The Motivation Process – How To Find Endless Distraction-Free Motivation

I’m not going to yell and cuss at you. Or give you a quick pep talk that will only energize you for the next 25 minutes. I’m simply going to show you how I find the motivation within myself to master my energy and become motivated beyond external bursts.

Reliance on external motivation only causes noise that continues to cloud our productivity.

(e.g. intense speeches, pep talks, inspirational songs with epic choirs saying latin words, random self-help teachers who just want to cuss at you)

When you’re tackling work or a project, the most difficult part is getting started. It’s so easy to feel like our projects and goals are overwhelming.

Defeat feels like it already happened even though we haven’t started yet.

And the possibility of future regret constantly stifles our attempts to even get started.

Motivation shouldn’t be a battle between willpower and external stimulation.

Motivation shouldn’t need to be pumped into us all of the time.

Motivation should be a way of life that flows from what we value.

Once you learn how to find motivation within yourself, you’ll allow energy and productivity to flow. Your values and drive will empower you rather than external sources.

Motivation flows from what you value

Most people think that motivation is something they have to find. So, they spend their time searching for motivation outside of themselves rather than cultivating it within themselves.

True motivation isn’t something that occurs outside of you. It’s found within yourself.

Sure, an inspirational video might give you a good nudge, but ultimately, that video is simply stirring up the values inside you already had to begin with.

So, how do you find and cultivate the motivational values within yourself?

First, recognize what you value. Then, practice those values and make them crucial to a life well lived.

It’s that simple.

I’ll walk you through an example of myself:

I need motivation for writing. So, I first need to recognize why I want to write. Why do I want to communicate with people in this medium?

A value I recognize within myself related to writing is growth.

I value growth within myself and within other people. So, writing for me isn’t actually about writing at all. It’s about sharing growth with other people.

It’s about a communal challenge to enter into a better humanity with each other.

If I spent hours trying to become motivated to write from external sources, they would never help me arrive at that conclusion.

Instead, all I had to do was take 5 minutes to recognize the values that are underlying my desire to work on a project.

I had to recognize that what I value is crucial to a life well lived. Fostering that value inside myself allows me to transform writing from work into a gift.

This is how you find true motivation: by cultivating the values inside yourself that drive you beyond the norm.

Try this for yourself… what values are behind your drive to accomplish a task? Find those values and foster them.

Lasting, determined motivation comes from your ability to translate values into action.

“Over-motivation interferes with reasoning processes. The automatic reaction mechanism is jammed by too much conscious effort—trying too hard. Something akin to ‘purpose tremor’ develops and the ability to think clearly is lost. “ - Maxwell Maltz

Andy Stanley says that “direction, not intention, determines destination”.

Your intention might be to get started on your project, but unless you put action and direction towards your goal, you’ll never get to your destination.

Simply willing something to happen won’t work.

Once you find the values that are behind your desire to start and complete a project, you’ll need to get started.

You can get started in a small way… begin by creating an outline of the work you need to do and a simple timeline of when you’ll get it done.

Direction will move you towards your destination. Intention will only cause stalling.

Resolve the tension of open loops

“The world always seems brighter when you’ve just made something that wasn’t there before.” - Neil Gaiman

Our lack of productivity and motivation mainly comes from the unresolved open loops in our life.

Open loops (called the Zeigarnik effect) are the reason why we remember uncompleted tasks more than completed ones.

This is why all the little errands and tasks you have to do slowly add up and completely destroy your emotional energy.

Our brains crave completed tasks and ideas. The biggest function our brain has is to figure out how to complete things through logic.

When we have a myriad of unresolved tasks, our mind will spend its processing power trying to accomplish them.

This is detrimental because we use up precious energy and time thinking about ways to solve things without completing even a single one of those tasks.

Learn how to resolve open loops here.

Learning to resolve open loops will free up your mental and emotional energy so you can have deep focus and motivation without distraction.

Stop consuming so many low-quality things

“A person cannot rise above how he sees himself” - Maxwell Maltz

Buzzing notifications will never serve you well.

I love staying connected to people. I want to know when people get engaged, or how their Christmas was, or even the snarky face their cat made, but continual low-quality consumption is devastating to productivity.

We willingly choose to allow ourselves to become distracted by things that don’t provide value to us. And don’t get me wrong, it’s great to stay connected and to have times where you can relax and watch TV.

But, rest and relaxation have a time and place of their own.

A majority of your motivation-block my be coming from your choices to distract yourself away from the fear of getting started.

I’m an avid reader. And I think everyone should be. So, I try to tell everyone I meet to start reading because I believe it has the power to greatly change someone’s life.

But, most people I talk to argue that they don’t have enough time to read…

This is fascinating to me. Usually, because they were talking about the last Game of Thrones episode they watched.

I don’t read a lot because I have more time than other people. I read a lot because I choose to value it over other activities that are low-quality.

If you spend your life only choosing low-quality activities, you’ll never find the motivation to starting doing high-quality activities.

Motivation to start your goals and projects will never be found in low-quality distractions like social media and TV. They might serve as great periods of rest and relaxation, but only after you spend more time choosing to invest in high-quality activities.

So, start toning down your consumption of low-quality things. Choose to fill your time with high-quality activities that will serve you well and usher in motivation.

Practice in the open

"A lot of people believe in talent. I don’t think something like talent exists. I think the only way to get good at something is to do it over and over again. In front of an audience of people so you can get immediate feedback.” - Yann Girard

You’ll gain a remarkable amount of motivation by publicizing what you’re doing.

Even something as simple as telling a couple of friends what you’re doing will introduce an unparalleled level of accountability and encouragement.

Also, practicing in the open will allow you to gain valuable feedback about what you’re doing.

People will be able to help you in ways you never thought possible when you become inclusive with your projects and goals.

When you share what you’re doing with other people, you open yourself up to the possibility of people knowing if you failed. And that’s ok.

No one expects you to be perfect except for yourself.

You’ll create a vulnerable community that lasts for years when you can begin to trust others to see what you’re building.

Don’t rely on external motivation. Find it within yourself

“Few things are sadder than encountering a person who knows exactly what he should do, yet cannot muster enough energy to do it.” - Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Don’t become affected by your circumstances… or merely reactionary to your environment.

Cultivate the values within you that will allow you to master your energy and become motivated beyond short, external bursts.

Getting started is tough… I used to search for motivation everywhere until I realized that motivation has always been inside me.

The values for the life you want to live are the only things that can truly empower you.

Once you recognize that, motivation will flow out of practicing your values.

Find the deep values behind the work and goals you have for yourself. Make them crucial elements of a life well lived.

When you begin to recognize the power that values have on your motivation, you’ll never have to search for it.

External motivation will only give you a temporary burst of energy.

Motivation cultivated within yourself, based on what you value, will create endless, distraction-free energy.

4 Steps To Find Clarity When You’re Confused

Are you confused about what your life direction is? Maybe you’re trying to decide a major. Or maybe a career. Maybe you feel lost and distanced from community and fulfillment. I struggle with feeling like I’m on a solid direction so much… I think it’s because I lose myself in the destination rather than the process.

Finding clarity and direction in your life isn’t difficult. You first have to accept that growth will always be found in progress instead of the destination. Then, we can leverage our skills and mindset to find a clear direction.

4 Easy Steps To Gain Clarity And Focus

  1. Slow Down And Relax
  2. Close The Open Loops
  3. Leverage Your Core Values
  4. Start A Project

You’re Not Alone

” We suffer more in imagination than in reality”

Seneca

It’s so easy to feel like you’re facing confusion about your relationships, or career, or just life in general, alone.

We imagine that our struggles are singular and unique only to us. And we close ourselves off to the community around us who are the only ones who can help.

This spiral of confusion and doubt affects so many people. I talk to people every single day who feel lost or hopeless because they don’t have an exact map of the future.

And that’s perfectly ok! You don’t need a detailed destination and map to live a free and fulfilled life. All you need is a little guidance that will clear the fog and set you on course.

This idea of “having our life together” stems out of cultural perceptions that have been instilled in us since we were kids… “What do you want to be when you grow up?”.

We were taught to look towards the future so much that we forgot how to find true peace and connection in each moment.

A Lack Of Clarity Creates Chaos

Transforming confusion into clarity is more about the process than the destination.

A fulfilling life will always be about the perpetual progression that leads you and others towards growth.

The big struggle is that most of our lives are filled with chaos. Everything in our life is begging for attention. Relationships, work, chores, senseless notifications…

Until we can begin to discern what is valuable from the chaff, we will never find clarity and remove confusion.

This 4, step confusion-to-clarity plan is broken into 2 parts:

Remove the distractions

1. Slow down and relax

2. Close the open loops

Practice in the open

3. Leverage core values to dramatically change your life

4. Start a project to gain momentum and vision

Our lives are plagued by distractions. Most of the time our confusion actually comes from distractions instead of a lack of direction.

Clear direction is usually right in front of us, but so many distractions keep us from following a defined path.

1. Slow Down And Relax

Presence is experienced in a participative way, outside the mind. The mind by nature is intent on judging, controlling, and analyzing instead of seeing, tasting, and loving.

Richard Rohr

First, realize that life isn’t going by as fast as you think. You have plenty of time to continue to discover who you are and what you want to do.

Nothing will be lost if you don’t figure out what you want to do soon. You will still have the ability to enjoy relationships. And you will still be able to do crazy dangerous things you shouldn’t tell your mom about. 

Your life won’t all of a sudden get better once you find a direction. Your life will get better when you can seize the present moments before you and make the most of them.

I used to struggle with slowing down. And I still struggle with it. I was so consumed with what I wanted to do in the future that my relationships suffered because of it.

If you become consumed by confusion and finding direction for the future, you will only neglect the presence in front of you.

You will miss out on opportunities for growth, community, development, peace, and joy.

So, take a deep breath. Relax.

You have plenty of time to figure out what your future direction looks like. 

Don’t allow the future to destroy how you interact with the present.

Take time away from work. And take time away from obsessively thinking about why you’re confused and what to do about it. Take a walk, have dinner with a friend, get lost in a story.

Take a break from worrying. Slow down and relax in the present moments around you.

In this process you’ll find refreshment and fulfillment that was lost in confusion and worry.

Slowing down will give you a platform to begin finding direction in your life.

2. Close The Open Loops

“The mind wants a job and loves to process things. The key to stopping this game is, quite simply, peace, silence, or stillness.”

Richard Rohr

An open loop is a psychological phenomenon discovered by Bluma Zeigarnik. Open loops (called the Zeigarnik Effect) state that people remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks.

Open loops are the unresolved tasks that replay themselves over and over again in our minds.

The laundry needs to be done. The kids need to be picked up. I have a meeting tomorrow. I still have to pick up a wedding present.

We carry these open loops throughout our days and weeks. And they pile up. They consume all of our mental and emotional energy until we’re drained and exhausted.

We carry so many open loops with us that they cloud our vision and create confusion and chaos. And then we shape our actions and decisions off of a false sense of reality that is being choked out by unresolved tasks and storylines.

Open loops can be exhausting!

The key to removing them is to expose them for what they are and let them air out.

I’ve created a note on my phone that contains all of the open loops that present themselves throughout the day. If something I need to do comes to mind, I write it down. Then, I begin to plan how I’ll tackle it.

I either set a reminder or a calendar date of when I’m going to get it done.

Then, these small tasks aren’t piling up and consuming my mental and emotional energy.

I used to constantly feel confused and unmotivated until I realized that I had hundreds of open loops constantly replaying themselves in my mind. And those small tasks were causing incredible frustration for me until I started to write them down and tackle them one by one.

The chaotic power of open loops is found in their ability to constantly repeat themselves as they float around our thoughts and are continually unresolved.

Start writing down the open loops and small tasks that keep replaying themselves. Develop a game plan to tackle a few each day.

This will help you remove the confusion that is being created by distractions.

Learn more about tackling open loops.

Practice In The Open

3. Leverage core values

4. Start a project

Once you’ve taken the steps to remove distractions, you can begin the last two steps. These steps are about finding energy and practicing your values in the open (i.e. practicing with other people).

Most of us have closeted dreams. We’re afraid to tell people our goals and are scared to start because we realize we might actually have to follow through with them.

You’ll begin to live a clear life when you can move past your fear of what others think and begin practicing what you’re passionate about in front of other people.

3. Leverage Core Values To Dramatically Change Your Life

“Don’t aim at success – the more you aim at it and make it a target – the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensure, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself” – Viktor Frankl

Core values are the foundation that we base every single decision off of. Throughout our life, we begin to discover aspects of life that we truly value.

For example, growth is a huge core value for me. I value growth from all aspects of life. I constantly challenge myself and others to grow.

Core values are what you believe is required to have a life well lived. Core values are what you believe to be meaningful and treasured beyond yourself.

Here’s the disconnect: most people imagine themselves in the future with a glowing idea of the person they will be. But, they never do anything now to practicing becoming that person.

Who do you want to be in the future?

Do you plan to be an empathetic father? Or an influential leader? Maybe a service-oriented philanthropist?

You have to identify the traits of the person you want to become and then practice those traits every single day.

You will never become the person you want to be if you don’t continually practice and shape yourself.

Finding your core values is easy. Follow the instructions on this sheet:

Once you find your core values, start practicing them in every single aspect of your life.

If you have a core value of respect, start practicing respect in your marriage. And teach your children how to respect others. And find ways to show respect to the cashier at the grocery store.

Start to full your life with the core values you resonate with and you’ll begin the transformation of becoming who you want to be.

Here’s The Plan:

  • List out the core values that resonate with the person you want to become: the person you want to become is already inside you, you just have to practice those traits
  • Memorize your core values: make a reminder, or sticky notes on your mirror, or go over them every morning when you wake up
  • Begin practicing in front of people: this will help you find new ways to help and give value to others while drastically improving your mood and performance
  • Allow yourself to fail: negative feedback is the only way to get better. Have a learning mindset instead of a losing mindset

Finding and practicing your core values is the quickest and easiest way to remove confusion and replace it with clarity.

Living your core values doesn’t require excess time or money.  You can even practice your core values at work and essentially get paid to start your dream.

Practicing core values will help you constantly search for growth and a clear direction without having to decide on a major, job, activity, project, cause, goal, etc.

People get so consumed with feeling like they have to make a big decision about what job to choose or what to do after retirement or what to do in their free time.

Core values help you take a step back and examine what truly matters. They allow you to live a life of purpose and meaning without being attached to a dream, goal, project, or cause.

Time will reveal your next big thing, but for now, focus on what you value and start to live that out now.

4. Start A Project To Gain Momentum And Vision

“Get yourself a goal worth working for. Better still, get yourself a project. Decide what you want out of a situation. Always have something ahead of you to “look forward to” — to work for and hope for. Look forward, not backward”

Maxwell Maltz

After you’ve cleared the confusing distractions that surround you and identified your core values, you can begin looking for a project or movement you can begin working towards.

This step is the most open-ended. There is no guide that can tell you exactly which path to take. Most of the time, a clear direction is laid right in front of you once you clear distractions from your life and you begin practicing core values.

A few things to keep in mind with whatever project you want to tackle:

Your Direction Should Be Bigger Than You

Your life direction should be more encompassing than just your desires. Your purpose should be about how you influence people and grow with them to create a more fulfilling and joyous life.

Make sure that whatever project or direction you move towards you’re constantly serving people.

If you’re not sure where to start, begin by examining yourself. What talents and skills and passions do you have? Then, examine what good is happening in the world already. Are hungry people being fed? Are people being taught how to read?

You can begin to get a sense of your life direction by finding where your life overlaps with the good that’s happening in the world.

There Isn’t One Right Answer

Sometimes I wish someone would just hand me my life purpose and then I’d never have to worry again. But, that would remove what it means to be human. It would remove joy and struggle and union.

Understand that there isn’t one right answer. And you will never be able to “pick the wrong thing”. It’s all about constant development.

One of my friends in college panicked about choosing the right major. She thought that there was a right choice and she was going to miss it somehow. But, this is never true.

Start with a direction that energizes you. As long as you’re helping people and finding growth and energy coming from it, you’re on the right track.

Start With Small Steps

You don’t have to have a massive project as a goal you’re working towards. Start out with small goals and work your way up.

If you want to start an organization that aids in drug addiction, don’t start by trying to raise funds for a building. Start by mentoring someone you know who is struggling first.

You’ll become overwhelmed if you try to do something too big first. Small actionable goals will always win.

Discovery Is a Great Place To Start

Most people start without even researching what they want to do.

A great place to start is by discovery more about a potential future direction in your life.

Read online articles. Listen to podcasts. Read books. Interview local leaders.

Start by learning more so you can spark new ideas and motivation for your future direction.

Next Step

Confusion comes from letting the past cloud your vision of the future.

If you follow these 4 steps, you’ll begin to transform “I’m confused” into “I found clarity”.

The process will take time and effort, but continue to grow and develop into the person you want to become and confusion will never cloud your vision again.

One surprising word that will help you flawlessly accept criticism

Through one simple word and a follow up question, you can transform a critic into a collaborator.

Your response has the direct ability to invite others into your growth and partner in your development instead of viewing critics as negative influences.

Use The Word "Noted" To Recognize A Critique And Accept It

“Noted”, Jon would affirmatively say each time a new suggestion was brought up by our team.

I used to volunteer to play music at a church in Virginia. After each service, our team would huddle and go over suggestions for improving next service.

Everything, from lighting cues to mic placement to jokes in the sermon, was exhaustively covered.

One of the biggest things I admired about our pastor, Jon, was that he always asked for feedback on his message. And anytime someone would give him feedback, he’d graciously reply with “noted, anything else?”.

And that wasn’t a dismissive reply. He conveyed a sense of genuine interest in the suggestions you had and he took them to heart. Actively practicing those improvements in the next service.

Jon adamantly welcomed feedback with the understanding that it would shape who he was and what he did.

His willingness to accept feedback and his class in handling it caused his own growth as well as growth for our team and the community.

The One Word You Need And A Follow-Up Question

When you receive criticism, how quickly does a defense rise in your chest?

We become so attached to our thoughts and actions. We act like our survival depends on how right or well received we are.

But, you shouldn’t view criticism as an attack. Criticism should become a direct view into improvements you can make to become a better person.

Next time you’re faced with criticism, take a slow deep breath if you feel defensive. Then, simply reply with “noted, anything else?”.

If you're not always observing how others can teach you, you'll continually be stuck where you're at.

Your personal growth is parallel to your desire to become a student of everyone and everything.

Don’t React In Defense, You Have Nothing To Prove

I struggle so much with feeling like I have to defend myself when someone offers a suggestion. Even if it’s thoughtful and well-placed, I usually mount an argument and begin defending my case.

You will never grow if you constantly barrage critiques with defenses that protect your ego.

First, recognize that critiques are just negative feedback. They’re just words. They have no power on their own.

The power from criticism should come from your ability to transform negative feedback into positive growth and development.

Second, understand that you have nothing to prove. If someone offers suggestions for improvement, just accept it. A healthy ego does not have to have a defense for every single attack against it.

You don’t have to prove to anyone why you did something. Handle the feedback with grace.

Discern if the feedback is quality or not. If it’s quality, great. Run with it and become better.

If it’s not quality, drop it and forget about it. But don’t try to prove to someone that their feedback isn’t quality. It’s not worth your time and energy.

The only instance where you may want to speak against feedback is poor quality feedback that gets the facts entirely wrong.

Maybe the critic misheard some facts about a situation. In that case, respond gently with a polite correction and then move on. *Note: you’re only gently correcting facts, you’re not proving why you think someone’s opinion is incorrect.

No Matter The Quality, Feedback Is An Asset To You

No matter the validity of the critique, another person’s perspective is invaluable.

Another person chiming in their thoughts on something is valuable because it’s an additional mind processing information with you:

It’s an additional perspective that sees differently than you.

This is the exact principle behind Napoleon Hill’s creation of masterminds. Masterminds are groups of people gathered around a common goal. Hill argued that two people collaborating created a “third mind” that had better ideas, vision, and direction than its individual parts.

Feedback is just the same. On our own, we have an incredibly limited perspective. But, with other people offering guidance and feedback, we have direct access to more encompassing thoughts and ideas.

Ultimately, feedback helps shape us into better people doing better things.

Invite A Critic To Become A Collaborator

"Never ask advice of someone with whom you wouldn't want to trade places." - Darren Hardy

The key to transforming criticism into collaboration is asking questions that invite the critic to join you in the growing process.

Most people get negative feedback, shut the critic down, and then become consumed with negative thoughts and angst that affect the rest of their work.

Catch this:

You can capture the insight and resources that others have when you invite them to help you grow.

Next time someone offers you feedback, begin with “noted, what else?”. That question, “what else?”, provides a blank canvas for someone else to continue to add details that highlight a path for your future direction.

Continue to ask them follow-up questions to understand their intent, perspective, and suggestions for positive growth.

Usually, their first instance of feedback will seem negative, but if you ask your critic how you can improve, or what you could do differently, you’ll likely be greeted by a fresh perspective that can suggest ideas that haven’t even crossed your mind.

How To Create A Welcoming Space That Fosters Feedback

Negative feedback shouldn’t be a random instance in your life. If you want to continue to grow and develop, you’ll need negative feedback as a guiding mechanism for when you get off course.

Negative feedback is a life-long asset that will always help you stay on track if you value it.

Instead of letting negative feedback arise at random, start asking for it from people.

Begin everything you do by asking for specific feedback from people whose opinions you value. Now, you’ll never be caught off guard or offended when someone provides a suggestion.

I have recently started the habited of asking for feedback. I ask for at least 1 thing I’m doing well and 2 things I can improve on.

Strive to create a space where people feel free to add their suggestions for improvement.

Excellent leaders value the opinions of others rather than viewing their own ideas as the only good option.

Next Step

"When criticism is minimized and praise emphasized, the good things people do will be reinforced and the poorer things will atrophy for lack of attention." - Dale Carnegie

Next time you receive negative feedback, try to genuinely say “noted, what else?”.

Practice the habit of humility and becoming a student of everyone.

True growth in only found in your ability to recognize weakness and improve it. If you turn down every suggestion for growth, you’ll continually stay in the same state and mindset.

Allow others to push you. Create a community of trust and vulnerability that challenges each other to grow and progress.

Want to craft a uniquely stunning life purpose?

Creating a life purpose statement can seem daunting. How can you write a sentence or two that eloquently sums up your life?

People become so overwhelmed with thinking the statement they're crafting has to be entirely encompassing of who they are and where they want to go.

But, writing a life purpose statement that exudes life and prosperity isn't too complicated. The key is discovering your unique gifting that helps others overcome obstacles in their life.

What is a life purpose statement?

“Life is not primarily a quest for pleasure, as Freud believed, or a quest for power, as Alfred Adler taught, but a quest for meaning”

A life purpose statement is merely a summary of your life direction in a couple sentences.

For instance, my current life purpose is: "I help people explore their identity and connect their unique story to culture."

What that means for me: I'm all for understanding where people are and helping them identify their unique space in their environment. I love helping people who aspire to create a business but feel stuck in their job. Or, I love helping people explore how dynamic their personality is and to move past the lies they, or others, have been telling themselves.

A life purpose statement is a reflection of who you want to be based on the observation of your history, goals, core values, burdens, dreams, etc. (If you want to learn how to craft a life purpose statement of your own, sign up for our free life purpose course)

Creating a life purpose statement allows you to have a clear and distinct direction for future growth and movement.

It serves as an overarching plan of action that will help you tackle big goals and live life well.

Your life purpose should be more significant than you

"The world is full of people who are grabbing and self-seeking. So the rare individual who unselfishly tries to serve others has an enormous advantage." - Dale Carnegie

The primary goal of a life purpose statement is to lead you into a life well lived: a life full of vibrant joy and deep fulfillment.

But, it's easy to turn life purpose into something that only grants creative freedom for ourselves without seeking creative fulfillment for others.

Often, we view crafting of a life purpose as something that only shapes us. Something that just leads to our satisfaction and fulfillment.

In reality, our life purpose should drastically impact others. It should clearly define how we use our time and energy to improve the lives of the people around us.

Your fulfillment is the indirect result of fulfillment in someone else's life

If we spend our time only focusing on our own pleasure and satisfaction, we will never obtain it... pursuing your own fulfillment is impossible.

True satisfaction and fulfillment can never be pursued, it can only ensue as a result of us chasing after something greater than ourselves.

We cannot achieve satisfaction and joy in our own life unless others do as a result of our direction.

Our satisfaction is an indirect result of helping others achieve joy.

Find the obstacle keeping others from joy

Everyone we encounter has barriers that are preventing them from living a fulfilled life. Sometimes it's money or their culture. Sometimes it's physical illness. Sometimes it's emotional or mental intelligence.

Finding real satisfaction in your own life comes from the pursuit of improving the world around you in a unique way.

To do this, you first need to discover your core values and what you believe the direction of your life is.

From there, you'll begin to become keenly aware of a specific group of people that you're wired to serve and the obstacles that keep them from living a joyous life.

For example, my life purpose is to "help people explore their identity and connect their unique story to culture."

But, the most prominent thing that statement is missing is who am I serving and how am I helping them find greater contentment in life.

To create a compelling purpose statement, I can create a draft by adding the phrase "so they can overcome" to my statement.

It looks like this: "I help people explore their identity and connect their unique story to culture so they can overcome environment assimilation and the fear of being different."

Now, my purpose statement has a reason. It focuses intently on a specific problem that I am uniquely wired to help resolve.

To craft a unique and stunning life purpose, we must address the specific things that keeps others from contentment and joy.

Our life purpose needs to directly address an obstacle or void that is keeping someone else from living a joyous life.

The two aspects of life purpose

"People who can put themselves in the place of other people, who can understand the workings of their minds, need never worry about what the future has in store for them." - Dale Carnegie

A powerful life purpose statement needs to consider two things:

1. How You Live Life

2. How The Way You Live Life Affects Others

If you focus entirely on How You Live Life then you will become self-absorbed. You will manipulate others so you can feel good and act like you're "living out purpose."

But, when you consider How The Way You Live Life Affects Others, you begin to add valuable weight to How You Live Life.

When you blend the two, no longer is it just about your own satisfaction...

Life purpose becomes about you partnering with others in a unique space. A partnership in tearing down the obstacles that separate people from a life well lived.

You've been given a unique set of skills and experiences and ambitions that will directly help others overcome the genuine struggles in their life.

Your unique traits empower you to provide life to a specific group of people.

In the process of helping others deconstruct the barriers in front of them, they begin to draw closer to fulfillment. And, at the same time, you start to experience joy and satisfaction as your partner with others.

Next step

Don't pursue a fulfilling life. Crafting a life purpose statement is all about pursuing prosperity and success with other people in a specific area they are struggling in.

Fulfillment for yourself and others will ensue (or is an indirect result) of you pursuing something greater than yourself.

Become aware of your unique gifting, resources, and passions. Through creation and community, we help others tear down the obstacles and voids that separate them from a life well lived.

Crafting a shiny life purpose is all about your ability to serve others. Do you lift people out of sorrow? Do you champion the joy of the overlooked?

You'll find a joyful life when you stop chasing after satisfaction for yourself and start helping others tear down their obstacles.

To paraphrase Jesus: whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will find it.

How To Stop Living In The Past: 3 Ways You Can Live A Free Life

The biggest struggle I have is always studying my past as a map for my future. I act like the person who I was will always stay the same.

How do you stop living in the past? To create a life well lived, you must aggressively push towards the future. Only observe the past as a place of learning and discovery: a mere platform to construct your projects on.

Reliving failed relationships and projects only causes my hope for the future to diminish… until I’m paralyzed by my thoughts.

I felt swallowed up by my past. Living in the fear of things that already happened. And this only led to anxiety and frustration.

Think of your thoughts and actions as percentages. What percentage of your thoughts are rooted in past behaviors and events? And what percentage is based on hopes and ambitions for the future?

Most of us are sitting around 80% past and 20% future. And the 80% obsession with the past is causing most of our problems. It creates discontentment, frustration, anxiety, fear, etc.

Too often we’re filled with remorse and regrets. And we are attempting to live emotionally in the past. We fill ourselves with guilt in an attempt to change what’s already been done…

Guilt only complicates the future, it can never alter the past.

To live an astonishingly-freeing life, you must dig yourself out of past patterns. Test your negative patterns of behavior and thought. Then, take small steps of progress towards your desired life.

1.Find true forgiveness for yourself and others

“You cannot forgive a person unless you have first condemned him. Jesus never condemned the woman in the first place—so there was nothing for him to forgive.” – Maxwell Maltz

We usually hold grudges because we think the other person was in the wrong. From a purely stoic philosophy, we are born to work together in harmony.

 When we turn our back on others, we work in direct opposition to our humanity.

Instead of working towards creation and community, we become invested in destruction and avoidance. We sluggishly accept the events around us and become dangerously reactionary.

Who is someone you haven’t been able to forgive? No matter the conflict that took place, that event is in the past.

You will only find true solace in your reaction to the event. Don’t invest your time and energy reliving it.

Harboring grudges will only cause repeated damage to your emotional and physical health (Explore the ying-yang of cortisol and oxytocin in grudges).

To find forgiveness for yourself and others, start living a life of abundant grace. Don’t keep track of the wrongs others commit. What advantage do you have in counting the missteps of others?

When someone harms you, understand that you can only control your response. Don’t waste your energy trying to fix what someone else put into motion.

Respond with grace and understanding. Concern yourself with the freedom you give to others. And shift your focus away from the condemnation you desire to wield.

2. Assume responsibility for yourself

“Assume responsibility for your own life and emotional needs. Try giving affection, love, approval, acceptance, understanding to other people, and you will find them coming back to you as a sort of reflex action.” – Maxwell Maltz

You can start leaving the past behind by shaking off the power you lend to it. Instead of feeling trapped by past choices or events that leveled you, take responsibility for where you are now.​​​​​

Once you can take ownership of where you currently are, you can begin to shape your future patterns of thought and behavior.

Richard Rohr explains his concept of the Principle of Likeness:

“We mend and renew the world by strengthening inside ourselves what we seek outside ourselves, and not by demanding it of others or trying to force it on others.”

To live a life that is free from the past, start by recognizing what you’re searching for outside of yourself. Then, assume the responsibility of creating that within yourself.

If you want others to be more loving, chose to be loving to others first. If you desire a peaceful world, directly seek peace inside yourself.

3. Start a project

“What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task” – Victor Frankl

After shedding the weight of the past, you can begin planning projects and goals that will propel you into a life of purpose and fulfillment.

Most people are content with a growth-avoidant life. They seek pleasure as a distraction from purpose.

This is because chasing after life purpose requires hard work and relentless focus. It’s easier to sit in the comfort zone of a job that is frustrating and continually distract yourself with social media and leisure without ever doing meaningful, creative work.

But, pursuing a project or cause that adds fulfillment to your life and others creates a profound sense of direction that will fill you, and others, with joy.

“The more one forgets himself – by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love the more human he is and the more he actualizes himself. Self-actualization can only be found in self-transcendence” – Maxwell Maltz

Next step

To live free and fulfilling life, we must understand how our negative, past patterns of thought and behavior shape who we are. We give them too much power.

Learn to step outside of your past faults and failures and continually look towards what you want to create.

“Each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answer for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible” – Victor Frankl

If you feel like you’re stuck or trapped in a fog, you have thousands of ways to get out. But, every escape requires your full desire to want to move on.

You can start by forgiving others and yourself, assuming responsibility for your past and current actions, and starting to work towards a project that will lead you to a purpose-filled life.

Transform your struggles into far-reaching influence in only 4 minutes

What you’re struggling with is exactly how you can begin helping others.

“You will seek only what you have partially already discovered and therefore seen as desirable”. — Richard Rohr

Or, in other words, what you’re sensitive to right now will guide you in your growth.

In just 4 minutes, and a simple shift in mindset, you’ll learn to take that thing you’re struggling with and turn it into powerful influence that will create recovery for yourself and for countless others.

Start by addressing the fake reality you’re creating in your mind

So often we view our pains and struggles as things that are inflicted upon us that can’t be fixed. But, we can shift our thoughts and turn pain into strength…

“We suffer more in imagination than in reality” — Seneca

We focus so much of our time developing a story we can tell ourselves. It's what our ego is. And we believe it to be entirely true without questions.

Eventually, the story that we repeat to ourselves becomes our behaviors.

For example, when you spend your time focusing on how much you lack compassion, your life is going to be cold. You’ll naturally gravitate towards actions that withhold compassion. After all, that what you tell yourself you are.

Or, when you spend your time focusing on how much you lack love, you’ll never be able to receive love when it’s right in front of you. It’s the story you keep telling yourself.

We have the tendency to aggrandize our own opinions of ourselves and define every behavior with a forced narrative.

You have the power to retell a story to yourself… to stop defining yourself as an addict or as lonely or as anxious or as lost.

Because, in reality, that’s not who you are.

It’s simply what you keep telling yourself, and those thoughts are turning into actions so you can keep the false, internal narrative alive.

Stop letting people tell you who you are

Most people are afraid of changing themselves because they think people will notice.

And they’re right. People will notice. But why care? They're not invested in your long-term growth...

I’ve always struggled to express my emotions. So, for the longest time people would make fun of me saying I didn’t have any emotions. And I began to believe them…

I believed it so much that I wouldn’t show my emotions even when I wanted to because I was simply following the narrative they were telling about me.

And eventually, I got tired of it. I started understanding more about myself and who I can become rather than what people say about me.

You cannot live your life following the orders other people tell you about your life direction and growth.

Never listen to the people who try to box you in and say that you’re always depressed or lonely or stubborn. Never let them have the power to control who you’re constantly evolving to be.

Instead, listen to who you’re telling yourself that you are. And base that in reality and in the desire for a life well lived.

Want to have lasting influence but don’t know where to start? Try what you’re sensitive to

We all have a sensitivity to something… some of us are sensitive to feeling lonely. Some are sensitive to feeling overlooked.

In the Christian faith tradition, we call these spiritual gifts: natural sensitivities and intuitions we’ve been given so we can be keenly aware of how we can help others.

For example, so many people I talk to struggle with loneliness. Who am I kidding… I struggle with it too.

I’ve been given a sensitivity to loneliness and feeling like an outsider… which gives me the exact knowledge for how to remedy it in others.

I could spend all day wallowing in loneliness and expect someone to reach out and make me feel loved.

Or, I could realize that the exact thing I want from someone else is the exact thing the world needs from me.

If you want to be influential, you don’t need a stage and an audience. And you don’t have to speak about business leadership.

If you want to be influential, you must first recognize what you struggle with and use that to connect with people who struggle with the same thing.

Influence isn’t about telling people how to live. It’s about living with them in an invested and intentional way.

Empathy equips you to have deep and far-reaching influence

“Empathy is one of the greatest creators of energy” — Angela Ahrendts

Recognizing what you struggle with allows you to develop sincere empathy that will help others gain strength and encouragement.

If you struggle with anxiety, wouldn’t you want someone who understands how that affects your life to walk alongside you?

You have two choices: self-pity or empathy.

Self-pity convinces you to never change. It seeks your undivided attention as it slowly steals your joy.

Empathy is the transformation from struggle to influence. It energizes you, it strengthens others, and it delivers fulfillment as you use it to become an advocate for someone else.

You need to become the help you’re waiting for

Instead of waiting around and sitting in misery, you’ll find healing in championing the health of others. In the process, you’ll find health for yourself.

It is not until you can step outside of your situation that you’ll find true growth.

Helping others overcome what you’re struggling with will create community. And together you’ll overcome the weight of your struggles that you both could not bear on your own.

This is where you power is: turning struggle into influence.

Turning self-misery into inclusive joy.

When you take your loneliness and turn it into community.

When you take your shame and you use it to ascribe value to someone.

When you take your doubt and choose to embolden someone with courage.

Next step

Address the fake stories you tell yourself: focusing on who you’re becoming and give yourself relentless grace. When you focus on negativity you leave no room for growth.

Stop giving people the power to write your story: they don’t know the depth of you. They have no investment in your growth. So don’t let them control you now.

Recognize what you’re sensitive to: be honest about what you’re struggling with. Now, use that to seek out people who are right there with you. And growth together through vulnerability and empathy.

Stop the cycle of self-pity and become empathetic: self-pity is a relentless trap while empathy grants you freedom to be vulnerable to and to help others flourish.

What you struggle with will only be fixed by your response. And you’ve been given the sensitivity and wisdom to help others while helping yourself.

Whatever you’re struggling with, someone else is struggling with that too. They’re waiting for someone to help them just like you are.

Make the move and give someone what you’ve always wanted and then you’ll be opened to exactly what you need.

How To Stop Your Obsessive Personal Development Book Addiction

“That will be $8.99”, the cashier said as I purchased my 7th notebook in the span of 2 months...

I picked up the habit of reading with the ambition of becoming a better, wiser person. And I was entirely convinced that I had to retain every piece of knowledge I read so that I could quote it later.

I tried countless ways to cram more and more information into my brain hoping that the wisdom from the pages I was reading would ooze out into my personality.

So I tried journaling notes. And it would never stick. So I journaled so more. And continuously failed.

I thought that maybe buying my 7th notebook would help. A fresh start! After all, this one was leather and that would make me write better...

I had this idea that if I couldn’t retain the information I was reading, then it would never come to fruition and I would never be the person I wanted to be.

It wasn’t until I read this quote…

“I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.” - Emerson

Emerson’s insight was eye opening to me. No longer was I stuck in the cyclical anxiety of retaining information in every conversation and interaction.

Rather, the information and the personal development tools I was learning were simply shaping who I was… slowly.

My struggle to remember the exact techniques and skills from personal development books got rough over time.

Instead of investing in the present person in front of me, I remember trying so hard to remember personal development tools from How To Win Friends And Influence people or from Ask or others. And I would entirely miss out on what was happening in front of me…

Like the really smooth time I went up to a girl I liked and stepped on her foot while giving her a hug and was flustered the entire conversation….

Mainly, because I was stuck in my head the entire time. Keenly focused on how I should be acting rather than simply acting.

Neural pathways slowly shape us

Our intelligence and memory are shaped by the repetition of neural pathways being fired. Essentially, this is why repetition is so crucial to memory and critical thinking.

But it’s not just repetition alone. It’s repetition from different angles and styles and techniques.

If we only memorize something from one angle, then we’ll never obtain the critical processing skills that are needed to actually be good at something.

For instance, I remember a kid from my high school who was obsessed with Metallica. He learned all of the riffs. And he was incredibly good Fade to Black (it was his go-to song).

But he had no idea how to play anything other than Metallica.

He simply memorized one dimension of the guitar, but didn’t understand how it all works together.

The same applies with personal development books. Or anything else you’re learning.

You can spend all your time trying to memorize and regurgitate information.

Or, you can relax in the understanding that you don’t have to memorize or even understand everything.

In the process of continuously treating ourselves to observation and information, we form new neural pathways that mold us into who we are.

I used to be consumed with understanding and applying all of the principles of every self-help book I’ve read.

Now, I crack one open, glean some knowledge, and then forget about it.

Because I don’t have to remember everything about an experience for it to shape me.

Instead, I choose to constantly expose myself to things that will help me grow. And then I trust the process.

How to live your ideal future tomorrow

So many of us have goals and dreams for a meaningful future… for a life well lived.

Visions of authenticity, growth, family, and influence.

But often we let those future constructs lie years ahead of us. We play a waiting game…

And we think that one day something big will happen and all that we’ve dream of and envisioned will come true.

We will never become anything more than what we habitually practice.

The person you want to be in future and the life you want to have exists inside you right now.

This is exactly how you can grow into the person you want to become

When entering into college I thought I had to have it all figured out. I allowed myself to feel pressured into believing that there was only one right choice. And that somehow I could miss my purpose.

I had this fear that if I picked the “wrong major” then I’d be a failure. A failure to myself and to other people.

I initially tried to think of majors that seemed perfectly lined up with were I was at right then. I loved music so I thought “why not major in music?”.

I started to choose a path based on my current emotions. And I almost missed out on a path that would shape my long-term vision…

Because I was good at music, I thought that it was something I was supposed to do.

I took the narrow understanding and limited experience I had and wrapped it up into major. Wrapped it up into a life-altering direction.

I took a present emotion and presumed that if this is who I am now, then this is who I will always be...

So often when people ask what their purpose is, people just respond “what are you good at?”.

I think the intention is right, but it’s missing so many components that make us who we dynamically are.

I had to realize how powerful finding and practicing my life purpose was. I also had to realize I could become more than my present thoughts, actions, and skills.

10/10/10: Make decisions like Buffet

To create a life well lived, saturated with purpose and fulfillment, we must elevate our thinking and shift our perspective.

After I realized purpose in my own life, I began to explore who I want to be 20 years from now instead of 2 years from now.

Then, my major didn’t become who I am, it was simply a tool used to become who I want to be. So, I chose a major that I thought we best equip me for my 20+ year vision.

My identity wasn’t being controlled by the present. Rather, my identity was constantly being shaped by my vision for the future.

Warren Buffet uses the strategy of 10/10/10 to help him make high-level thinking decisions. It simply goes like this:

When making a difficult decision, ask yourself:

  • How will I feel about it in 10 minutes:

  • How will I feel about it in 10 months:

  • How will I feel about it in 10 years:

This practice will broaden your perspective. Coupled with understanding your life purpose, you’ll allow yourself to make decisions that aren’t rooted in present circumstances that neglect your long-term vision.

What are you doing now to live out your vision?

I remember several times when I’d talk to people in college and they’d tell me about their major and their classes. I’d ask one simple question that usually went unanswered…

“What are you doing now to live out your vision?”

For example, I talked to a nursing student who loved his classes and was super excited about getting hired. I asked him “how are you currently helping people who are hurting?”.

After all, that’s what the job is about.

Although he was taking classes and working towards helping people in the future, he was missing out on a huge opportunity to practice living out his purpose right now.

I see so many people in college supplement their purpose with their major… They recognize their life mission, but instead of living it they assume the daily practice of purpose will be bestowed upon them when they get handed a diploma.

And this isn’t just in college, we do this with our careers and relationships too…

We believe that somehow a future event will eventually change us and mold us into the person we want to become if we just dream hard enough.

We believe that graduating, or a new job, or a promotion, or a new city will flip some switch that transforms us into the person we’ve always wanted to be.

We constantly cast the burden of transformation on our future self. But, eventually the weight becomes so grand that we crumple and never start.

If we continue to believe a life well lived can only exist in the future, then we will continue to feel sluggish and frustrated.

Dreaming is nothing without action

I love dreaming. I absolutely encourage it. But, I also love action.

Each morning I spend 25 minutes meditating on the dreams and goals I have for myself. (Sidenote: pick up the book Psycho-Cybernetics to understand why you should do this too).

But, that exercise is useless if I don’t do anything the rest of the day to do those goals.

If we don’t translate our ideal future into practical steps we can start tomorrow, we will never grow.

Think of who you want to become. Paint a vivid picture. How does your life look. What does it feel like. Each morning, what’s the first thing you see. How does the breeze smell.

Now, what’s in the way of you obtaining a life well lived?

Is it money? Is it genuineness? Is it vulnerability? Is it compassion?

It’s amazing how we cast off the growth of these skills until the future.

That’s exactly what I did. I would dream about what success and happiness should look like in my life. And then I’d go to bed and spend hours just imagining how great life could be one day.

There’s a big problem with that mindset…

You will never encounter a life switch so grand that you’ll be thrust into your ideal life. It will always be a process of persistent growth.

The true path to a life well lived is to discover what your ideal life looks like and then start practicing it every single day.

If your vision of a great life is to have deep, giving relationships, then start that tomorrow...

It’s going to be sloppy and awkward and uncomfortable, but you can rest in the fact that you’re one step closer to bringing your ideal self into the present.

Next step

Don’t supplement your major, or job, or promotion, or relationships, or any other distraction for purpose.

Explore what you want a life well lived to look like. Paint yourself an obtainable picture of the future.

Next, look for what’s in your way… what do you need to grow in?

And start practicing those traits right now…

  • If you want a life filled with wealth: start reading on how to invest, get a mentor, and start investing.

  • If you want a life filled with compassion: join your community’s local initiatives to help the homeless.

  • If you want a life filled with joy: start exercising joy and gratitude with your friends in tough situations.

You will always feel frustrated and trapped unless you capture your purpose and start living it now. Take is slow, each day you’ll draw closer and closer your ideal self.

In the process of growth you’ll find a life well lived.

How responding quickly is ruining your relationships

Just the other day I was talking to a friend who was sharing an experience they had at work. They were sharing how frustrated they were and what they were going through and all of a sudden I did it…

I did that thing when you reply to someone else’s story with your own in a subconscious attempt to relate or look better (or some strange mix of the two).

I had to correct myself midway and apologize for trampling over what my friend was sharing just because I wanted to talk.

Each story has a subtext the speaker is trying to communicate

So often we excitedly share our own story with a friend who is seeking connection and vulnerability and affirmation. And in the process we neglect the connection they longed for.

I can remember countless times when I’ve shared a story with someone and they respond with a story of their own. And that only shifts the focus to their experience and their problems.

All I was looking for was affirmation and vulnerability...

How often does this happen to you?

We often share stories and experiences with people because we’re looking for something deeper than the story being told.

We’re looking for the community-saturated narrative that is shared in the exchange of stories and experiences and ideas.

But, sometimes we forget this critical aspect of communication: that there is a subtext to each word. A deeper longing that exists below the text and phrases.

Because although we share stories, we really longing to communicate our desire for connection and affirmation and feedback.

How a quick reply will damage your relationship

When someone tells you a story, it’s so easy to quickly bounce back a story of your own... and the time you dealt with the same problem… and the grand recovery you had… even if your story was about 6 years ago and the person you’re talking to is dealing with something very real right now!

We don’t realize how we trivialize the person in front of us by dismissing the connection they’re looking for and shooting off a quick reply.

And we trample over the subtext of what is being communicated when we reply with a story that has no true value behind it.

Quick replies that don’t carry value or substance will only rot the trust and communication between two people.

How to reclaim connection with meaningful replies

Sometimes, responding to someone with a story of your own can be incredibly helpful when used with care.

Story responses can help in 2 ways:

  • They help you empathize by contextualizing what someone is saying through experiences you’ve had

  • They help the other person understand your empathy and how you had a similar experience just like them

The key in replying to someone with your own story is empathy.

Most people go wrong by telling a story that only paints them as the hero. But, having empathy helps you communicate with story as a way to come alongside someone instead of pushing them down.

Discernment is key to your role as a listener. Ultimately, it’s the listeners job to understand the subtext behind a story. Is the speaker seeking affirmation or support?

Having discernment and empathy allows us to understand the appropriate response by searching for the speaker’s true intent behind their story.

I’ve found the most valuable thing to facilitate meaningful conversation is to simply ask good questions.

Learn to become engrossed in the stories that people tell you. Investigate the narrative arc and display your empathy.

If you become genuinely interested in the lives of the people around you, you’ll find yourself exceeding at relationships.

“Instead, your job is just to be with them. Give them a space to express their feelings. Give them a space to talk if they want. Give them the assurance that even though you can’t fix their problem, they don’t have to face it alone.” - Daniel Wendler

Next step

Our role as a listener is never to impress. Our role as a listener is to always be actively aware of the speaker’s intent and discern how to respond with true empathy.

Sometimes that looks like a thoughtful question, sometimes that looks like affirmation, sometimes that looks like a similar story that shows compassion.

When we can remove our ego, we can respond with life-giving speech.

Make it your goal to always have a response that communicates “I’m in this with you” instead of a response that says “now it’s my turn to speak and talk about my stories”.

Crush creative avoidance with these 2 tactics

How often do you try to get something done, but you’re dragged down by small details that seem to keep piling up?

Like you’re feeling stagnant and not actually moving towards your goals...

It’s amazing how easily we find a million things to do when we’re faced with an important task.

For example, when you need to finish a report and somehow cleaning the top of refrigerator becomes interesting.

Or, how just the other day I spent 30 minutes making a Facebook header the perfect size instead of writing a post…

This is creative avoidance: tasks we do that don’t directly create results. Creative avoidance is just wasted time, but we act like it’s valuable… usually, because we don’t want to get started.

Creative avoidance looks like this:

  • Needing to follow up with clients, but spending time cleaning your desktop and decluttering your hard drive so you’ll be more “productive” when you eventually follow up with them (hopefully).
  • Needing to study for your exam, but you also have to sort through your email and texts and make sure your iguana gets fed (well, maybe you should feed him).
  • Needing to set aside quality time with your spouse, but the laundry needs done and the stovetop is greasy and how can you have a healthy marriage when the gutters are full of leaves?

Creative avoidance is the illusion of progress

“Creative avoidance is a different beast. It covers its own tracks by creating the illusion that you are making progress. It lets you feel productive without prioritizing. This is so much more dangerous” - Greg Faxon

Creative avoidance is so dangerous because we finish a day feeling exhausted, and sometimes overwhelmed, and we can’t figure out what we actually did to create lasting results.

We buy into the illusion that our busyness equates to productivity. In reality, busyness without direction equates to frustration and stalling.

Feeling like you’re working exhaustively but not moving anywhere?

2 lessons business can teach you about productivity

(I’m going to run through a couple of business concepts, but these can easily be applied to any area of your life)

  1. Spend most of your time on results generating activities

Businesses heavily invest most of their time and energy on “income generating activities”... activities that directly create money for the company.

For example, a lawncare business would have income generating activities of mowing lawns. It would also have other activities liking filing paperwork. Although filing paperwork is important to the business, it doesn’t directly create income for the business like mowing does.

The business would quickly go under if most of its time was spent filing paperwork instead of mowing. Or if workers only cut half of a lawn and then left to file paperwork because they didn't feel like mowing anymore.

This sounds crazy, but we do this same thing all the time!

For our intents and purposes, let’s change “income generating activities” to “results generating activities”...

Businesses are constantly streamlining and trimming down any extraneous tasks that don’t generate results.

To be productive with your time and escape creative avoidance, you need to be spending most of your time on results generating activities.

If you need to ace an exam, studying is just about the only results generating activity. Everything else is creative avoidance.

If you need to work on your relationship, spending meaningful time together is your only results generating activity. Everything else is just a wash.

The time you invest outside of results generating activities will only leave you exhausted and unproductive.

To start being focused with your time, you need to understand what results you’re looking for by understanding your KPI’s.

2. Understand and track your KPI’s

KPI stands for Key Performance Indicator. It’s a common term in business used to identify key metrics that directly relate to results.

If you want to increase revenue, then your sales volume is a KPI because it’s directly related to the result you want.

The idea of KPI’s can translate outside of business, too. They give us a clear way to define what success looks like so we can see our progress.

For example, I want to grow my writing ability. So, my KPI is how many posts per week I write. Since I know that metric is key to growing my writing ability, I pay close attention to it and work to make sure my posts per week KPI is where I want it to be.

For you, it might be how many chapters you read per day. Or maybe it’s how much time you spend with a friend. Or maybe it’s how many clients you talk to.

No matter what your desired result is, you need an activity you can quantify that directly relates to your result.

i.e. The number of sales calls is a KPI that creates results for you. Cleaning your desk isn’t a KPI and creates no direct results for you.

Start to find the KPI’s that directly contribute to the results you want. Then, start focusing your time on results generating activities by constantly chasing after your KPI’s.

How to quit avoiding and finally start moving

Ready to start spending time that actually produces results?

Start by spending at least 10 hours per week on results generating activities.

Define what success looks, understand you KPI’s, then chase after them.

Now, this sounds all fine and dandy for about an hour. And then you might get overwhelmed. Or bored.

This is where creative avoidance steps in. Creative avoidance shows itself when we feel overwhelmed or exhausted.

To fix this, start by breaking your results generating activities into small chunks (I wrote a nifty post on how to do that here).

Instead of saying "I'm going to write a blog post tomorrow", say "Tonight I'm only going to work on the outline". Then, tomorrow you can take an hour to flesh out the outline. Grab lunch. Then, take an hour to finish the post.

The small chunks of time will keep your more focused and help you create better work. Don’t believe me?

Creative avoidance also creeps up when we can’t learn to say no to the things that steal away our time and energy. Learn to say no to the things that don’t directly help you create results.

Next step

To finally come home from a day of work and actually feel productive, you’ll need to index your time and energy and understand if your work is contributing to something that creates valuable results.

It’s like the Pareto Principle:

“Which 20% of sources are causing 80% of your problems and unhappiness? Which 20% of sources are resulting in 80% of your desired outcomes and happiness?” - Scott Hudspeth

Most likely, 20% of those sources are creative avoidance. Eliminate that and you cut back on a significant amount of frustration.

Here’s the game plan

Start with the big idea… what results do you want?

Distill that idea down further into KPI’s you can understand and track… what metrics directly reflect the goal you have?

Create a list of results generating activities and start practicing those a minimum of 10 hours per week instead of creative avoidance.