The first habit for success is simple and can be learned in no time: write down your top five values and review them daily. Write them down in the present tense, as though they were completely true. Read them on a daily basis with mindful awareness. It may be simple, but this habit can change lives. Why not give it a try?
What’s your definition of success? The dictionary defines it as “the achievement of something desired, planned, or attempted.” In other words, it’s the accomplishment of an intended result or outcome. Although useful as a discussion starter, and certainly an important part of success, I don’t think this definition captures the full measure of success.
For example, we may not accomplish an intended result or outcome and yet we may still be successful. Surprises happen, and sometimes they turn out better than what we had in mind in the first place. Plus, there’s all the time in between point A and point B, between intention and outcome. Must we wait for the outcome in order to be successful? I don’t think so.
The first habit for success takes all this into account. It assists us to get where we want to go, to be open to the serendipities of life, and to appreciate the present moment. What can do all that? The simple act of writing down and reviewing our highest values on a daily basis.
Many successful people write them down and read them at the start of every day. Others use computer technology so that their values popup when they first go to their calendar. Either way, successful people do more than just mull them over in their mind. They establish eye contact. They pause long enough to look at their values in order to be reminded, as though from an outside source, of who they are and what they do.
I like to write them down in the present tense, even if they’re not 100% realized. “I eat a low-calorie, heart-healthy diet,” is not self-deception but self-direction. Putting that in the future tense is nowhere near as powerful. “I will eat a low-calorie, heart-healthy diet,” can be pie-in-the-sky, bye-and-bye. It neither serves to motivate nor to guide. It sounds like a pipedream of the perfect life instead of the perfect life itself.
Yesterday I met with a friend to review some of the tips and tricks I use to eat a low-calorie, heart-healthy diet. We looked at a couple of books, took a 28-question quiz to discover our eating type, and then went to the kitchen to do menu planning for breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well as the snacks in between. By the end of our time together we were so psyched that we covenanted to eat no food with our fingers during the next week. Talk about a showstopper! Try that one for yourself, if only for a day. It’s harder than you may think.
What’s the point? To not eat standing up, on the run, in the car, on the phone, or lying down. Always using utensils makes you think more about what and why you’re eating.
What’s the deeper point? To step back and review this value with my friend was incredibly motivating and directional. Doing this on a daily basis works the same way. It keeps me on track with my goal and in the present moment at the same time. Every time I eat something healthy or avoid something unhealthy I have reason to celebrate and give thanks.
All this assumes, of course, that you know your highest values and can write them down. Unfortunately, this may be the exception rather than rule. When was the last time that you articulated your top five governing values? If it’s been a while, you might want to do that right now. If it’s hard to come up with five, you might want to contact a coach (coach@LifeTrekCoaching.com).
Once you get your values down on paper or in your electronic organizer, you can review them daily and modify them, if necessary, as time goes on. The review process will alert you to how these values play out in your everyday lives. Many people will put down honesty as one of their highest values. But what does this really mean? If we keep that value on the shelf, it may not mean very much. If we take that value off the shelf on a daily basis, we can dust it, polish it, play with it, and position it to take on real significance in our lives.
Even if you’ve never reviewed your values on a daily basis, it’s easy to start. Write down or type up your five highest values on a 3×5 card. Now tape the card to a place you go every day. For me, it’s the computer. I have them taped to the top of my monitor. When I sit down, I read them. And after I read them, I conclude with a simple prayer: “God, make it so.”
I don’t know a successful person who cannot tell you his or her highest values, without hesitation or fumbling. They know them, review them, and live into them. It’s a dynamic process. No one ever arrives. But if you don’t get them clear in your mind, and if you don’t look at them on a daily basis, you may never even start on the road to success.
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May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
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