Act “As If” to Shape Your Personal Brand

Norman Vincent Peale quote: "If you want a quality, act as if you already have it... and as you act and persevere in acting, so you tend to become."

When you were young, did you ever dream of being the star pitcher, rock band lead singer, or teen idol movie star (or maybe you still do)? Perhaps you did not imagine yourself in one of these roles, but you may have envisioned yourself on a public stage in some other role. As you get older, the focal point of your imagination may change to your ideal occupation or organization or even the type of person  you want to have as a life partner. These dreams of a future state are common. What is less common is making dreams reality by making the choice to act upon them.

It’s about Congruence

How do you prepare for accomplishment later? You must first have the mindset of someone who expects to accomplish. We often hear of athletes visualizing success- draining clutch free throws, blasting the game winning slapshot, or making the game saving tackle. Athletes that achieve those moments don’t just show up and do them; they practice countless hours and prepare mentally by envisioning success in crucial situations.

These achievement examples suggest that actions are congruent with expectations of our actions. Zig Ziglar was quoted as saying “you cannot perform in a manner that is inconsistent with how you feel about yourself.” In other words, you cannot make the game winning shot if you do not see yourself capable of succeeding in that pressure packed situation. Similarly, if you do not allow yourself to envision being an effective salesperson, you may lack the confidence to engage in a difficult negotiation or have the persistence to deal with a stubborn prospect. Act “as if” becomes a prerequisite for success rather than a whimsical idea.

It’s about Reality

Another quote associated with the notion of act in order to become is “fake it until you make it.” This statement possesses a certain amount of liberation- you do not have to be an expert or perfect in what you do before attempting to do it. And thank goodness that is the case! I have been a college professor for twenty years. Every time I go to class I realize that I know only a minute fraction of what one could know about being an effective professor. Yet, I am able to go into the classroom and do my job. After twenty years on the job I still am faking it because I will never know everything about my chosen profession.

However, we must be cautious not to use “fake it until you make it” as a free pass to be unprepared. An act “as if”  mindset grounds us in reality, encouraging us to adopt the practices and governing behaviors of someone in the role we aspire to have. Act “as if” has many implications for personal growth. We must answer questions including:

  • What is the most effective use of my time?
  • What books, magazines, websites, or blogs should I read?
  • Which organizations should I follow or join?
  • What skills must I develop or strengthen?

Act “as if” is not daydreaming. It focuses us on reality by directing our thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Act “As If” and Your Brand

Dr. Norman Vincent Peale’s quote on acting as if you already have a quality can serve you well in all three dimensions of your personal brand: Meaning, Makeup, and Message. If you want to be viewed as a person of integrity and unwavering values (Meaning elements), you do not wait for others to compliment you on showing these traits, you embody them in your daily actions. When you want to “speak the language” of your chosen field (a Makeup trait), you simply dive in to the works that people in your field consume- you do not need permission! If you feel ready to join the conversation about topics and trends in a field (brand Message), then join conversation. You will invariably make a misstep… and that is OK. After all, you are a human, not a machine. Humans act; machines run. Thus, take advantage of the freedom to act “as if” to position your brand to compete.

Why ‘Get a Job’ is Excellent Personal Branding Advice for Class of 2016

Jon Acuff quote

Late spring is an exciting time of year for many people as graduating college students experience a rite of passage into the next phase of their lives. The National Center for Education Statistics projects 1.8 million students will receive bachelor degrees during the 2015-2016 academic year. Throw in master and doctoral degree recipients, and an estimated 2.6 million people will  celebrate reaching an education milestone. Their graduation begs the inevitable question: What’s next? For the sake of personal brand development, the best answer to that question could very well be “get a job.” It’s time to move from the classroom to the front lines of your career, sharpening skills that are at the heart of the value you offer others.

Get Job Experience- Literally

A professional career is more like a winding road with unexpected turns than a straight line. Many people find themselves in a fulfilling career that is removed from their field of study in college. I make this point to bring out the importance of getting a job… any job to launch your career.

In his book Do Over, author and career expert Jon Acuff says the purpose of your first job is to learn how to have a job. Reflecting on my first professional job thirty years ago, I see that Acuff’s message is spot on. Your education exposes you to concepts and knowledge in the discipline of your major. But, when you take your first job you realize there are many situations and tasks that were never covered in Chapter Eight or on the final exam. How do you resolve conflict within an employee team? What is the best approach for soothing an irritated customer? Why do all project team members  not share your focus on meeting the deadline? You will not know the answers to those questions until you gain experience dealing with them. Heck, you may not even realize those questions exist until you face them on the job.

Skills Development and Your Personal Brand

Skills are a key component of the Makeup dimension of your personal brand. While certain abilities or competencies are obviously important to one’s professional success (e.g., a web developer’s knowledge of relevant programming languages), other skills are not necessarily taught formally like hard skills but are important, nonetheless.

Jon Acuff calls these abilities “invisible skills.” They tend to be skills applicable regardless of your position or industry. Examples include critical thinking, resolving interpersonal conflict, and empathy. These “soft skills” are more difficult to teach using formal methods than hard skills. Yet, soft skills are essential to effectively working with others.

Beat Your Competition

Enhancing invisible or soft skills in your brand Makeup is a prime way to set yourself apart from other early career professionals. Differentiating yourself through strengthening skills can accelerate advancement in an organization or make you more marketable if you look for opportunities elsewhere. Remember those 2.6 million graduates this year? They represent competition. So do the graduates from 2015, 2014,… not to depress you, but you have a lot of competition.

If you are a member of the Class of 2016, accept my congratulations. You did it… now get a job! Not for the same reasons your parents might have for you to be gainfully employed (although paychecks can come in handy), but for the sake of developing skills and ultimately, your brand.

The Fine Line between Determent and Determination

Tommy Lasorda quote on determination

This post represents the first time I have hit “publish” in nearly three months. It is the longest period of inactivity since I began blogging in 2007. I wish I could say I am returning from a planned hiatus, but that would be fiction. Looking back, I realize that feedback from a person I was talking with for the first time took the wind out of my blogging sails. The feedback itself was relatively minor and to the person’s credit, was spot on. It was not meant to shoot me down. However, it (along with work stress) led me to question for the first time why I bother blogging.

Determent

Merriam-Webster defines deter as “discourage; prevent from acting.” If you think about sources of determent in your life, it is likely that more of it comes from the former than the latter. It is possible someone or something forcibly prevents you from acting, but in more cases a sense of determent is psychological. We feel someone has imposed limitations on what can be done. Write a book? Do you know how hard it is to publish a book? Start your own business? Do you know that more than eighty percent of new businesses fail? I could go on, but you get the picture. The feedback or “advice” we receive from others may be sincere and well-intentioned, but such input can unwittingly discourage us from chasing our dreams and goals (i.e., deter us).

Determination

Determent is a belief that usually comes from within us, as do feelings of determination. As a college professor, a trait that I observe and admire in many students is being free of determent. Students are not bogged down by beliefs about what they cannot do or accomplish. I am not suggesting we live in a fantasy world in which we believe we can do or have anything. But, realistic thinking can become deterring thinking if we blindly accept limitations packaged as conventional wisdom.

Embracing a determination mindset requires being realistic, with that realism being an understanding that bumps in the road are inevitable. Sometimes, the bumps will be huge pot holes that make the ride on our success journey more than a bit uncomfortable. A bumpy ride on the road to personal growth should be accepted; being deterred by limitations others want to attach to you should not be accepted.

On the Possible

To get out of my blogging inactivity funk, I went in search of a quote that gave hope and energy. The quote by Tommy Lasorda on the role of determination grabbed my attention. As I reflected on Lasorda’s statement, it became clear to me I used someone’s candid feedback against my own growth efforts. The result was it stifled my determination and in turn, my potential to achieve what is possible. The unfortunate reality is the person was trying to help me, yet I twisted the feedback to have the effect of harming my personal brand. Moreover, I was too dejected to act on feedback that would undoubtedly benefit my brand.

After two months of brooding and inactivity, I have clarity that I must cultivate determination, not determent. Determination and determent originate from the same source: Me. It’s not the boss, the economy, or the competition that is impeding my progress; it’s the dude in the mirror. He and I are going to work together daily, driven by determination to make the difference between the impossible and possible.

Stand Guard against Sabotaging Your Personal Growth

2-8 One to Grow On

 Who or what is in control of your life? Is it the economy? Your boss? Co-workers? Competition? Parents? I’ll stop here because the list could go on, but you get the picture. Many people believe their personal growth is hindered by the world around them. Ironically, our chief nemesis is often none of the above but rather can be found by taking a look in the mirror.  The quote by Napoleon Hill, an author who was a pioneer in personal growth thought leadership, is a call to look inward for obstacles to personal growth.  It may be unsettling to think you would be the cause of your own downfall, but there are three ways that you unwittingly can drag yourself down.

Fear of Success

Sounds strange, but a lack of confidence in how to respond to experiencing growth is one way we conquer ourselves. This self-doubt may not even be verbally expressed, but it can keep us securely placed in a comfort zone. For example, if a salesperson is pursuing a client that would add significantly to his or her job responsibilities, concerns can set in on the ability to juggle the demands and respond to pressure that can arise. The best way to deal with the uncertainty of what success would bring is to, you guessed it, not engage in the activities that will bring success.

Fear of Failure

Taking risks is not a trait that everyone possesses. We play it safe to protect ourselves from danger. In the process, our fears are a double-edged sword that also force us to miss out on the benefits of risk-taking as well as keeping us safe. For example, I have been known to be reluctant to partake of rides at amusement parks. I’ll admit it- the reluctance is rooted in fear (of what exactly I cannot tell you… I don’t know). As a result, I am still alive, but I have missed out over the years in enjoying experiences because of fear.

I recognized a few years ago that fear of failure was conquering me in small ways like not enjoying amusement park rides. This same behavior was conquering me in bigger ways, too. When I stop writing for periods of time it is often because failure-based thoughts like “no one is interested in what I have to say” or “I am wasting my time.” Neither of these thoughts can become reality if I don’t write, at least that is the self-conquering belief that unintentionally harms me instead of protecting me.

Envy

The most dangerous cause of being conquered by self is feelings of envy about what is happening to others in your life. When we resent our neighbor’s promotion, our friend’s new house, or our sibling’s relationships, we are poisoning our own happiness. We choose not to be supportive and encouraging of the people in our lives, compromising the strength of those relationships. Even more damaging is the impact on self; envy harms self-image because we can believe we are not deserving of the very things that we envy others having.

Enough to Go Around

A friend has a favorite saying that “there is enough success to go around.” This statement is so true and when applied can be an effective deterrent to conquering self. Growth and success are not finite resources; there  is enough to go around. So, why do we spend time and energy trying to sabotage success opportunities in our life? Resolve that you will not be conquered by the one person who has the greatest opportunity to so it: The person in the mirror.

Know Thy Strengths

1-25 One to Grow On

When management expert Peter Drucker talked, people listened. The Austrian born Drucker continued teaching and writing up until his death in 2005 at age 95. People still listen today as his guidance continues to influence the development of organizations and business professionals. His quote on the role of strengths in one’s personal growth is representative of his work- profound yet straightforward in presentation. This quote is worth reflecting on to consider whether you are making the most of your strengths… or if you even know what they are.

What Are Strengths Anyway?

Identifying a personal strength simply means you have a trait, talent, or skill that you are able to use for good, whether that good benefits you or other people. Some of these strengths may be innate such as personality traits. If you are self-confident or compassionate, these traits can be used to your advantage. Other strengths may be learned through training and education, either formal education or self-directed learning. Some strengths developed this way are considered hard skills. For example, earning the designation of Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is the culmination of years of training and preparation for a rigorous CPA examination.

Other skills developed are considered soft skills as they are not as tangible or directly observed. Yet, it could be argued that soft skills are as important (if not more important) to personal and professional growth. For example, critical thinking and communication skills are highly valued by employers. While these skills can be sharpened through education and training, there is no test that certifies one as a proficient critical thinker or outstanding communicator. Yet, the addition of these soft skills are indispensable to professional development.

Finding the Answers

It may be easy to convince someone of the need to know their strengths and understand how strengths benefit them. The challenge can be in uncovering  strengths so that you know what they are. Otherwise, we can fall in the trap that Peter Drucker describes of not having a grasp on our strengths. So, where do we find answers to the question “what are my strengths?”

  • Ask others. Start with a source of information based on observation and experience, and that source is people around you with whom you interact. These people could be bosses, teachers, mentors, or close friends. Listening to people close to you to get their candid assessment of strengths could reveal qualities about yourself that you cannot see.

For example, I once was tasked with leading a work group to develop a strategic plan for our unit. Leadership is not skill I would have classified as a personal strength. Being an introvert, I work effectively on my own and enjoy contributing to a group or team. Leading a team would not be a role I would seek out. As the group’s work progressed, other members praised my leadership of the project. My initial reaction was “Who me? You must be mistaken.” I realized their feedback was genuine, that they saw strong leadership skills in me. Their feedback gave me confidence to take on leadership roles. Also, the feedback encouraged me to strengthen leadership skills through self-directed learning .

  • Take a test. Another excellent source of feedback for determining your strengths is to take a validated strengths assessment. Several such assessments exist and although most of them are not free,  paying to take a strengths assessment has the potential for an immeasurable return on investment in your growth and advancement. Among the strengths assessments I recommend you check out are Clifton StrengthsFinder, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Strong Interest Inventory, Kolbe A Index, and Harrison Career Suitability Assessment. Each one takes a different approach at measuring strengths, but they share the common thread of providing insight into your capabilities.

Don’t Be Wrong

Understanding personal strengths is too important to get wrong. In my observation of students on self-assessment of strengths is that many of them overestimate certain skills and do not realize other skills. One example of overestimating skills that I observe is when I have students rate their ability to engage in networking activity with others on a 1-10 scale. Most students rate themselves at seven or higher, meaning they are confident in their ability to network. However, most of them are not prepared to network effectively. It is no fault of their own; they lack experience and training in networking. Yet, many students believe they are equipped to be effective networkers.

Strengths do not equate with a lot in life you have been cast. You can make use of traits, talents, and abilities to develop strengths. But, if you have a weakness (e.g., oral communication), you are not saddled with a life sentence of ineffectiveness in this area… unless you choose to live out a life sentence. You can address weaknesses so that at the very least they are no longer liabilities. Even better, you can overcome a weakness and transform it into a strength. Leverage strengths and develop new ones by determining your strengths, separating strengths fact from strengths fiction.

The Upside of Rejection

1-11 One to Grow On

 We are programmed to avoid rejection. After all, who wants to deal with the feelings and consequences that accompany rejection? For example, if you are unemployed and do not get one call back on the 25 jobs you applied for last week, the impact on your bank account and self-esteem will probably not be good.

Similarly, if you encounter rejection in personal relationships it cannot be dismissed like some business transaction that did not work out. Instead, there can be deep pain and sense of loss. Thus, it is possible that not putting ourselves in a position to be rejected could spare us from outright misery. At the same time, not being rejected could be equated with not trying to stretch growth boundaries. So, maybe we should be open to the prospect of rejection.

How Rejection Helps

The One to Grow On quote this week comes from professional speaker and coach Steve Maraboli (he bills himself as “the most quoted man alive,” so it’s about time one of his quotes is featured here). Maraboli’s thoughts on rejection serve as an important first step in turning rejection from a negative to a positive. His statement encourages us to think about rejection in a different way. If rejection is something (or someone) saying “no” to us now, it keeps the door for something else saying “yes” to us later.

We have heard stories about successful people encountering rejection that would make many people retreat never to try again. Among them:

  • Michael Jordan did not make the varsity basketball team his sophomore year in high school.
  • Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen received more than 100 rejections from publishers before getting a “yes” for their Chicken Soup for the Soul series that has sold more than 125 million books.
  • Andy Warhol could not even give away his paintings at one point in his career. The Museum of Modern Art in New York declined his gift of a drawing he offered in 1956.

The list could go on, but you get the point. Many successful people did not take the express lane to that destination. Instead, their route was unpredictable and sometimes unpleasant along the way.

Use Rejection to Your Advantage

When you face rejection (yes, it is a matter of when, not if), resolve to turn the short-term pain into long-term gain by doing the following:

  • Realize it may not be personal – Many times, rejection occurs through no fault of your own. Substitute just about anyone else for you in the same situation, and rejection would be a likely outcome for them, too.
  • If it is personal, be accountable- In some instances, it is you. Avoid the tendency to affix blame externally (the economy, your in-laws, the boss, your co-worker) and look into the mirror to understand why the rejection occurred. What misstep(s) did you make? What could you have done differently to change the outcome? What will you do the next time you are in a similar situation?
  • Make it part of your story – I would not encourage you to go out of your way to fail, but rejection can become part of your personal brand story. Just like Michael Jordan, Jack Canfield, and Andy Warhol experienced rejection only to rise to great heights, rejection that you experience could be a marker on your success journey. It is inevitable that you will fac adversity; how you respond to it will go a long way toward defining you.

Embrace Redirection

I like Steve Maraboli’s characterization of rejection as a redirection to something better. And, I see it as more than an effort to put on a brave face when adversity strikes. Many years ago, I did not get a job that at the time I thought was my dream job. Less than two years later, I accepted a job at the institution where I still teach today. My career and family life would have been drastically different had I gotten that dream job, and I am afraid it would have been for the worse. Rejection redirected me to another opportunity down the road, one that I cherish each day.

 

Win Today to Achieve Growth This Year

1-4 One to Grow On

A new year brings optimism and an opportunity to do and achieve more than experienced before. Turning the calendar to January symbolically gives us a clean slate that we can take advantage of to grow and move forward. And many of us do… for a while. Good intentions, often taking the form of New Year’s resolutions, orient us toward personal growth. Unfortunately, those plans get derailed for a variety of reasons, and we lose sight of the growth milestones we envisioned at the beginning of the year. What will it take to break this pattern?

Pick a Theme

The notion of New Year’s resolutions is increasingly giving way to another approach to pursuing personal growth: Focus on a single word or idea that will guide your thoughts, decisions, and actions. For me, my focus for this year relates to Emerson’s quote about making every day the best day of the year. I resolve to live today and do what I need to do to “win today.” Setting goals or making resolutions is pointless if one does not commit to the daily actions required to get to the destination. One of my weaknesses is follow through on plans. I know what needs to be done but too often fail to make it happen. So, my focus is on doing what I need to do to win today, realizing that a series of daily wins will move me closer to reaching bigger growth goals.

Know What Gets in the Way

A focus word or theme is a great starting point for achieving personal growth, but obstacles will appear that threaten personal growth. Some of these obstacles are external, put in our path by others. Yet other obstacles are internal as we unwittingly sabotage our plans. Recognizing the obstacles can help you deal with them and minimize their threat:

Others’ agendas– An external threat to winning today occurs when others attempt to draw you into their plans as a means to achieving their desired end. You can become conflicted between helping others to add value for them and becoming involved to the point that it takes away from pursuit of your own end. Sometimes, saying no to others is saying yes to our own growth.

Fear of failure- Perhaps the greatest internal obstacle to growth is not following through on daily actions because we are afraid of what the outcome of our efforts will be. If I write the paper I have been working on for two years and submit it to a journal, will it be rejected (odds are yes as the acceptance rate for many journals is relatively low)? So, if I divert my attention and time to other tasks my paper will not be rejected. It will never have a chance to be published, either, but avoidance of rejection can feel better than swinging and missing.

Fear of success- This obstacle may sound crazy because the aim is to succeed, right? But, what if the success desired puts you in a different place whether it is in a job with more responsibility, a new peer group, or higher tax bracket? Those different places may push you out of a comfort zone. Just like fear of failure can keep us “safe” by not trying, fear of success can hinder our growth by choosing to remain status quo.

Every Day is the Best Day

What beautiful words from Emerson, the thought that every day is the best day. We have been given 366 best days in 2016. Although planning ahead is necessary to chart a course for what we want to be, do, or have, do not lose sight of he daily journey taken to get there.

Creating Value = Job Security

12-14 One to Grow On

My wife texted me a list of items to buy while I was at the supermarket one evening recently. One item on her list was golden delicious apples, which I managed to overlook. So, I knew there was only one way to correct my oversight: Go to the supermarket first thing the next morning and buy golden delicious apples. As I walked up to make my selection, I noticed the apples were arranged perfectly in rows. A sense of guilt came over me as I was about to undo the splendid appearance of the apples. The employee responsible for this work of art was still in the area, and I jokingly asked his permission to mess up the display. He laughed and said “go ahead, it’s job security.” Yes it was.

A Demand for Value

Why was a task so seemingly routine as arranging fruit a source of value for me? The appearance of the display attracted my attention, recognizing the product I sought immediately. Also, the display conveyed a message of quality and was part of a produce department that had a presentation that was inviting and conducive to a positive customer experience. We are all consumers, so there is no need to persuade you there is a demand for products, services, and experiences that create value for us. People are not interested in buying stuff as much as they are interested in what the stuff does for them (i.e., how it creates value).

Another recent encounter as a consumer reinforced the notion of an ongoing demand for customer value. Our dryer was not performing its primary task: Drying clothes. I had called two different appliance repair services in the past, but another business caught my eye as I searched online for a solution. I read customer reviews on this individual, and common themes were fair pricing and customer concern. After giving this business a call and having the proprietor service my dryer, the reviews were confirmed. This person created value by building trust and competently performing the service he promised. Guess who I will be referring business to anytime a friend is looking for an appliance repair service? Thank you, Mike Jarrett, owner of Mike Way, for the value you offer to your customers daily.

Strive to Add Value

Albert Einstein will forever be remembered as a brilliant man, yet his words of wisdom that are this One to Grow On quote are strikingly simple. Instead of chasing success (whatever form that might take), focus on being a person of value- to your family, friends, co-workers, customers, community, and even strangers- anyone whose path you cross. When you focus on creating value for others, it almost always will be noticed. It may not be today, next month, or next year, but if you commit to be a source of value for others it will likely be recognized and often rewarded. The nature of the rewards can vary from a “thank you” to customer testimonial, award, raise, or promotion, all of which are indicators of success. Thus, if you make being a source of value your focus, the trappings of success often follow.

 

 

Put Your Passion to Work

 11-23 One to Grow On

You may have heard exhortations to follow your passion to guide decisions about the type of job to pursue and even the organization with which to work. This advice is well-intended but at the same time can be misleading, if not dangerous. Finding a job that relates to your passion sounds like a dream come true. After all, if you do something you love it may not feel like work, right? Oprah Winfrey said “do what you love and the money will follow.” If that is true, scores of people should turn in their resignation today from the job that drains energy and enthusiasm from them and do work aligned with their passion. Yet, we know that is not going to happen. Why?

The Role of Passion

Passion has connotations with eliciting strong emotional responses such as excitement or love. However, the origin of the word passion can be traced to the Latin “pasi” which means “to suffer.” Whoa! Does this mean you should be searching for a job or employer that will make you suffer? Of course not- a deeper interpretation of passion is that it is linked to something for which you are willing to invest heavily- time, effort, and yes, suffer through occasional adversity and disappointment. But, because of the intense emotional connection you have with something for which you are passionate you will go through tough times to enjoy the pleasure and satisfaction derived from the endeavor.

Think of passion as the fuel for your purpose. Your values and motivation are energized when connected with passion. In the context of personal branding, passion can be defined as the sources of happiness that energize the work you do. The impact of passion is not limited to work you do through carrying out job duties- it is evident in the volunteer work you perform, conversation topics in which you engage on social media, and the hobbies or outside interests you enjoy. All of these non-job aspects of your life play a part in defining your personal brand. Thus, recognizing your passion is vital to personal branding success. The challenge is how to channel passion to strengthen your personal brand while enjoying the synergy of a career in which your passion figures prominently in your work.

Passion First

If you subscribe to Seth Godin’s view that passion should guide your work, a great deal of anxiety can be eliminated. Rather than seeking a job that is a match with your passion, look for opportunities to allow your passion to be introduced into your work. For example, if you love writing poetry but come to the conclusion that you cannot earn an income to meet your financial needs as a poet, do not stop writing poetry. Instead, look for ways to inject your gift for creative writing into a job in which that skill is valued. Similarly, if you find fulfillment in crafting objects out of wood, put the ability to make a useful object from raw materials to work in other contexts such as product design.

Take the Easy Route

Perhaps the most compelling reason to follow the advice of transferring your passion to your job is that it is easier than the alternative. It is much easier to energize your work with passion that flows from your purpose rather than shopping around for a job comprised of tasks that are a match with your passion. Put your passion to work… whatever your work might be.

Whose Life Is It Anyway When Serving Others?

11-16 One to Grow On

Sign the form. Reply to the email. Approve the request. Take the meeting. Answer a question. Listen to a rant. Deal with a problem. I could go on, but you get the picture. A day in the life of a role in which others count on you requires complete attention to their needs. That focus could require your own needs, goals, and priorities be tabled in order to serve others. A shift in my job responsibilities had led me to reflect on just how I should approach my new leadership role. The above quote from Albert Einstein is an idea upon which I will focus this week to give clarity to what can be a frenzy when serving others.

Shift Value Perceptions

Do we tend to be selfish by nature? As I read over the list of ways others seek my time I cannot help but think about how it takes away from my time- the reading I want to do, social media interaction that has to wait, and writing that becomes less frequent than hoped. I want my life back to do the things want to do!

At the same time, a huge red flag is raised when I encounter complaints that include frequent mentions of “my,” “me,” or “mine.” That skepticism extends to my own language. I realize I need to reframe how I define value. It is not dependent on how much “me” time I get but rather the impact can I have on persons who depend on me- family, coworkers, and students, among others.

Kid’s Play

If you are put in a position of service to others, avoid the temptation to think about how to get out of the situation or what it would be like to not have those obligations. You are there because you are needed. Replace “obligations” with “opportunities” to clarify your purpose.

Einstein’s statement seems strong- is a life lived for others really the only way to attain a worthwhile life? As I reflect on some of the most meaningful experiences in my life, I realize the answer is “yes.” And, I can thank a group of four-year-old kids for one of the most poignant life lessons I had.

When my now 20-year-old son was four years-old, we signed him up for his first soccer team. I was excited when the phone rang and the league president was on the other end of the line, calling to tell me about Sidney’s team. He told me that there was no coach for Sidney’s team, and if a coach could not be found… there would be no team. You can probably guess who became coach. My qualifications were puny. Although I am a lifelong sports fan I never played soccer nor knew nothing about it.

I not only got through the season, the joy those kids experienced playing soccer gave me more joy than they will ever know. It would have been easy to say “I can’t do that,” but it would have denied me the opportunity to stretch my comfort zone and the resulting thrills of coaching a youth soccer team.

Grow Up, not Give Up

This week, embrace the possibilities for growth by looking for ways to live life for others. What you are most likely giving up, your “me time,” is limited in impact compared to the difference you can make in the life of others.