First off, I would echo the voice of 18th century French philosopher Voltaire, made popular and relevant in todayís leadership lexicon by "Good to Great" author Jim Collins, who said, "Good is the Enemy of Great."
1. "Good is the Enemy of Great." Get rid of the good to make room for the great in your life. Instead of keeping the main thing the main thing, we major in too many minor things. In other words, many people do a few things that are good, a lot of things that are mediocre, but nothing that is GREAT.
Find the ONE thing you can be the best in the world at and focus unrelentingly on improving that one thing, polishing it to perfection.
Choose great over good in ALL areas of your life! It is far better to have a few great things than a lot of good or mediocre things.
Instead of having six cheap shirts that you donít feel so great in, have one fine quality shirt that you can feel proud to wear and that makes you feel like a million bucks! Instead of having five or six ho-hum paintings to decorate your walls, invest in ONE magnificent masterpiece that leaves you breathless and enriches your soul every time you look at it! Instead of going to the usual cottage retreat every long-weekend, save up your money and go on one GREAT vacation that youíve always dreamed of like going on a European boat-cruise, snorkeling in the Red Sea, or taking an art class in Paris. Instead of many mediocre friendships, have a few great friendships that energize and inspire you and that you can spend quality time fostering deeper relationships. You get the point.
Greatness is a choice! And choice is the democratic equalizer of all people. Everyone, regardless of their rank, social status or income level has the power to choose great over good.
2. Commit to an annual theme. Instead of making and breaking a number of well-wished but half-hearted New Yearís Resolutions, commit to an annual or lifetime theme. Pick a theme that defines your singular life purpose or what you are most passionate about and stick to it.
For example, my theme is: "Write First!" I have this theme posted right in front of me above my computer. My purpose is to write.
I write first and ask questions later. I focus on writing (or things related to developing my writing) first and then worry about the urgent but non-important interruptions (paying bills, answering calls and emails, responding to invitations, etc.) that plague everyone. This theme takes precedence over everything else except my spiritual relationship with my Creator. The only exception to this rule would be a genuinely important priority that falls in one of my top values in life or attending to a family emergency.
Your main theme for 2006 could be "Family First!" or "Health First!" or "Listen First!" or "Service Above Self." Just pick one and commit to it.
Beside your main theme, make a list of your top values such as love, health, giving, peace, wealth, etc. to ground yourself and distinguish between important and non-important but urgent matters. In his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin listed thirteen virtues (Temperance, Silence, Order, Resolution, Frugality, Industry, Sincerity, Justice, Moderation, Cleanliness, Tranquility, Chastity, and Humility) to which he governed his life and gave a weekís strict attention to mastering one virtue at a time repeating the list in order every thirteen weeks.
3. Practice a policy of planned neglect. In other words, once you have established your theme or singular purpose (the one thing you can be the best in the world at) get into the habit of practicing your main habit FIRST before anything else.
Everything else thatís non-important can get neglected and keep getting put-off. In other words, your daily to-do list will keep changing around your main theme which will remain constant ñ with very few exceptions.
4. Make a stop doing list. Iím not sure where I first heard this idea, but I borrowed it most recently from Jim Collinís book, "Good to Great." Too many people have important to-do lists that keep getting longer and longer. But very few people have ëstop-doingí lists. Make a list of everything you are doing that is not contributing to your core genius or main purpose and core values ñ and stop doing it! Forget about your image and what other people will think, and STOP doing whatís not great in your life.
5. Be Simple. Get rid of the good to make room for the great. Literally! Get rid of the junk in your basement and file folders!
Anything you havenít touched or looked at in a year you probably need to get rid of it. Donate books and magazines you havenít read and clothes you know youíre never going to wear. Empty your mind and physical space of unnecessary clutter and make room for abundance! (Daily meditation is a great way to empty the mind and allow new inspiration).
6. Make HEALTH a priority NOW! Get a full physical check-up at least once a year. If somethingís bothering you or you donít feel right about something, get it checked out IMMEDIATELY! Donít wait, until itís too late. Take a proactive approach to your health by taking preventative measures, eating healthy and exercising regularly. And make LOVE a top priority. If you havenít taken the time to tell your loved ones how deeply you value and love them, then make time for it now.
Are you still reading this article? WHY? Pick-up your phone, right now, and call your doctor to make that appointment! Call your loved ones now and book some real quality time together. Life is short and fragile. You may never get the chance again.
7. Dreams. The dream is a window into your soul, a gateway into the unseen world, giving access to the unknown and revealing the invisible behind all that is visible. In my book, "Psychology of the Hero Soul," (http://www.herosoul.com; Chapter 14; pg. 77)I mention the importance of dreams and how to harness your dreams to awaken your creative potential. I canít stress enough how important it is to get into the habit of jotting down your dreams and making an effort to interpret them. It is a great way to develop self-awareness and self-understanding and will enrich your life in many, many unforeseen ways.
Self-awareness and self-acceptance is so important in developing your self-esteem. Take the time to seriously ask yourself, "Who am I and whatís my purpose in life?" Write down your strengths and weakness, your highest ambitions and deepest fears, and make a list of everything you enjoy doing and all your hobbies. Take some personality tests to gain deeper understanding of who you are.
8. Face the brutal facts! Never hide from reality. Always get the hard facts about any situation you are facing. It doesnít matter if you have a Harvard MBA and are the worldís greatest optimist if you pick the wrong location to open up a retail business!
Likewise, face the brutal facts about yourself. If you havenít even come close to achieving your dreams and goals, you need to honestly ask yourself why you havenít reached your goals and figure out what has been preventing you. A great way to accomplish this is to ask a few friends you trust and who know you the following question: "How do you see me limiting myself?" (I have Jack Canfield to thank for this great question).
Once you have the facts and fully understand the problem, spend over eighty percent of your time focusing on the solution.
9. ASK for help! If you need help, ask for it. If you donít ask, you donít get. Ask for the sale, ask for the date, ask for support. Stop worrying about your image, reject the rejection, and ASK!
But donít just be a taker. Please also give. Earn the right to ask by being a giver. Be a generous giver because whatever you put out into the world will return multiplied. The heroís journey is about following your bliss, and doing what you love to do in service to others. "Service above self," is a great motto to adopt.
10. Take Action! In my Hero Soul book, I have dedicated an entire chapter on taking action. The great succeed by taking continuous and concerted action toward a singular objective. And they continue to take unrelenting, consistent action for a period of years before becoming overnight successes.
If you do just five new things every day towards achieving your biggest dream, you will one day be living your dream and as Thoreau once said, ëmeet with a success unexpected in common hours.í
But if you arenít going to take action on the advice in this article, why the heck are you reading it? Move on to something else!
One of my favorite movies is "The Shawshank Redemption" (based on Stephen Kingís short story, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption) about a successful banker, Andy Dufresne, who is convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of his wife. Iím sure many of you have seen it.
For nineteen years Dufresne quietly chips away at his goal to escape by literally chipping the wall in his cell ñ a little bit every day ñ until one day he reaches his goal and escapes.
His jail buddy, Red, comments that all it took "was pressure and time."
I donít think Iíve ever seen any movie replayed so many times on TV. It really intrigued me. So I did some research and found out that according to IMDB, The Shawshank Redemption is the second most popular movie of all time with The Godfather taking first place! Thatís quite the accomplishment given how long The Godfather has been out.
Why is this movie so popular? I donít really know the answer. But I think itís because many people feel like theyíre living in a prison and have been given a life sentence to doing work they really hate. They want to break free from their shackles.
More than anything else, they want FREEDOM! And Shawshank delivers that moment of freedom. Itís a beautiful story that makes the soul weep with joy and provides the hope and promise of being human.
The great thing about Shawshank is that it also provides a solution: by quietly chipping away at your main goal and consistently taking action everyday, you will achieve the success and freedom you have been longing for. With ëpressure and timeí you can take the darkest coal and turn it into the most brilliant, most magnificent diamond the world has ever seen.