All new growth requires new decisions and action, and there will never be new growth if you procrastinate. But change is hard; the bigger it is the more likely it will feel intimidating.
My friend and colleague Dick Biggs, author of Burn Brightly Without Burning Out, said, “The greatest gap in life is the one between knowing and doing.”
If we want to change and grow, we all know deep down that we must get started. Yet, procrastination has become the great friend of many.
What’s holding you back? Why have you procrastinated? While there may be a million reasons you haven’t started, there is only one reason why you should start: it’s your life!
You will be somewhere in the future. On your current course, what will you look back on and wish you had started? What regrets might you have? Whatever the answer, the first decision you must make is to start—to begin. Once in motion, then you’re on your way, self-leadership takes over, and your new decisions become your reality.
There are six governing principles of self-leadership that will give you a sense of control over the decisions you make and give you the discipline to back those decisions.
Principle #1: Self-leadership means knowing what’s important to you.
Make clarity your commitment.
Do you know what makes you tick? Do you have a grip on what drives you to wake up every morning and keep doing what you are doing? I have spoken to many people in different seasons of life who tell me they feel as if they’re living in a fog. They just cannot seem to find a clear vision for their lives.
The reason they lack a clear vision is because they do not know what is most important to them. The fog comes from pursuing success apart from purpose.
Principle #2: Self-leadership means scheduling what’s important to you.
Make prioritization your passion.
If you do not take control of your schedule, it will take control of you. Stephen Covey put it this way: “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule but to schedule your priorities.” In this high-productivity world we often forget that there comes a time when we need to unplug. Work spills over into family. Family gets neglected. Stress builds and relationships—the ones closest to you—become strained.
Prioritizing is essential to knowing what gets scheduled and what you say no to. The great German writer and philosopher Goethe said it best: “Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”
Principle #3: Self-leadership means doing what’s important to you.
Make action your asset.
Don’t be the type of person who goes through life living for someone else. When you perform just to please others, you can get caught in a trap that steals away your identity. If I went through life always allowing my priorities and passions to be defined by others, I would cease to be the person I was meant to be. I pursue the things most important to me because I believe they were placed inside of me at birth. Throughout my life they have been refined and honed to be what they are today. I do what is important to me because those things define my purpose.
Principle #4: Self-leadership means completing what’s important to you.
Make finishing your focus.
If you have ever participated in team sports, you have probably heard a coach say, “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.” This is excellent advice—not just for a game, but for life. We all know the person with the ideas, always spinning a web and starting things but never seeing it to fruition. This is poor self-leadership.
This principle dovetails nicely with Principle #3 in that it takes discipline to do what is important to you, but it also takes discipline to see those things through.
Principle #5: Self-leadership means evaluating how you are doing in the areas that are important to you.
Make improvement your initiative.
Self-evaluation is not easy to learn, nor is it easy to do. It takes true humility to admit that things may not be going so well—that you are off course. But self-evaluation is a key asset to sound self-leadership. It is something that never really ends but that continues to develop over time. John Maxwell said, “Success is a continuing thing. It is growth and development. It is achieving one thing and using that as a stepping-stone to achieve something else.”
The strong leaders are the ones who are always making improvements in their personal and professional lives so that one harmonizes with the other.
Principle #6: Self-leadership means learning from your mistakes.
Self-evaluation means nothing if you cannot learn from your mistakes. By confronting your mistakes you take one step closer to becoming the person you are supposed to be. None of us would be anywhere without self-evaluation.
In business or in personal life, it’s easy to spot someone who keeps running into the same brick wall. They make the same mistakes because they refuse to learn from their mistakes. In sports it’s the athlete who can make adjustments during play or at halftime or between holes who will typically rise above the competition. Too often when people face defeat, they respond either by never trying again or by continuing their faulty strategy or action.
Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich, said, “When defeat comes, accept it as a signal that your plans are not sound, rebuild those plans, and set sail once more toward your coveted goal.”