Do the Work: Take Ownership of Your Life
Step one in personal development is honesty. Make no mistake about it, everything begins with the truth. Being honest with yourself requires one very critical thing that is so often overlooked: Determining what it is that you want.
As I find in my discussions with senior leaders, entrepreneurs and millennials, many people simply “dive in” and start doing something because they think it’s what they’re supposed to do. It’s to conform with societal norms. It’s to put the proverbial “bread on the table,” which is a necessity in a capitalist society. It’s because they simply haven’t spent the time to think things through.
People make habit-forming choices and decisions at a young age that often carry them throughout the rest of their lives. Some good and some bad. Very seldom do people take the time to do the work, to focus introspectively and intently on what will make them happy, fulfilled and successful. To recognize the juxtaposition of these thoughts upon how they will fit in with their personal and professional lives.
Demands come in the form of responsibilities and the need to provide for ourselves, families and our employers. We have to eat, we need nourishment to have vitality. We need safety and security. In order to have this, we either need someone providing food and shelter for us, or we have to create wealth through our talents and skills.
Early on in my career, simply “showing up” was in some ways acceptable and half the battle toward collecting a paycheck. It made a difference to a certain extent. But that didn’t last very long. I realized that it wouldn’t work long term because it was far too shortsighted and foolish. And I didn’t even want it. It was the lazy way to live. And I was lazy.
Showing up is essential and required but what differentiates our ability to provide necessities for ourselves and others, is the use of our raw talent, melded with the acquisition of learned skills, relationship-building and maximum effort to complete tasks and “get the job done.” This is how we provide. This is how we sustain and keep going.
Luck? I don’t know anything about luck. I’ve never banked on it and I’m afraid of people who do. Luck to me is something else: Hard work — and realizing what is opportunity and what isn’t. — Lucille Ball
Providing for our family also requires that we live with a values-based compass, whether we are aware of this or not. One of the first things I tell any client that I coach is to develop a solid foundation of core values. This is the underpinning of our success. This gives us a standard that we adhere to which leads us toward accomplishing, providing and serving ourselves and others.
Values for so many people are subconsciously on our minds but often not consciously how we program our minds to manage our behavior. Great companies and great individuals all utilize values in a conscientious manner to inform their decision-making. They then transform that knowledge into actions that make them great in any given endeavor.
One of the reasons that Thomas Jefferson famously said, “ Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom,” is because honesty is the bedrock of ANY values structure. It’s not just about being honest with other people in transactions, dealings and conversations.
Honesty is truly about how you manage the most important life relationship you’ll ever enter — the one with yourself.
Honesty begets actions rooted in the truth, which form the empirical understanding for why you do, what you do. Without honesty, things like a positive attitude, integrity and open-mindedness would be impossible. Clarity of thought is made possible by thinking, speaking and acting in the affirmative truth.
That truth for you will manifest itself in a variety of ways throughout the course of your lifetime. It will come in the way that you decide the actions you want to take — the thoughts you think about which give way to your ideas. Your ideas are the lifeblood of your creativity and ability to succeed, as well as what influences the direction you choose to take your life. Notice the word choose, in this instance.
You have a choice. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you do not.
Nothing ever comes to one, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work. — Booker T. Washington
When you begin to do the work and take ownership over your life, you start to realize the power of time management, control and autonomy. You live life on your terms this way. It truly is the only way. What do I mean?
Taking ownership means that you honestly speak over your life what you want, both in professional and personal terms. If you want to surround yourself with people that you love, think about who those people are and dedicate time to spend with them. If you have the ambition and drive to achieve great things, either for yourself or for your employer, then put into plan precisely what that is.
Once you have specificity, you’ll find that what you thought previously was unattainable is both realistic and feasible! Because all the initiating and planning in the world means NOTHING if you aren’t able to execute. You are able to execute most successfully when you take the time to do the work.
The hard soul-searching around what you want, who you want to be in your life and the direction that you want to go comes from doing the work.
These are thoughts, ideas and big picture ruminations that are in your mind that you put out into the ether, the wide expanse of the universe where you express your most authentic, true self. Do this. Don’t view this as a chore. This is imperative to get what you truly want!
I speak from experience because I put this into practice in my own life. I believe in it as much as I believe in the sun that gives this Earth light. We were put here to share the gift of our talent with the world. Find out what it is, find out what it takes to share it successfully and then go and do it. To not do so would be a shame.
“I learned the greatest gift of all. The saddest thing in life is wasted talent, and the choices that you make will shape your life forever.” — Calogero Anello, from A Bronx Tale
As you progress from the initiating to the planning, where you create actionable tasks that you line up to accomplish each day, week, month and year, continue to ask yourself if these tasks align to your vision. Do they fit well within the mission statement that you have? Do the tasks all, in their own way, have their grounding in helping lead you to what you truly want?
From there, it’s about execution, sticking with what you’re doing and closing it out toward completion. There is a plethora of literature around focused, deep work, namely Cal Newport’s book, or countless tomes of literature on the tools and mindset necessary to focus and perform at your best. These are different for each individual, as we all have varying levels of intelligence, concentration and learning aptitude.
Only you will know in your mind and heart if you are able to do the work execution necessary to get the job done. If you have the talent and the skills, you simply need the drive and persistence. You must only accept success and reject failure at all costs. This is how you steel your mind. There are only recommendations and techniques to successfully getting the job done.
There are no secrets. You either have it or you don’t.
Do the work first. Don’t just dive into the execution stages of getting something done. Unless of course, you’re a fireman. Firefighters put out fires. They are ALWAYS in a reactionary position, out of necessity, rather than a proactive position. It is best to approach life, whenever possible, from a position of strength, which is a proactive one. Being proactive will always give you an advantage.
Proactive means doing the work — preparation and thought into why you do what you do. Get this sequence down and take ownership! The sky is truly the limit if you’re willing to do the work.
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