Excerpted article written BY MARCEL SCHWANTES | Principal and founder, Leadership From the Core
Let me be completely honest with you, as I’ve done in the past with my recommendations for 31 ways to improve your life in just a month (in case you haven’t read it yet): There are lessons below that may stretch you. Some will require yourmost-courageous self to show up.
But I say this with a great measure of encouragement and hope for you. I’ve learned that the true path to personal improvement starts with looking deep within oneself, and acknowledging the blind spots that may hold us back from the life we want.
Perhaps something here will trigger you to consider new possibilities–to change something that is no longer working. Search deep, friend, and think of familiar patterns or obstacles that no longer serve you.
How to radically improve yourself this month (or any month).
1. Be true to yourself.
How would you feel if, every day, you said what you meant, stayed true to yourself, and behaved in accordance with this? Imagine the happiness and self-respect you’d feel. Being true to yourself is far less stressful than being someone you are not. By being who you really are, you not only trust the judgments and decisions that you make, but others trust you as well. They’ll respect you for standing by your values and beliefs.
2. Choose to live in integrity.
When you’re honest, you don’t hesitate to do the right thing. You never have to second-guess yourself. Who you are, what you do, and what you believe in–all of these align perfectly.
3. Deal with your problems quickly instead of neglecting them.
Don’t procrastinate, avoid conflict, or sweep things under the rug. Be open and honest with yourself enough to admit the things you need to take care of. Then take the first step! (that’s the hardest part, it’ll get easier from there)
4. Watch your words when you speak.
There’s an old saying from a wise leader that goes like this: “Words satisfy the mind as much as fruit does the stomach; good talk is as gratifying as a good harvest.” So much conflict, confusion and misunderstanding come from our words and what we communicate. So be wise and careful about what you speak: give sound advice, don’t talk out of both sides of your mouth, and always have the other person’s best interest in mind. When you do, you’ll get a lot more in return.
5. Don’t be arrogant.
Especially if you’re in a leadership role. Research by Jim Collins in Good to Great has already proven that the best leaders (what he coined as “Level 5” Leaders) demonstrate humility. And humility will save you in close quarters when the unpredictable nature of people is involved.
6. Learn from the wisdom of others.
An extension of humility is to acknowledge that you don’t know everything. You must view yourself as a small fish in the great big pond of life — seeking out connections and appointments from wise sages to learn to do great new things.
7. Avoid gossipers at all cost.
Smart people will walk away from the moment they pick up gossipers on their radar. It’s in the gossiper’s DNA to dig up things about other people and spread rumors like a tumor. There’s an insecurity to them that if they aren’t talking bad behind someone’s back, or devising some kind of scheme to get their way at someone else’s expense, they’re not being themselves. Take the higher road by not associating with such people. It will save you in the long run.
8. Exercise patience. Lots of it.
People who exercise patience have self-control and are slow to anger. So their conduct is steady, rational, and manageable. In the heat-of-the-moment, they seek to understand first before being understood. And they speak little — giving them a clear edge in communicating and diffusing someone else’s anger. That’s someone you can trust and depend on.
9. Look at both sides of an issue.
You do this with self-awareness — a component of emotional intelligence — which belongs to people who look at the whole picture, and both sides of the issue. They tap into their own feelings but also those of others to choose a different outcome, like a win-win. Highly empathic people, research states, are radical listeners, self-reflective, and curious about the lives of others. This trait is a sure winner in diffusing conflict or solving an interpersonal problem.
10. Walk your talk, others are watching.
As the famous saying goes, “do the right thing, even when no one is looking,” isn’t always easy. However, when you walk the talk, the benefits are tremendous:
- You don’t question yourself and others don’t question your motives.
- You command respect.
- Your confidence shines for others.
- You have influence — people listen to your words.
11. Accept that some things are beyond your control.
OK, so you’re the controlling type who thinks the world is accountable to you. Please stop for your sake. Many times, your worries are a direct result of the fact that you’re not in control of the people, things, and situations in your life or business. The things that are in your control, you can manage just fine. Relax, slow down, take one thing at a time, and then focus again on what’s immediately in front of you. This will help to ease your anxiety.
12. Practice Mindfulness.
A growing body of research in neuroscience suggest that mindfulness is one of the best-kept secrets to help entrepreneurs to deal with anxiety. You can practice it by intentionally putting the focus on your emotions, accepting in a nonjudgmental way whatever thoughts and sensations you’re experiencing in the moment. This Harvard Business Review article shows you some excellent techniques.
13. Made a mistake? Admit it to others.
Honest people show their likable humanity when the chips are down, rather than letting hubris rear its ugly head. When they make mistakes, they will admit them. And when employees make mistakes in an emotionally safe work environment, it’s also safe for them to risk being open enough to say, “Hey boss, I messed up.” They can say this due to the high levels of trust built over time with their team and bosses.
14. Be assertive and speak up when you have to.
If you want to avoid conflict, here’s what to do: avoid creating distance, being silent, or stone-walling–all passive-aggressive ways to deal with conflict. Instead, be assertive and courageously run toward the eye of the storm because cutting through a conflict to resolve a problem with respect, dignity, and good listening skills is easier than the negative consequences of running away from a conflict.
15. Speak your truth.
Similar to No. 1 on this list, by being your authentic self, you don’t say things to sugarcoat, try to please others, or to look good in front of your peers. It’s highly unlikely that you will hear a person who speaks her truth as someone being talked about around water coolers on Monday morning for “throwing someone under the bus.” It’s really a simple formula for success: Speak clearly, honestly, and with integrity.
16. Don’t just listen; listen to understand.
Effective communication isn’t just about talking; it is also the ability to listen and understand what’s happening on the other side of the fence. So in meetings or one-on-ones, listen and reflect back what you heard to clarify (“What I hear you saying is …”), and ask questions to probe the other person’s feelings or opinions on the topic of conversation. This can be as simple as: “Tell me how you feel about this.”
17. Don’t be a perfectionist.
Perfectionism will surely strip you of your joy and vitality, kill collaboration, and, you’re a boss, send your best people packing. Perfectionism silently stifles productivity by showing up in self-defeating thought patterns that are pretty easy to recognize in yourself, if you’re willing to self-diagnose.
18. Trust your intuition.
I’m speaking of that “inner voice” — that gut feeling from deep down inside — that clues us in to thoughts and feelings under the typical layers of logic and rationale. In such times, intuition kicks into high gear as an internal compass to keep us moving in the right direction. If you’re not sure of whether your intuition is speaking to you,here’s a list of the things your inner-voice will be telling you.
19. Develop your emotional intelligence (EQ).
While IQ still remains the best predictor of job success, once you land a job in your field of expertise, and start thinking about increasing your role, getting promoted, leading others, and navigating political landscapes, IQ will be begging for EQ to show up. Daniel Goleman, the foremost authority on emotional intelligence, has put together these 9 important questions to help you evaluate your own emotional intelligence, and get you thinking about your strengths and limitations in EQ.
20. Be a giver.
The late Jim Rohn said, “Only by giving are you able to receive more than you already have.” In The Go-Giver, the main character learns that changing his focus from getting to giving–putting others’ interests first and consistently adding value to their lives–ultimately leads to unexpected returns. Science also says giving makes us feel happy, is good for our health, and evokes gratitude. Lastly, giving isn’t restricted to money. Give of your time, mentor others, volunteer at a shelter, support a cause, sponsor a child, fight injustice, and have a pay-it-forward mindset.