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Life is Too Short to Compromise

My wife and I try to live life according to the mantra: “life is too short to compromise.”

There are multiple phrases you could put at the end of the phrase: “Life is too short to….”Wait for what you want, …Hold back, …Spend time with people who drain your energy rather than give you energy, or …Not express your love to the people you care about.

However, how often do we actually stop to reflect if we are living our life accordingly?

Living without compromising on the important things is a powerful and courageous way to live.

How many times have you compromised on personal and/or professional relationships that mattered to you, or sold out on doing things to the standards of quality and excellence that you believe in?

I have taken a commitment to not compromise on the things that are important to me. And, the older (and wiser!) I get, the easier it becomes to live this way.

However, being human, I have slipped on occasion when it comes to living consistently with my principles and values. However, because I am so passionate about living authentically, I have developed antennas that detect my missteps and help me to quickly catch myself and adjust my course.

All of us, including you, have the same antennas. We just have to “activate” them.

What are our antennas? Frustration, irritation and suffering. Whenever I compromise or sell out on my principles and values, I find myself becoming increasingly frustrated and irritable, even about mundane things. When I recognize these emotions, I ask myself “what is going on?” and I’m always able to get to the bottom of it. These feelings, especially if they persist, lead to insights about areas where I have compromised.

How do you activate your antennas? By taking a stand. I know it sounds too simple, but it really works. When you take a stand, you commit to living consistently with your principles without compromising. This sets the bar. As a result, you become hypersensitive to any area around you– including your own behavior– that contradicts your stand.

If you don’t take a stand, you are less likely to detect these guiding feelings. As a result, you can miss the opportunity to shift gears and take corrective action.

I have learned that if I remain true to my values, even in the face of challenges, I always feel good. However, if I compromise my values, even if the circumstances around me are great, I don’t feel satisfied.

The good news is that we always have control over how we live. In what area of your life do you need to stop compromising?

Photo by: Shashank Mhasawade

Just do it

There is something to be said about “just doing it.” I sometime refer to it as “Fake it till you make.” Alternatively, in plain English this means: “Doing what you said, even when you don’t feel like it.” Sometime it feels like: “Doing what you don’t like doing in order to achieve what you do want to achieve.”

It seems a simple enough concept. However, so many people struggle with this personally and/or professionally.

One of the biggest reasons why people don’t achieve what they want is lack of sufficient action. Most people fail to achieve their dreams and aspirations because they don’t make the effort, they don’t take the action or they don’t stay the course with their actions. They give up too quickly.

I have heard different statistics about this, however it is said that it took Thomas Edison around 5,000 to 10,000 trials before he invented the light bulb. If it were up to most of us, we would still be in the dark ages.

One of the biggest reasons people don’t take action is because of the numerous stories, explanations, justifications and excuses we fall prey to when it is time to take actions.

As I have written in previous blogs, our mind – or: our inner voice – tends to go out of its way to subtly and smoothly get us out of any vulnerable or uncomfortable situation. And, as we know, most things that are worth doing or accomplishing require at least some degree of vulnerability and comfort.

Have any of the following things ever happen to you?

  1. You are sitting in a meeting and you know that some important detail is being avoided in the dialogue because of internal politics. You want to say something to put things straight, but your inner voice says to you, “Don’t do it! It’s risky! You are doing so well, why do you need the trouble? Let someone else be the sucker!” You sit there and don’t say a word.
  2. You are trying to lose weight and as part of your program you have committed to getting up early three times a week to exercise before you go to work. Your alarm clock wakes you up at 5:30am, you feel groggy and your inner voice says to you, “Getting up this early is crazy. You barely slept enough. It’s unhealthy. It’s much more effective to exercise in the evening or midday than this early in the morning…” You turn to the other side and fall back to sleep.
  3. You are trying to lose weight and as part of your program you have committed to stay off all sweet things and desserts, which you really love. You have kept your discipline for two weeks now, but it is not easy for you to avoid the temptations. In fact, you’ve lost more weight than you had planned this far. You come home late in the evening after another long day. You are tired, cranky and hungry from eating lettuce all week. You open the fridge and you see a slice of your favorite cake that someone didn’t finish. Your inner voice says to you, “You have been so good this week, plus you are doing so well in your diet. There is no harm in eating just one piece. It won’t ruin your diet. You deserve it!” You take the cake and eat it up.

There is a reality out there and then there are all our internal conversations about that reality. Our internal chatter is usually geared around why we shouldn’t or can’t do or have things. Unfortunately, you cannot stop the internal conversations. They are a built-in feature of being human.

However, if you understand this internal human mechanism, you have the option of bypassing it. What that means in reality is “just do what you say, regardless of how you feel about it or what your inner voice is telling you.”

It’s easier said than done. However, if you can overcome this, you will have a big advantage and power in achieving your objectives and dreams.

The good new is that the more you just do it, the easier it will become to repeat this behavior, because your inner voice will have less control over your actions.

Make a difference with your words

We have all heard the expressions “words are cheap” or “action speaks louder than words.”

That is not true! In fact, words are the most powerful tools we have to create realities and make things happen.

Let’s take some universal examples: When a priest or rabbi pronounces a couple “man and wife” a new reality is created from his or her speaking. When a judge sentences a person as guilty or not guilty that is a real and immediate outcome and reality. And, when a president of a country declares war on another country the world changes in that moment out of that declaration. These are all words that create a world.

These are big examples. Think about day-to-day stuff. When a man asks a woman “would you marry me?” and she says “yes” (or “no”) a new reality is just born. In fact, every time someone promises or asks someone else for something specific that conversation creates an outcome, direction and reality.

The problem is that most people don’t know how to use words so they use words that are designed for one thing for another – they use words that are designed to create possibilities and ideas when we they are trying to drive action. Or, they use blank words that don’t create anything when they are trying to dive ideas and possibilities.

It’s like a chef using the wrong knifes for different ingredients … or a carpenter using the wrong tools to cut wood.

In all these crafts there is obviously an art and a science. The art is expressed in the personal style, touch and taste. However, there is also a science – If we want to be effective we have to use the right tools for the right intent and outcome. It is the same with words.

In my last newsletter I wrote a brief lesson in the Leadership on a Napkin segment about words. I want to elaborate a bit more on this topic as it is a relevant and powerful one, and I see people and teams struggling with, and missing the mark on this all the time.

Here are my practical recommendations:

Stop saying “we need to do…” “we should do…” or “we have to do…” take these phrases out of your vocabulary. These statements may be valid, perhaps even true. However, they don’t make any difference in creating possibilities or driving action. They are conceptual descriptions that keep the conversation theoretical and hypothetical.

I hear these statement stated too many times in conversations. In most cases when people say these things others roll their eyes, go to email or simply disengage because they feel these statements are just pronouncing the obvious. These often show up as “blah…blah…blah.”

These statements don’t come from commitment and they don’t evoke commitment. They make the speakers feel as if they are expressing something important…a commitment. But, in reality these are very safe statements that don’t put the speaker on the hook for anything. And, the listeners often feel lectured to.

And if you need another logical reason why these statements don’t make a difference: people simply don’t do what they need to, should or have to. So, pronouncing it doesn’t change or move anything.

So, what words do make a difference?

If you want to create a new possibility or let the world know who you are and what you stand for you should use the words “I want to do…”

This still doesn’t directly and immediately evoke action. However, it puts your ass on the line for something, it makes the conversation personal and it puts something at stake for the speaker.

These words do not express a description. They are a declaration. These clearly are powerful words of commitment that engage and compel people. It gets people’s attention and touches their hearts. I have seen people wake up, sit straight and pay attention when others are declaring what they want… how they want the reality and future to be for the team.

Even though “I want” isn’t a conversation for action it provokes the conversation that leads to action. If someone says “I want to do this…” others are likely to say “So, what are you going to do to make it happen?” Just like people don’t do what they should, people don’t do what they want to. However, when they declare what they want they are more likely to take action.

If you want to drive committed action and accountability use the words “We will do…” or “I will do…” These words express a promise. While there is no guarantee in life about anything, people are more inclined to do what they promise than what they want or should.

Also, when people promise things they are more inclined to track what they are promising. And, if they drop the ball or don’t behave consistently with what they promised it is more likely to become a personal or collective integrity issue for individuals and/or the team.

 

Photo credit: Tulane Public Relations