Increasing Your Level of Personal Effectiveness
While it can sometimes seem that a chosen few have been anointed with the secrets of success, I’ve come to learn that there are no secrets. Rather, there are simple principles of personal effectiveness that have stood the test of time. I’ve seen these principles adopted and embraced by the most fulfilled, successful people in our culture, and I’ve used them in my work with countless clients. It’s time for you to learn about these principles and consider incorporating them into your approach to a well-balanced life.
Principle Number One: Embrace Personal Responsibility
No one is responsible for your life circumstances except you. Yes, people and events may impact you in ways you cannot control, but ultimately you are the only person who can decide what you do with the experiences you’ve had, the dreams you aspire to, and the actions you take each day.
To be responsible quite literally means that you are “able to respond” to the events of your life. This ability to take in the present conditions of your life at any given time and to decide if those circumstances are working for you or not is always present. You always retain the power to take action and to change circumstances that aren’t measuring up to your standards.
One of the most debilitating, yet common, challenges I work with clients to overcome is what I refer to as a victim mentality. Perhaps you’ve had a difficult childhood and that has anchored you in a self-defeating cycle of feeling powerless and devalued. It’s possible that your heart was broken by an ex-lover who betrayed you or by a malicious co-worker who contributed to your being fired. In fact, it’s probable that you’ve been on the short end of the stick at least once in your life.
Don’t let these isolated experiences take away your power! It’s time to get real and to think logically for a moment. Most of us had difficult childhood experiences. In fact, I’ve never met an individual who came from a stereotypically “functional” family. I’m not sure there is any such thing. Yet this experience doesn’t keep effective people stuck in the past.
Most of us have had our hearts broken or been on the receiving end of less than optimal treatment in the workplace. Yet, the great majority of us have survived. In fact, you have too! Don’t allow your victim story to rob you of the life you deserve to live. Whatever your story is, let it go.
Effective people don’t live in the past. They’ve learned from the past. Then they’ve let it go. They live each day in the present, with their eye on the future they wish to create. When something bad happens, they take in the facts, invest themselves in their power, and take responsibility to address the situation in a way that compliments the life they want to live.
You are so powerful! Don’t give your power to the past—to people who have hurt you or to the experiences that undermined your self-confidence. Step into the full magnificence of who you are, investing yourself in the belief that you can handle anything that comes your way. Then take responsibility to handle it.
Principle Two: Master the Art of Adjusting to Change
One thing is certain in life—everything must change. Nothing is static. In fact, right now every area of your life is evolving. This truth really puts some people in a tailspin, and there is good reason for that.
We’ve discussed that one of your basic human needs involves your feelings of security. You must feel physically, mentally, and emotionally safe in order to live at your highest potential. One of the most common strategies used to create this sense of safety involves establishing a level of predictability in your day-to-day experience. The very nature of change shakes this predictability up.
Effective people accept the inevitability of change and consciously decide how they will embrace and manage it when it arrives. The key to successfully taking this approach requires you to identify the essence of what you value in your current circumstances and to incorporate those qualities into the changing conditions you’re dealing with.
Essence is the essential quality within a specific action or experience. Within every circumstance of your life—those you love and those you don’t—there is a kernel nature that impacts your perception of that event. When you experience change, it is normal for you to react to the possibility of losing that essence. Most of the time, reactions of this nature are based on fear and angst.
When you allow yourself to take a time-out and analyze the basic nature of the circumstance in your life that’s changing, you are better equipped to incorporate this essence into your new circumstance.
When the winds of change begin blowing in your life, make time to connect with the essence of the circumstances that are evolving and make plans to infuse your new conditions with those core characteristics.
Are you feeling more effective? I hope so, because we’ve been focused on the principles of personal effectiveness this month. Let’s dive right into our third principle.
Tenet Three: Stay Focused
The quality of your life is directly related to what you focus on in any given moment. Focus directs your attention and clarifies your actions. Effective people are masters at establishing and maintaining focus. They focus on their dreams and the results they want to create. When they encounter a problem, they focus on solving that problem so that they can get back to moving toward their goals.
I’ve repeatedly seen two common mistakes made in the area of focus. Either someone has a difficult time establishing focus, or he or she isn’t able to successfully maintain it once they hit a bump in the road.
Establishing focus requires that you get clear about what you want and what you have to do to get there. (You did this in Step 5, so you’ve got this one covered.) It also mandates that you clearly define your priorities and manage your time and energy in accordance with them. While I’ve seen many people successfully develop their priorities (as you did in Step 2), I’ve worked with far fewer who were able to manage their calendars based on that list.
Effective people are willing to say no. When they make a commitment, they follow through on that commitment unless they’re presented with a true emergency, and before making a commitment they carefully evaluate whether or not that promise will support or detract from their present undertakings.
Now that you know what to do, it’s vital that you do what you know. This requires self-discipline and a healthy dose of personal responsibility. Being that you’re almost to the conclusion of this program, I’m confident you have both of those factors covered in spades. Use them to your advantage, and establish your focus!
Once focus is established and you begin to move toward your goals, you can be certain that you will run into obstacles. I wish that I could wave a magic wand and pronounce all barriers to accomplishment be removed from your path, but I can’t. You are guaranteed to bump up against at least a few boulders as you embark on your journey. The manner in which you handle them will directly contribute to your success or failure.
I’ve seen this scenario one too many times. Ms. Go-Getter is going for the goal. She’s created a lot of momentum and is feeling great. Then, the worst happens—she runs into an unforeseen problem. Rather than maintain focus on her original goal, Ms. Go-Getter shifts all of her energy to the problem in front of her. She invests her emotions in it, allowing herself to be frustrated by its very presence. She looks to identify the people who caused the problem, so that she can let them know she’s angry. She discusses the unfairness of the problem with anyone who will listen. She has shifted her focus from her goal and is investing all of her energy in the problem. She will develop quite a relationship with this problem—albeit an unhealthy one—because the approach she’s using assures it will be around for a long time to come.
Don’t fall into this trap! You will have problems. You will meet obstacles. Few of your projects will go according to plan. No matter what circumstances you encounter, maintain a laser-like focus on your original goal and invest all of your energy in getting over, around, under, or through the problem you’re facing. Using this approach, your problems will be short-lived and you’ll reduce your frustration level exponentially.
Congratulations on successfully moving through this month’s personal effectiveness programming! We’ve discussed taking personal responsibility, adjusting to change, and staying focused. Let’s finish the month out with one of my favorite principles; the people principle.
Tenet Four: Surround Yourself with Empowering People
Nothing will sabotage your efforts to live a healthy, balanced, fulfilled life more conclusively than surrounding yourself with people who don’t support your desire to live in this manner. The most difficult course you’ll chart as you make life improvements will be that of nurturing and evolving relationships with those who sustain you and identifying and terminating relationships with those who aren’t willing to support your growth.
Your relationships have the capacity to lift you up. They also have the capacity to keep you stuck or tear you down. Surrounding yourself with people who support your growth is an incredibly powerful way to create a lifestyle that pulls you toward your highest potential. Surrounding yourself with people who don’t will almost certainly undermine the very change that you’re attempting to make.
Your commitment to surrounding yourself with supportive people and clearly asking for the kind of support you need sets you up for success. Your willingness to develop relationships with people who share your values and interests increases your chances of success still further. Your resolve to end relationships with people who won’t support or who undermine your attempts at change ensures your success, increases your satisfaction, and validates your deservingness.
Take a moment to consider the key people in your life. Are they supportive of the new things you’re learning? Will they encourage you in your desire to change your behavior? Better still, will they partner with you? Don’t settle for less than you deserve. Adopt the strategy of surrounding yourself with empowering people and you will step more fully into your power.