lists or writing poems. The process of moving thoughts from your brain to the paper is powerful.
Intentionally monitoring and directing your MAPs will help you continue to make good choices and take charge of all aspects of your life. Every morning when you put your feet on the floor, I challenge you to say, “Today, I’ll live my life with purpose and intention.”