Out with the Old, In with the New!

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A fresh year always inspires fresh dreams. Most of us think, “What are the things I could improve in my life, if I had a fresh start?” For some reason, “January 1st” symbolizes new possibilities and a chance for a “do-over.”

In what area of your life would you like a fresh start? In your parenting or other relationships? Your performance at school or on the job? How about being more financially savvy or more organized? Or, maybe yours is like mine: to take control of busyness and reserve more time to reflect. All of these are admirable aspirations—but how can we make them a reality?

Most successful people accomplish their aspirations by staring with dreams and then establishing goals and plans to help make them come true. And, they know that the most effective goals are both specific and measurable (as opposed to vague and difficult to evaluate). As you start to identify your aspirations for 2016 and beyond, it’s important to develop short-, intermediate-, and long-range goals to help get you there.

Even if you’re not naturally a goal-setter, it’s not difficult to become one.  Start by imagining what you want your life to look like. What are the large-scale goals you hope to achieve? These are your long-term or lifetime goals.  It’s important to set these first because they will shape your overall perspective and help frame your smaller and shorter-term goals. Think about such areas as:

  • Education and learning
  • Career
  • Marriage and family
  • Finances
  • Community service
  • Relationships
  • Spiritual life
  • Physical goals (sports, etc.)
  • Talents and skills
  • Travel
  • Experiences
  • Retirement

Once you’ve established your long-term goals, you can set some medium-term goals (e.g., three to five years) that will help you achieve your long-term goals.  From there, you can set one-year, six-month, and one-month goals, all of which will ultimately contribute to the larger picture. Periodically check on your long-term goals to make sure they remain high on your list. Also, monitor your progress on your medium-range goals to make sure you’re on track.

(Parents, you may want to make some parenting goals … check out our book, Parenting for the Launch, for some ideas to help you set goals and create a family mission statement.)

Finally, start making daily to-do lists, prioritized by importance and urgency. If you do, you’ll be contributing on a daily basis toward the things that will make your lifetime goals and dreams possible. Here are some guidelines as you do:

  • Phrase your goals in the positive, not the negative
  • Make them realistic goals—ones that are possible and achievable
  • Make them measurable and specific, such as “visit five continents” as opposed to “travel around the world”

What are your aspirations for 2016? Beyond that? This can be fun and lively discussion with family and friends over the holiday season. Make a plan to check back with each other next New Year’s and see who has gained the most ground in accomplishing their goals.

6 Tips for Maximizing Family Togetherness (and Avoiding Conflict)

One of the greatest things about the holiday season can also be the most challenging:

“Hooray! The whole family will be together!”
“Oh nooooo! The whole family will be together!”
Even the happiest of families has conflict, especially when large numbers of people are indoors for extended periods. Add to the mixture the complexity of holiday activities and expectations, kids coming home from college, relatives travelling from afar, and other friends and family popping in and out. It’s not hard to see why the holidays can be stressful on our relationships!

It helps to have a good strategy for dealing with the (inevitable) conflicts that will surface when extended family and friends gather. When tension or arguments arise, you’ll be able to keep your cool, extend grace, and navigate the holidays with a “peace on earth and goodwill toward men” mentality!

Here are six tips to help you manage (and preferably avoid!) conflict this holiday season:

Be sensitive to the need for private space. Having a full house during the holiday season means that people who typically do not live together are now under one roof. This can be particularly stressful for teens in the family, and for “introverts” who tend to feel drained rather than energized by crowds of people. Sometimes this is hard for the “extroverts” to relate to! Respecting these differing needs for personal space can help avoid resentment and conflict.
Ask yourself, “Does this issue need to be addressed now?” Keep your emotions in check; pause before you respond to a snide comment, an inconvenient request, an entitled attitude, a grievance, or even a simple difference of opinion. The less we react emotionally in the moment, the more we’re able to respond gracefully and tactfully at the right time with the right attitude. Circle back to discuss the problem when you are feeling less heated about it. You may find it doesn’t need to be discussed at all.
If it does need to be addressed now, respect yourself and your right to be heard. Sometimes we allow others to intimidate or dominate us out of fear or embarrassment. Although conflict is uncomfortable, sometimes we do need to speak up about an obvious problem that is causing distress for us or another person. In the process, we want to respect ourselves by speaking up about it, while being respectful to the other party.
Strive to be an agreeable disagreer. So often, conflict arises from misunderstandings that could have been prevented or at least controlled. Sometimes they’re based on different philosophical views or perspectives where there isn’t a right or wrong answer (Hello politics!). Always strive for mutual understanding, but agree to disagree if that’s the case. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. If needed, have a heartfelt conversation about it once things have calmed.
Choose reconciliation over grudges wherever possible. We’ve all been victims of a wrong, and injustice, or a mistake. It causes anger, shame, resentment, depression, and worse. When we harbor grudges or struggle to forgive, it can be like an all-consuming cancer, and generally the person who suffers for it is you. Strive for forgiveness, and reconciliation whenever possible—and don’t hesitate to seek support.
Remember “FLPP.” In our book Parenting for the Launch: Raising Teens to Succeed in the Real World, we offer a strategy for dealing with conflict, restoring strained relationships, and rebuilding trust. It involves keeping your communication with that person FREQUENT, LOW-RISK, POSITIVE, and PERSONAL. What can you talk about that doesn’t provoke irritation or conflict, is encouraging and positive, and shows you care? Focus on these kinds of interactions to build a platform for deeper conversations at a later date.

May your holidays be peaceful and merry!

We’d love to hear your stories about how you avoid or negotiate conflict in your family over the holidays. Please share your thoughts and suggestions. We can all learn from one another!

Leadership for a Lifetime: Self-Awareness

When you look at yourself in the mirror, whom do you see? Is the image clear or blurry? Do you like what you see or wish you could have a makeover? Are you a kitten who sees a lion or a lion who sees a kitten?

Unfortunately, most of us lack a complete and accurate understanding of ourselves because our perception is distorted through our own biased lens. Each one of us is filled with valuable treasure, but for many it lies buried beneath the surface, waiting to be revealed. I daresay this is true for most adults, but it’s especially so with adolescents. Unfortunately, they’re making fundamental, life-changing decisions without truly understanding themselves.  We call this essential leadership quality self-awareness.

When it comes right down to it, teens and young adults are trying to answer these fundamental questions at this stage of life: 1) who am? 2) what do I have to offer? and 3) what are my opportunities? The first two get at the heart of their identity… their value proposition to the world. It’s vital that they get these answers right because they will heavily shape their future.

Within each and every person, there is a treasure of talent, qualities, assets, and skills. How would you like to mine that treasure in you? How about the treasure in your students, children, and others around you? How can you develop a clearer understanding of yourself and the tremendous value you have to offer—and help others do the same?

Here’s one way: Knowing that self awareness comes through self discovery and affirmation from others, we’ve developed a personal leadership assignment you can access here. It not only helps you assess your own unique assets/strengths, but it also captures the invaluable perspectives of others who know you well and have your best interests at heart. As you complete this project, you’ll have a much more complete and accurate perspective of…You!

Briefly, your assets fall into several categories:

  • Foundational Assets:
    • Physical: strength, speed, agility, dexterity
    • Mental: intelligence, reasoning, creativity, subject specific
    • Behavioral: personality, attitude, emotional intelligence
    • Spiritual: faith, values, inspirational experiences
  • Relational Assets:
    • Support System: companionship, security, love from others
    • Network: pool of personal and professional ambassadors
  • Aspirational Assets:
    • Experiential: credentials, life skills, service, leadership
    • Interests: knowledge pursuits, recreational, leisure
    • Passions and Dreams: desires, causes, purpose, impact

The power of gaining input from others as you inventory your strengths cannot be overstated. They will call out perspectives you either never realized or never fully appreciated. Remember the later scene in “The Wizard of Oz” when the Wizard honored the Scarecrow with a degree, the Tin Man with a heart, and the Cowardly Lion with a badge of courage? Each of them always had smarts, kindness, and courage, but it took someone else to reveal it for them to believe it!

Great leaders are self aware and lead from their strengths. They have an intuitive grasp of their uniqueness and value and how to offer it to others. Then they align their lives accordingly.

So, what are your greatest strengths? A commitment to self awareness will help you identify and develop them—and use them in a way that brings joy to you and is a benefit to the world!

4 Tips to Help Teens Listen to Their Conscience and Stick to Their Values

Parents and teachers, your teens and students are facing tough decisions every single day, and their choices are only going to get more difficult. Where should they go to college? What should they major in? Should they really go to that party? Should they take things to the next level with their boyfriend or girlfriend? This week’s post focuses on choices, and how to ensure your teen is equipped to stick to his or her values and make the right call. We encourage you to share it with the young people in your life or use it as a tool in your classroom or household.

Life is a series of choices, some planned and some not. Some involve fun, while others involve pain and heartache. Some are made from the mind after lots of thought and reasoning, while others are made impulsively from the heart or what “feels right.” Some turn out well and impact our lives for better, and some we regret.

Are your kids ready to make the right choices, both now and in the future?

I had the privilege of working for an inspiring leader, George Russell, who could distill the complex down to profound, but simple truisms. One of them was, “If you’re not sure whether to do something, imagine it as the headline in tomorrow’s newspaper.” Wow! How’s that for clarity and common sense? This works like a charm in our professional and academic lives, but also our personal lives, too—heeding that “inner voice” that has our best interests at heart. I know every time I ignored what my conscience was telling me, I lived to regret it. And, I know I’m not alone!

In a cultural climate where “values” are often measured on a slippery scale of personal taste, convenience, self-gratification, and “tolerance,” kids can get into real trouble when they dismiss the caution signals. That’s why helping young people identify their values and strengthen their conscience is so important. It’s more than important…it’s crucial!

Yes, this is what some refer to as “conscience training.” In times of growing independence, freedom, and opportunities, young people are increasingly faced with risky situations that require quick decisions. In some cases (many that involve alcohol, drugs, sex, social media, and cheating), one bad decision in the heat of the moment may do irrevocable harm to their reputation, college career, personal health and safety, or relationships, and derail their future plans and dreams.

That’s why having—and always listening to—that inner voice is so important in high-risk situations. Here are some ways to help set your teen up for success when it’s their turn:

  • Have them talk about their non-negotiable values. Moreover, encourage them to write them down and stick them in a school binder or on their desk. Make sure they don’t forget the principles that are important to them. These values are a big part of their brand.
  • Realizing that most unhealthy choices involve succumbing to peer pressure, be sure they understand their value and surround themselves with positive people and influences who have their best interests at heart.
  • Discuss potential situations that may put their reputation and integrity at risk. Remind them their best bet is to avoid high-risk situations altogether. And, if they can’t avoid them, they should at least decide in advance how they will react if their values are tested.I’ve heard far too many stories of people who didn’t heed this advice and whose futures were severely impacted because of it. They often lose years of momentum and wander confused and broken in the aftermath. Many times this could have been avoided had they asked themselves these simple questions:

“How will my conscience feel in the morning? What is it telling me to do right now?”

Have you ever been in a situation where you had to make a choice that challenged your value system? Did you have the courage to go with your values over the pressure you received from others? Share your experiences with your teen. Remember that life is about learning and recovering from our mistakes, and that stories are often the best teachers.

Note: We encourage you to visit our Resources page and download your FREE copy of our Personal Balance Sheet Assignment to share with the young adults in your life. Making sure they understand their own value is a crucial part of making good choices!

Adversity: Preparation for Greater Things

When something crummy happens in your life, do you ever just sit back and ask “why me?” or think to yourself “I don’t deserve this!” When the going gets rough, it’s hard to see past our own circumstances into the “master plan” that may lie ahead of us.

None other than Walt Disney, the master of happy, once said, “You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.” Funny thing—when I look back on my greatest adversity, I’m struck by how often I actually benefited from it! It just didn’t feel that way at the time. It took retrospect for me to realize that the hardship was really for the greater good.

One of life’s greatest adventures is seeing what becomes of our trials. Was it a necessary lesson to grow us? Might it be the catalyst for something new and better? Will it ever make sense? Or, was it just…stuff?

Take these examples:

  • My wife’s health challenges allow her to encourage others facing similar battles.
  • Bombing my calculus final exposed my math limitations and motivated me to select a better fitting major.
  • A difficult investment performance period taught me important lessons about humility.
  • All those times girlfriends broke up with me…Hey! They freed me up to marry Jeanne, my wife!

Who knows, when life serves you a lemon, it might just be the makings of a refreshing glass of lemonade. At least give it a shot! It doesn’t hurt to change your perspective and open your eyes to the potential impact that a seemingly impossible situation might have.

What is your own personal perspective on adversity? When you’re faced with a tough situation, how do you deal? Do you have any examples of times that a trial has turned out for the good, or somehow strengthened you as a person?

Are You an Inspiring Team Player?

One of my most admired leaders, George Russell, always used to say, “It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.” I have to admit I didn’t fully appreciate the wisdom of his words early in my career. But, in time I realized he was right. When you adopt George’s philosophy, you become a true team player and everyone benefits.

 Teamwork is more and more the name of the game in the workplace these days. In the past, many people learned to perform a single skill and then continued it for many years. These days, however, creativity and innovation are more often what is needed in the workplace—requiring greater collaboration, flexibility, and interpersonal skills from workers.

 Do you have what it takes to be a great team player in today’s economy? Do the young adults in your life?

 

My favorite spectator sport is basketball. To me, it’s the consummate team sport where character is revealed before our very eyes.

Some players clearly focus on individual scoring (often to the detriment of the team when they go overboard), and enjoy being in the limelight. Still others are known for their passing and defense and rarely receive the same fan attention. Yet, isn’t it interesting that, it’s the team with the best defense and passing that usually wins the championship? I believe there’s a message to be learned in this.

           

When I coached basketball, I gave special praise for assists, tenacious defense, and our unsung heroes. One young lady on our team, Jazi, as the perfect example. She may have scored only two points a game, but we were never the same without her! She was our best passer and shut down the finest guards with her incredible defense. Our victories against our toughest opponents often came from her defense rather than from our leading scorer. She was the consummate team player and unsung hero. I wouldn’t have traded her for the world.

In the NBA, the player that most comes to my mind is John Stockton, a retired point guard from the Utah Jazz. He’s the league’s all-time assist leader, which is a true sign of an unselfish team player. During his career, he handed out an incredible 15,806 assists to his teammates— truly an extraordinary accomplishment. It is rare in sports to see records that stand out like this, and it’s a testimony to John’s skill, unselfishness, and endurance.

Throughout your life, you’ll be in countless team situations, especially on the job. When these opportunities arise, focus on the team rather than on your individual contributions. Encourage them, praise them, mentor them, enjoy them, and show your gratitude toward them. Bring everyone up and your team will achieve great things. Your leadership will be liked, respected, and admired by others.

                                                                        

Can you see the difference on a team when players focus on mutual support and team effort, as opposed to seeking personal recognition? Please share your comments and stories with us; we’re always glad to hear from our readers!