Leading Fully

Patrick Ogburn's Leadership Blog

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Dec
24

Enthusiasm for What’s Next

The other day was “Pajama Day” at school for two of my sons – so Jamie (our youngest) went to school wearing his pajamas: Sponge Bob shirt, blue and green flannel plaid pants, and he had his “Lightning McQueen” slippers in his backpack, ready to whip out upon his arrival at school. He did not walk, he bounded through the house on his way to the door, such was his eagerness to get to school in his pajamas.

It never occurred to him that his ensemble clashed with a rarely achieved intensity. The only thought in his mind was that he was “in.” His participation was never in question. He talked about it the previous day, and when reminded of it the morning of, his face lit up, and he dashed upstairs to change back into the appropriate (?) garb.

How many of us would show such unrehearsed and unabashed enthusiasm, especially when we aren’t sure we have it all together? As the end of the year approaches, it is traditionally the time of year that we begin thinking about what we will do for the new year. Very often, we start with a list of what we wished we had done this year. Not a bad place to start, but did you ever wonder why we so reliably can call to mind the things we wished we had done (but failed), rather than those things which are really exciting? Here are 5 tips for doing (rather than thinking about) those things that are important to you:

  1. Be honest with yourself. Sometimes, we go after things because we think it’s what is expected of us. You know what’s most important to you, so start there. If it’s not really important, there won’t be sufficient impetus to get through the times where you miss the mark. Get clear about what matters, and write it down. There’s enormous value in seeing it written in your own hand. Don’t allow your thoughts to be edited by past failures. There may be good reasons you didn’t get it done in the past, but that’s not a reason to give up. If it’s important, then write it down. Leaders are different because they look for what’s missing and provide it. Don’t allow your thoughts to be overly influenced by what other people think – at this point, the idea is to get it clear in your mind.
  2. Let yourself get excited about the possibility. Visualize it. Some find it useful to do a visual exercise, such as a collage, to help yourself visualize what you’re going for. When Jamie imagined himself in pajamas at school, his face lit up with excitement. He was ready to be there. Pajamas (and slippers) that did not match were not an obstacle next to the excitement of participating.
  3. Identify one thing you can do right now. If your idea is big enough to be exciting, odds are that there’s a lot to do. The risk is that you will get overwhelmed when you consider all that needs to happen, so just focus on one thing at a time. A long journey is always comprised of a series of shorter steps – so identify the steps, and act. Abraham Lincoln wisely quipped: “The best thing about the future is that it only happens one day at a time.”
  4. Share what’s important with someone important. When you get clear, make sure you share it with someone who matters to you. They can help keep the dream alive and keep you accountable to take action.
  5. Celebrate progress – as you make progress, allow yourself to celebrate. That begins to fuel your enthusiasm about the original idea (step 2), then you can use that momentum to continue to energetically pursue action towards your goal.
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