Leadership & Office

Work/Life Balance- Is there even such a thing?
Contagious Commitment
What defines you?
The Authentic Leader
It's Not All About "I"
Finding Joy in Work
Leading Your Best Life
Are your strengths hiding?

Featured Posts:

You don't get better at running hills by walking them

I read this saying the other day on one of the fitness blogs that I keep up with, and the goal-oriented person that I am, I keep repeating it to myself as I run the hills of my neighborhood a few times a week.

On a literal level, it's true: If you want to run up a hill, you have to practice running it. Even though it's so tempting to walk, if your goal is to run you need to start moving your feet faster.

As I've been getting back into running, I remind myself that the momentary burn in my legs, my shaky muscles, beating heart, and gasping breath is just that - momentary. I remind myself of when Istudied abroad in Siena, Italy and practiced every week running up a huge cobblestone hill on the way back to the apartment. And by the end of the summer, I conquered the hill. I might have garnered strange looks from the locals, unsure why a blonde American was trying to make it up the hill, but I returned home still fit even in the land of pasta and gelato. And besides that, I'd accomplished my goal. (Did I mention that I'm goal-oriented?!)

But aside from running, this mantra applies to life too.

Hurdles are temporary. And the momentary effort you'll need to get over them is just that-momentary.

In life, you don't get over setbacks by walking. You need to go full force, take a risk, and not let them slow you down.

This determination, or grit, is the number one factor to success.

I recently watched a TED Talk by Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth that outlines her study on grit. In her terms, after studying West Point students, National Spelling Bee qualifiers, and rookie teachers in the inner city, "one characteristic emerged as the predictor of success: grit." She defines grit as a "passion and perseverance for long-term goals," aka stamina.

Wired.com article describing these studies on grit states:

"Not surprisingly, those with grit are more single-minded about their goals – they tend to get obsessed with certain activities – and also more likely to persist in the face of struggle and failure. Woody Allen famously declared that “Eighty percent of success is showing up." Grit is what allows you to show up again and again." 

So both a long-term and short-term view are needed to run up the hills in life. First, you must knowwhy it's worth it to climb the hill. Secondly, you need to remind yourself that there will be moments that are difficult but they won't last forever. And it's getting over these hills that will give you the strength to ultimately reach the top.

Don't give up on your dreams. But put forward the necessary effort and give it your best.

Motivation Monday

Monday's have been an early start for me during the past year because I do talent and culture development consulting on Monday mornings for an organization in the suburbs. This means that I have to wake up at 6am (at the latest), eat breakfast and get ready in 40 minutes, and head out the door.

Once the meeting that I lead ends at 9am (it starts at 7:15!), my Monday already feels like it's off to a productive start. This momentum typically carries throughout the day.

So to inspire your Monday and give you motivation for the week, here are some ways to be productive and efficient today:

1. Make your action plan. What do you want to accomplish this week? What does that mean for what you must get done today? Write it out and schedule it in your calendar.

2. Take a few minutes to remind yourself why you are working today (or why you are in school, at home, volunteering etc.). Last week I took some of my favorite quotes (found on Pinterest of course) and wrote out an inspirational Bible verse. I made it into a collage using the InstaCollage app and saved it as the background to my computer. This whole process probably took about 30 minutes, but the daily inspiration and reminders that it provides makes me more productive in the long run.

3. Plan out your meals for the week. Planning out your meals for the week takes a little investment on the front end, but it saves a lot of stress during the week. Knowing in advance what I need to buy from the grocery store also saves money (no wasted food) and time (not having to make multiple trips to the store). Plus, you can consciously make the decision to eat healthy. For quick, healthy meals that I've made lately, check out this post from last week.

4. Fit in some exercise. Working up a little bit of a sweat and getting your body moving actually makes you more energetic. Even if you get home from work and are feeling sluggish, getting active will reawaken you, meaning you don't need that cup of coffee mid-afternoon that will keep you up all night. And you don't have to spend a lot of time working out either. You can burn a lot of calories in 10 minutes. My favorite is FitSugar's 10-Minute Videos.

Or, try this at-home CrossFit circuit that I did recently. If you're unfamiliar with CrossFit you can read about it here and get some sample workouts that beginners can do. The circuit that I created was inspired by this one from Carrots 'N' Cake, but since it was a bit challenging for me I modified it below:

This link shows you how to complete each exercise, and the weights that I listed are what I used. If you're curious, I completed 4 rounds in 11:46. Try to beat me ;)

Happy Monday!

Pursuing Excellence

I was recently listening to a podcast from Michael Hyatt entitled The 3 Components of Job Satisfaction. In the episode, he says, "If you have all three of these components—passion, competence, and a market—you experience satisfaction." 

So often, I think that we compartmentalize our lives, seeing formal schooling or training as building competence, finding our market in business only, and developing our passion in our free time. In a world where everything is so specialized, it can be easy to lose sight of the whole picture.

But I love this quote from James Michener because it blurs the lines between all aspects of how we live:

"The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he's always doing both. ”

That one line - "He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does" - is critical to job satisfaction, and it is precisely what we discussed at the One2 Conference last week. 

If you strive to be an excellent learner, you will build competence because you will seek to learn in every situation, both at and outside of work. By building excellent relationships, you will also have a keen understanding of the market and what potential customers or clients need. And as you engage with others around your work and explore new ideas for excellence, your passion will grow. As this blog post from Brazen Careerist says, "Passion is nothing more than curiosity and engagement over time." 

When you pursue excellence, you don’t want to half-heartedly develop new skills or knowledge. You can’t be only partly passionate. And as Michael Hyatt says, you either know your market or you welcome obsoleteness.

So how can you pursue excellence today in one of these three areas – passion, competence, and market?

“My meaning simply is, that whatever I have tried to do in life, I have tried with all my heart to do well; that whatever I have devoted myself to, I have devoted myself to completely; that in great aims and in small, I have always been thoroughly in earnest.” –Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

Best Books of 2012: Nonfiction

I've been reading (or at least skimming) over a dozen nonfiction books lately for my newest endeavor of writing a book. Most of these are nonfiction and relate to my area of work in student coaching. Yet, I also enjoy reading nonfiction books for the purpose and intention behind the story. The best nonfiction writers have a burden to share and passion to explore, which is true for this list.

A common theme throughout these three books is the tension behind how we were created and the choices we make. The interplay between our unique make-up and how we choose to use our giftings lends itself to the classic - yet compelling - "nature vs. nurture" debate.

With that in mind, here are my top nonfiction reads this year:

This book explains the nature of habits, why they exist in the first place, and how you change bad habits or create positive ones. The stories, examples, and research that author Charles Duhigg draws on span a variety of fields and experiences, making it an engaging and fascinating read... Especially if you're interested in psychology in individuals, business, and society.

"This is the real power of habit: the insight that your habits are what you choose them to be. Once that choice occurs - and becomes authentic - it's not only real, it starts to seem inevitable..."

I originally started this book because I am a runner. However, I quickly realized that this book is about ultra-runners and super-athletes who compete in races that are hundreds of miles. (And I thought I was proud of finishing a half-marathon?!) There was not much practical application to my own running journey (unless I decided to embrace the barefoot running phenomenon) besides a few mantras of "Don't fight the trail" and "Think EasyLightSmooth, and Fast." Instead, what kept me reading was the compelling story about the Tarahumara Indians who are the best runners in the world. Author Christopher McDougall creatively weaves the biology, research, and anthropology behind running into a culmination of "the greatest race the world has never seen."

"You had to love running, or you wouldn't live to love anything else. And like everything else we love- everything we sentimentally call our "passions" and "desires"- it's really an encoded ancestral necessity. We were born to run; we were born because we run." 

Let me start by saying that I do not agree with everything that this book proposes. I believe we were each created with unique passions and that these can play a big role in helping us finding work we love. However, this book was a refreshing read precisely because of its different perspective. It also raises some critical points about the necessity of cultivating skills and having a craftsmen mindset, which focuses on the strengths you have to offer. It also discuss building career capital, which is critical for advancing in any field. Therefore, this book made my top books of 2012 list because I believe it's an important read for my generation who is apt to give up when work is hard, rather than persevere and succeed in small but significant ways. 

"Missions are powerful because they focus your energy toward a useful goal, and this in turn maximizes your impact on your world - a crucial factor in loving what you do."

Difference Between Dreaming and Developing

It's been an incredible last week and weekend! I attended the Catalyst conference last week in Atlanta and then just returned from a bridal shower I threw in Orlando. More on the bridal shower in a later post, but for a great recap you can check out my good friend Leah's post here.... it includes lots of pictures of us and the luau theme!

So backing up to this past week where I attended the majority of Catalysta conference for church leaders. I love this conference because it includes speakers from many fields including Geoffrey Canada, Simon Sinek, Susan Cain, John Acuff, and Francis Chan. 

The Catalyst theme was "Make." Are you consciously making yourself into a leader?
Though I heard many great messages on leadership, the key takeaway that I have been mulling over all weekend is the dichotomy between wanting to dream big versus simply living out of my gifting.

I am a follower of Michael Hyatt’s blog, so I was very excited for the opportunity to hear him speak on building a platform to get noticed in a noisy world. One point that he made was that many of us set goals that we already know we can reach. Oftentimes, I would rather play it safe than stretch outside of my comfort zone, risking failure. Yet, how will we ever grow if we don’t test the limits? When we only set goals we know we can accomplish, we don’t give God the opportunity to show up and do amazing things.

Part of allowing God to “show up” is believing that He has an incredible plan for us. Andy Stanley,North Point pastor, reiterated this point by saying, “God has a plan for your life, and you don’t want to miss it.” I desire to walk in the good works that God has set out for me to do (Ephesians 2:10). Walking in this path requires trust – trust to get outside of the comfort zone and dream big.

And yet with this comes the temptation to want to dream big for the sake of making myself known and glorifying my own work. I want to focus on the future and set big goals. But I don’t want to miss opportunities or where God is calling me to go because I am too future-focused.

Perry Noble, pastor of NewSpring Church, further convicted me on this point when he said that we need to say “develop me” rather than “discover me.” 

I began Catalyst Day 1 (the pre-conference labs) being pumped up to set big goals and dream big. The morning of Day 2, I critically thought about whether the goals I wanted to set aligned with God’s plan for me. By Perry Noble’s talk at the end of Day 2, I then saw that goal-setting and dreaming about the future need to first start with my motives and mindset. Am I expecting God to show up big for the glory of my own name? Or am I first living out of my calling?

What about you? Why are you setting goals?

Bring out the Olympic athlete in you

Did you know there is an Olympic athlete in you?

It's all about creating and keeping habits that build upon your natural talents to develop your strength. Maybe it's your physical strength, as in the athletes competing for the gold, but it can also be your communication, leadership, strategic, or other personal strengths.

Bestselling author, motivational speaker, and business consultant Marcus Buckingham says, "You grow most in your areas of greatest strength. It sounds odd but you will improve the most, be the most creative, be the most inquisitive, and bounce back the fastest in those areas where you have already shown some natural advantage over everyone else - your strengths. This doesn't mean you should ignore your weaknesses. It just means you'll grow most where you're already strong."

Most people, from teachers to managers, tell us to focus on our weaknesses - that lower grade or lacking communication skill - in order to improve this area. And I think most people do this in their own lives even without prompting from their superiors. It's tempting to want to "work on the weaknesses" because if you don't improve in them, then you were already weak in that area to begin with. There's no risk because you can't fail in an area where you are already weak.

Yet the most growth comes out of areas where you are already strong and can take this strength to an even higher level. And this requires risk because who wants to fail in an area where they're known for being strong? It's safer to stay at being good instead of reaching to become great.

Take the risk! (John jumping off sliding rock in NC)

But no athlete qualifies for the Olympics by playing it safe. The star of a Little League team doesn't eventually make Varsity baseball by practicing all of the positions he's not that great at. And the Varsity athlete only wins that scholarship to college by practicing what he's already excelling in day after day.

I'm currently reading The Power of Habits: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. Although I just started it, the book is already compelling and very telling about why we act certain ways. Even trying to fix our weaknesses can become a habit, and the only way to break a habit is to replace it with a better one. To do this, however, you need to know what triggers the habit in the first place.

If you find yourself caught up in spending all of your energy on your weaknesses,

  • First, stop and think about how you spent your time today. Where did you devote your attention - on your weaknesses or on developing your strengths?
  • Second, write down the areas where you are weakness-focused. Do you see patterns there? Try to uncover a common theme to your actions.
  • Third,  from the pattern that has emerged, notice what is the trigger point. Do you see a peer excelling in an area where you are weak and then want to go fix this part of yourself? Do you get feedback from someone and only hear the negatives? 
  • Fourth, recognize that it is important to manage around your weaknesses and improve them enough to be competent and proficient. However, also determine what strengths you want to grow in. Clearly identify them and write them out. Need help with this? See this blog post.
  • Lastly, consciously decide how you will focus on your strengths next time you experience your identified trigger. Set a plan of action and record what happens.
Continue reflecting on this pattern and the results that occur when you replace a negative habit with a positive one. Over time, the Olympian in you will emerge. Go for the gold!


Think of your average daily routine. 

Now count how many interactions you have with others - from passing people in the car, to ordering your soy latte, greeting the receptionist at work, picking your children up from school, sweating in Spin class... not to mention all of the meetings via phone calls, emails, Skype, or in the office. It's quickly easy to lose track. 

Just choose a handful of those interactions and imagine all of the opportunities for you to be a leader.

You're probably primarily thinking about interactions where you have an "official" leadership role as boss, manager, co-worker, parent, Sunday School teacher, or club sport coach. But I want you to consider that leadership is primarily influencing others, and this can occur in any sphere of influence.

What interactions do you have with others every day?
How could these be opportunities for leadership?
Drew Dudley in his powerful TED Talk "Everyday Leadership" argues that we "over-elevate leadership" because if we consider leadership to be beyond us, then it gives us an excuse not to expect it. He continues on to tell a story about the biggest impact he has ever had on someone was a moment that he doesn't even remember, even after the person thanked him for it years later.

Great leaders of organizations know that to enact lasting change, they must model the behavior they want their employees to follow. Douglas Smith in Taking Charge of Change says that you must practice leadership based on the courage to live the change that you want to bring about, which sounds extremely similar to Gandhi's saying, "Be the change you wish to see in the world."

People imitate the behavior they see, and this is true whether you are a big "L" or small "l" leader. The daily interactions you have with others are opportunities for you to show grace, humility, sacrifice, kindness, and hope. Furthermore, big "L" leaders - those in positions of formal leadership roles - can only influence to the extent that they act in small "l" ways every day. As Jon Gordon says, "The best make everyone around them better." The greatest leaders spend time growing up other leaders, and they seek out ways to help others be their best. 

On the flip side, leaders exemplify humility, they notice others, and intentionally thank them for their contributions. 

Has someone made an impact on your life - in big or small ways - that you haven't thanked them for yet? Are there small, everyday opportunities for you to be for others?

Work/Life Balance- Is there even such a thing?

This is the question that Michael Hyatt addresses in his most recent This Is Your Life podcast episode, "Is Work-Life Balance Really Possible?".

I'm mentioning it in my blog because during the podcast he answers a question that I called in asking:
"To be good at anything, it seems I have to give one hundred percent. 
How can I do this and balance work and life?"

If you've ever wandered the same thing, listen to the podcast here... and be sure to keep listening to minute 34:02 so you can hear me, as well as Michael's answer to my question!

Contagious Commitment

I recently read a blog post by Greg Steely that summarized leadership as 
Courage + Commitment = Contagious

Essentially, if as a leader you are courageously doing all you can to lead and are fully committed to relationships with your followers, then these values will become contagious. However, I think one thing is missing from this equation: 
Without accountability, our natural tendency is to play it safe and slack on commitments. 

Accountability is not a very well-liked word, especially in business settings. It often evokes images of employers monitoring their staff's computers, requiring that time logs be filled out, and rigorously reviewing employees every quarter.

That description assumes a lack of trust and "Big Brother" feel. What I believe leaders need to implement is openness. And openness requires trust and vulnerability. What are some things that leaders and employees need to be open about? 
  • Where: Where are you headed, and what are your goals? What is it that you want to accomplish? Make sure you set S.M.A.R.T. goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely).
  • Who and What: What do you need in order to accomplish your goals?This can be resources, help from others, personal development, time, etc.
  • How: What is your action plan? Once you know where you are headed and what you need to get there, you must address how you are going to get there. 
  • Why: What progress have you made (or haven't you made) and why? As you're working through your action plan, what progress have you made? What areas are lagging behind, and why? Don't just diagnose issues, uncover the whys.
What are you committed to?
It is important for leaders to honestly answer these questions along with their employees. It's a two-way street. By assessing what is and is not being accomplished will help leaders see bigger patterns of work, relationships, and how things actually get done. Also, it's important for leaders to understand how they can help their employees be as successful as possible. Without asking these questions, leaders cannot recognize what connections, phone calls, or extra time could be of most use. 

And accountability does not just apply to work. In your life outside of work, what are your goals? Who do you want to become? Without regular discussions with a close friend, you'll most likely push to the side the necessary actions that will get you where you want to go. 

Accountability is about naming the actions that are important to you, and having someone be invested in your success along side of youThat doesn't sound "Big Brother-ish" to me. It sounds encouraging. 

What defines you?

At Element3sixty, our purpose is represented through our logo, shown below.

What do you see?
Hint: Look at the white space.

The blue image shaped liked a puzzle piece shows how schools define students by a predetermined shape they must fit into: the right combination of SAT scores, grades, and GPA. Yet Element3sixty is about the whole student, the 360 degrees view. 

Look at the white space that surrounds the logo, and what do you see? The creativity that is required to see the "E" and the "3" in the white space is the type of thinking that the school system often does not encourage. Instead, there is a standardized, "correct" way to solve problems and develop the "right" solution. 

What defines you?

Schools often tell us that grades, GPA, and SAT scores define our worth as a student. Work communicates that P&L statements, average sales, and the amount of our yearly bonus determines our level of business success.

Alain de Botton in "Religion for Everyone" states:
"Insofar as modern society ever promises us access to a community, it is one centered on the worship of professional success. We sense that we are brushing up against its gates when the first question we are asked at a party is 'What do you do?,' our answer to which will determine whether we are warmly welcomed or conclusively abandoned. In these competitive, pseudo-communal gatherings, only a few sides of us count as currency with which to buy the goodwill of strangers. What matters above all is what is on our business cards." 
The real question should be perhaps, what do you let define you? 

At Element3sixty, we believe that everyone has a purpose. When you discover where your strengths, passions, and values intersect, you operate in your element. This discovery isn't just for students. We challenge everyone to uncover how they can add value for others by operating in their element.

The Authentic Leader

This week, John and I have been at Chick-fil-A's annual seminar for operators and home office staff. We heard from incredible speakers, had a surprise concert from Martina McBride, and were treated to a romantic evening of dinner and dancing on Valentine's Day.

It was definitely a "remark"able experience, as Chick-fil-A likes to call it.

Yet one of my favorite times during the event was hearing Marcus Buckingham speak. I love his passion for uncovering and developing others' strengths. Rather than focus on fixing weaknesses, which you can only improve upon so much, he challenges leaders to focus on developing their team's and their own personal strengths. Strengths are where the opportunity presents itself for major growth.

Buckingham ended his talk by stating that authenticity is the most valuable tool a leader has. He urged us to take what is unique about us a a leader (for instance- your influence, your pioneering spirit, your energy) and make it useful.

It's February, yet our apartment is surrounded by green. Among the overgrown bushes, one pink flower has blossomed. To me, this is a picture of authenticity- blooming at all times and sharing the gifts you have to offer. Pink beauty against gray, winter skies. 

Buckingham found that the majority of the US population would prefer to fix their weaknesses, with only 45% (and only 29% of Generation Y) focusing on enhancing their strengths.

Sometimes the harder choice is not to "fix" yourself but to allow yourself to be embraced for your strengths. Building on your strengths will allow you to give of yourself more and become a better leader because you'll be authentically living from who you truly are. 

First, discover your strengths. Then, live them out. 

It's not all about "I"

Adolescents and college students today are 40% less empathetic than 10 years ago.

Why is this a matter for concern?

Consider this: When the Boomers retire, there will not be enough workers from Generation X (born 1965-1983) to fill all of the leadership positions. As a result, the Generation Y employees will be pushed into management positions, ready or not. 

And leadership requires soft skills, like empathy. 

Vanderbilt University undergraduate graduation
I recently attended a Growing Leaders conference for Super Intendants across the state of Georgia to learn the ins and ons of this generation of students. Tim Elmore, president of Growing Leaders, calls this generation the iY generation. These students were born after 1990, in the second half of the Y generation. They grew up with iTunes, iPads, iPhones and learned along that way that everything is about "I." 

As a result of access to endless information on the web and a growing emphasis on the self, these iY students are becoming less and less compassionate for those in need. 

This lack of empathy will become a huge problem when these adolescents become leaders of organizations in the future. The best leaders recognize that they are only leaders if they are followed. And so they desire to connect with their followers, understand what drives them and what their passions are, and ultimately to empathize with and meet them where they are. 

A perfect example of an empathetic leader is Coach John Wooden, who twice refused a post-season invitation to the National Association of Intercollegiate Basketball (NAIB) national play-offs. Why? Because Clarence Walker, an African-American guard on his team, would not be allowed to attend. (It was 1947.) Wooden viewed all of his players as family (even those who sat the bench). 

In his blog post, Michael Lee Stallard concludes the story beautifully: 
"Wooden reflected 'virtuous leadership' that made his players and fans feel connected to him both rationally (for his skill as a coach) and emotionally (for his virtues of respect, fairness, empathy and humility). If American leaders become intentional about developing these and other virtues in themselves, the leaders and the people they lead, 90 percent of people in the American workplace would be doing the right things and giving their best efforts rather than the 10 percent who are today."

Finding Joy in Work

Have you felt distracted or unmotivated in your work?
  • Uncover the lies that run through your head: For me it’s been“You’ll never be good enough. You have to prove yourself, but you don’t have what it takes.” This is a lie. True, don’t have all it takes. True, will never be perfect. But I have the Defender who is fighting for me. What lies have you been telling yourself?
  • Remember that you are made in the image of God. You don’t have a choice whether you are of this image. Your only choice is whether youreflect this image. Don’t believe the lies; instead show His ultimate truth through you.
  • Invest everything. Rather than fearing that I will fail and trying to prove I am worthy, I need to invest all. God calls us to put forth and pour out everything in our being toward what He has planned for us. I am working for Element3sixty because He called me here. It’s not up to me if God will bless Element3sixty’s success. I am to be all in, ministering into the lives of the students that come through our program.
  • Willingly surrender. God has you here, now. Instead of being distracted by all that you could be doing, jump all in. This investment is the only way to joy. Christ’s sacrifice shows us that the only way into full joy is to willingly surrender. Today, give up your agenda to God. Today, I relinquish my fear of failing because He has already won. 
  • Choose to be embraced by joy. Whether I succeed or fail will not determine how much the Father loves me. I am already His. But choosing to live fully and surrender all will determine the extent of the joy I can enter into.
Leading Your Best Life

As part of my work with Element3sixty, I also lead culture and talent development at Roam Atlanta, the collaboration cafe where Element3sixty is based.

At our team meeting this week, we discussed the Four Corners of Great Leadership, a blog post by Tim Sanders. He outlines the four areas that leaders need to continually develop to be excellent. I had the team guess what the four attributes are based on these pictures. See if you can figure it out (hint: your creativity is needed on some!):



Answers (clockwise from top left corner):

  1. Vision
  2. Commitment
  3. Influence
  4. Purpose
As we were discussing these in relation to our work, I realized that these can also be applied to leading your best possible life.

Vision: Vision is the strategy to your life: how you're making your decisions. Just as a business leader needs to constantly refine where the company is headed, you too must assess if you are headed in a direction that will take you where you want to go. Excellent leaders absorb information from books, news articles, data, etc. and you too must dig into what guides your life. For instance, during my daily devotional time, I pray and read Scriptures - not passively, but actively allowing the words to challenge my current viewpoint and reorient me in the direction to the path I should be walking.

Commitment: What motivates you to be your best? The answer to this question is the energizing force behind your actions. During dry times, when you're trudging through the desert, you'll need commitment to keep focused on your vision. Rather than blaming outside factors or others on difficult times, great leaders take responsibility. "Let your 'yes' be yes and your 'no' be no" (James 5:12). Great leaders stay in the game, but they also know when to say no to commitments that will distract them from their vision. Assess your life: Are you saying yes to so much that you have no time to advance toward your vision? Are you saying no to everything so you can avoid truly committing and giving your all?

Influence: Great leaders inspire and motivate their followers. You can't lead toward your vision unless you let others know what it is. Have you made your vision known? Speaking it makes it come alive. Great leaders also recognize that they can accomplish nothing on their own. Who in your life are you influencing and who in your life is influencing you? These relationships could be positive or negative - and to lead your best life you need to separate from the gossip, the negative talkers, the pride, and whatever else is pulling you down from leading your life. You also need to recognize and appreciate whoever is helping you reach your vision.

Purpose: If your vision is the "what," then your purpose is the "why." Everyone has a personal mission statement, whether you've written it out or not. This is what you're living your life for. I highly encourage you to write out what you are living for and why. I wrote a personal mission statement a couple of years ago, and when I was applying to jobs last summer, it was helpful to return to it and see what positions aligned best with what I was committed to. You won't be committed to a vision or influence others to bring that vision to reality unless you're extremely dedicated to the reason behind it all.

Notice that throughout this post the words "continually" and "constantly" are used frequently. This is an ongoing process, a journey. Be embraced by it. 

Through my work with Element3sixty, I have the incredible opportunity to sit down with high school and college students and hear their stories. I enjoy starting my coaching sessions this way because typically a certain word or theme will stand out again and again in a student's story. This repeated word or theme provides a clue to what energizes them.

For instance, this week I coached a very driven, bright girl who is a senior in high school. Throughout our conversation she repeated the idea that she likes having a lot of projects going on simultaneously because she enjoys making plans. She is involved in several organizations and thrives on leading meetings, building off others' ideas, and improving plans. She was most excited when she realized that something that has always come naturally or easily (planning and being detailed-oriented) is actually a unique strength that adds value for others.

But it's not only whether you're strong in something that is important.

Do you enjoy it? Does it energize you?

Take a look at this Marcus Buckingham video on this point:

You do have a choice.

You can choose to discover where your best is and to act on it, like the little boy in the video who realizes he loves drumming much more than trombone.

It might not be as drastic as a shift as you think. The boy is still in the band, just with a different instrument. Instead, you may just need to position yourself in a situation differently.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to begin uncovering your unique strengths and passions:
  • How do you like to be challenged?
  • When does time fly by because you're doing something you love? 
  • What would you do if  you knew you couldn't fail?
  • When was the last time you were really excited?
  • What are you most proud of?
  • What words do your family, friends, or coworkers use to describe you?

Now, take this list and start seeing where it fits into your life and/or work now. What areas can you reorganize, rearrange, delegate, take control over that will energize you and build off your strengths?

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