Want a great life? Then own your thinking.

Over the years as a coach and consultant, I have found that they way that people think determines their quality of life.  The exact same event (or opportunity) can occur to two different people, and the way that they think, can create completely different trajectories after the event.

This lesson was brought home to me a few months ago.

My wife and I recently moved to a new home.  My youngest daughter Emily was just turning 13, and her sister, Courtney, was 16.  Both of the girls were excited about the pending move as it approached – they looked at it like an adventure.  Both of them had been deeply involved in our decision to move and both had voted yes.

At sixteen, Courtney had a busy social life with lots of friends in our old neighborhood.  In spite of that, she was eager to move to our new home 4 hours away, because she was excited by all the new activities especially snowboarding at the local ski-resort and boating on the innumerable lakes that are nearby in the summer.  As the move date approached, her mom and I kept asking her if she really wanted to move – was she sure?  She kept assuring us that she was.

Unfortunately, it turns out she wasn’t.  She wasn’t thinking about all that she would have to give up when we moved – her friends and her social life.  Reality set in immediately after we moved.  Courtney was seriously depressed.  For two weeks she did nothing but go to school and come home to sleep.  She declined offers to get together with classmates after school and when school let out for Christmas, sleep was just about all she did, unless she was complaining that she wanted to move back home.

Her mother and I were worried that we had made a big mistake.  Then one day everything changed.

Almost overnight, she stopped sleeping all the time, she stopped asking to move back, she started to make friends, she went snowboarding almost everyday with her new friends and she was “back” – she seemed to be really happy.  What was amazing was that change this happened so quickly.

After I few days, I noticed a handwritten note taped to her mirror.  When she got home that day I asked her about it.   She said it was by someone named Chuck Swindoll that someone at school had given to her.  Here’s the quote I found that morning:

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... an organization... a home.

The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you... we are in charge of our Attitudes.”

I don’t know Chuck, and I have not read anything that he has written as far as I know, but I owe him.

As for my daughter, I am so proud of her.  She was able to do something that most people with many more years of life experience simply refuse to do. She decided to stop being a victim to her circumstances.  She chose to be happy.  She embraced the positive opportunities all around her, and let go of the loss that she couldn’t change.

It’s now 7 months later and she is as happy as ever.

All of us have the ability to change our thinking, to make it more productive, to find the best in any situation.  Sometimes situations are a lot more difficult than a move when you’re sixteen, sometimes they are matters of life and death.

A few years ago I watched my brother Pete die of cancer.  In the last week of his life my brother chose not to give into fear and despair, but instead chose to make the last week of his life count for something good.  He intentionally and compassionately made each member of his family feel good about the personal relationship that they had had with him.  His wife, his kids… and his brother.

In any situation, any situation at all, you have a choice in how you think - and that can make all the difference.

 

Disruptions

What’s on my mind today is disruption.  Disruption as I am using the term, is the unexpected stuff that happens in your life - and it can really get in your way.  It gets in the way of your processes, and your plans, and frustrates you, and can seriously lower your chances of hitting your goals.

The disruption in my life right at this moment is technology.  Or rather to be precise, I am disrupted by the lack of technology.  The thing is, I live in the “sticks” of northern Michigan, and out here technology can be tenuous.

My phones and internet are, or more accurately, were, delivered through a cellular provider (name withheld to protect the guilty).  There were few options to get both phones and internet where we live, so we signed up.

The technology was adequate for my business and my family while it lasted, but two weeks ago service just stopped.  After hours of calls from my cell phone (which gets no service in my house – I have to drive to the top of a hill at sit in my car to get a good signal - and probably spook the neighbors while I am at it), I found out that the tower that I used to get my service from was now defunct and there were no plans to replace it.

My wife and I do almost all of our business over the phone and the internet.  To say this has been a disruption in our plans is a very big understatement.  Right now I am in a temporary office space at the local municipal airport 20 miles from our home.  We have a great view of the runway and the planes flying in and out, but the working conditions are not great – we can’t both be on the phone at the same time in the single office, and we have to pack up our equipment each day when we leave because the office door has no lock.

To top it off, our old business phone numbers don’t work anymore so we had to email our clients to let them know how to reach us.  This has been going on for two weeks and will continue for at least one more because as I said before, there are few options for connectivity up here.

What’s the lesson in all of this?  And no, it’s not to move back to the city. The lesson for me in the midst of this frustration and distraction we still have to run our businesses and hit our objectives.   As my business Partner Brian Moran says “The market doesn’t care about your problems.”  We have to execute, we can’t get thrown off course, we have to stay on track with our 12 Week plan.

When faced with the inevitable disruptions in our lives there are two clear choices I think.

The first choice is to get sidetracked.  To stop or slow executing the fundamental tactics that drive your results.  This is easy to do, you just have to stop taking action on your plan, and there are plenty of activities that fill your time (in our case finding a new temporary office, getting new technology in our home offices, dealing with our current provider to get out of the contract, communicating with our clients, dealing with the myriad of other complications that can arise when things like this happen).

There is a dark side to these behavior choices as well.  Distractions can be more attractive to deal with than the tedious or uncomfortable tactics in your plan.  It’s often more enjoyable to solve problems and to be reactive to what life throws at you.

The second, and more productive way to deal with distractions is to block out specific times each day to manage the distraction, and then stop working on them when the time block is over.  Additionally, schedule time blocks each day to get the mission critical tactics that drive your results done.  That can be easier said than done, but if you even get close to making the time blocks work, you are much more likely to execute your plan and stay on track with your goals, regardless of life’s distractions.

Now, stop being distracted by this blog and get back to work!

 

Blog Launch

Mike_Lennington

Welcome to my blog.  Since I am newly blogging – a brief mention why I am doing this is probably in order.

As the author of the 12 Week Year and the owner of the12 Week Year Coach, I continually grapple with the question: “How does one reach goals?”

Perhaps it seems like a simple question at first, but once you dig into it, there are so many additional questions that arise like “Why don’t I do what I need to do?” or “How do I find enough time when I have so many other things that need to get done?” or “What if my goals don’t fit into my current job or my life?

These are the kinds of questions that I want to kick around on this blog.   I hope that you find them helpful and interesting, and at times I hope that you disagree and add your 2 cents worth in the comments.

So enough preamble.