"Doing what we have to do each day to maintain our lives is management. This is not what defines us as individuals; rather, it is what makes us the same as everyone else. Personal leadership is doing what we don’t have to do to lead ourselves forward and grow each day. This is where we get our self-identity, and what differentiates us from others."
Have you ever felt you are not getting all you wanted from life? Perhaps all the work you do fills your time and meets your needs but does not add any value to your life. You feel like you are running in place instead of reaching goals. Steve McClatchy guides us through how to stop just Preventing Pain and start Gaining in Decide. He has taught his method to high school students, high-level executives and people at every level between. His formula works on all aspects of life from work and relationships to health and financial goals. He teaches us how to become leaders in our lives and define our unique contribution and ourselves.
We find the complete process for avoiding burnout, feeling like life is getting worse, and achieving what we want and feeling balanced in Decide. For this summary, I will focus on setting priorities that result in actions that reach goals.
The Big Idea
Prioritize your decisions and actions
"Once you’re better able to prioritize your decisions and your actions, the results that you are getting will improve. If you can move your life forward a little bit each week, you begin to feel balanced. You can start leading instead of just managing. Be the inspiration – for yourself and others. Be the person others look at and wonder, ‘How do I get my life to be like that?’ And then tell them how! Decide and commit to Gain, balance, prioritize, plan, and get energy from desire instead of from fear."
We become leaders when we decide what we want out of life and make that a priority. As McClatchy points out, no one has ever become wildly successful just meeting someone else’s expectations. Meeting our own goals not only makes us feel more accomplished and balanced, but we also become an inspiration to others. The key is deciding to commit to our goals and consistently taking action to move our life forward a little bit at a time. Our decisions about priorities will bolster long-term perseverance.
McClatchy says, “It sounds like people believe there is an inherent conflict between work and life! This is an unfortunate perspective, because we don’t have a separate professional and personal life; we have only a life.” This is important when we consider how to prioritize work with other goals. Just as there is not really a mind-body connection, they are both part of the same system. If we disconnected them, neither one would work. Personal goals and work goals need to harmonize.
Planning reduces stress and increases productivity
"Planning in advance allows you to be proactive, and… this keeps stress and urgency low, allows for better-quality work, keeps you in control, and allows you to decide the best time to complete a task before the deadline decides for you. When you don’t have a plan, productive work time will elude you until the last minute. You end up being reactive – which brings on high stress and urgency, lower-quality work, and less control and convenience."
When we know what we want, it’s time to create a plan. We can modify the plan as we go, but the plan tells us what is important. This is where we decide when to spend time in our life pursuing what is important to us. This allows us to decide where other people’s priorities belong. The quality of our work increases and our stress decreases because we are in control. Our energy increases because we look forward to the time we have committed to pursuing our goals. We are working toward our highest value even if we need to commit most of our time to things that are not personally meaningful. This mindset creates Gain and enables us to establish our identity and unique contribution.
If we decide to let others plan our valuable time, our stress increases because it creates an internal conflict. We do not have time to decide to pursue what is personally important. We are not motivated by our own desire so our sense of accomplishment diminishes. Our energy decreases and so does the quality of our work and our life. With less energy, getting only the essentials done takes all our time. We procrastinate more and feel less connected to our work. This mindset is difficult to change; once we have decided that our own desires are less important than other peoples’ we tend to stick with that assumption.
Create habits to support your goals
"Whatever you do, you know this is an important item – something that, if lost, will definitely cost you some time. So you make a decision to place your keys somewhere every night, and you don’t have to think about it after that. You created a habit."
Like our keys, our goals and time are important. We create habits because they ensure we remember to do something that is important. Even habits we created with negative consequences filled a need. Now we are going to create habits that ensure we are making steady progress toward our goals. Worthwhile endeavors often take time. Without habits to keep us on track, it is easy to become distracted from our goals.
We form habits when the consequence of not doing an action creates a loss. We form an emotional connection to the action that prevents the loss. The emotional connection causes us to repeat the activity. To make new habits stick, write down your goals. What would you lose if you do not reach them? Why are they important? Connect with the positive outcome of reaching your goal. Remember the benefits as you do the work to get there. Regular repetition is essential in creating habits, which is another reason to schedule your time.
As McClatchy says, “We can’t really manage time itself. Time ticks on no matter what we decide to do with it. We can only manage our decisions.” Managing those decisions is what defines who we are. If we decide to spend all of our time on evanescent thrills and trivial, mundane tasks, we will never achieve enduring accomplishments and meaning in our life.
As I read Decide, I wanted a magic formula that makes every endeavor instantly successful. I took on the difficult task of a career change. Navigating a new occupation is stepping into the unknown. It took longer than expected and there is more required than I knew. I had to take a second job and give up time I wanted to spend on a new career (and other things) to earn enough while I get myself established. I felt like a failure and wanted to know where I went wrong. When I finished the book, I realized setbacks are part of life. The magic happens when we decide to do what it takes and continue to pursue worthwhile goals even when it turns out to be harder than expected.