Your Ideal Day is Waiting

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Last week I hosted a breakfast in Philadelphia, PA for Chief Information Officers. The key point I presented was that a compelling leadership brand starts with a compelling purpose. Once you clarify your purpose, your brand follows also. Each CIO said afterward that having the time to pull away from the operational and think strategically about their leadership was an excellent use of their time. They said they were able to see their leadership in new and elevated ways.

I realized something on the flight home though. A compelling purpose allows you to lead a compelling life; something I call your ideal day. This week I’m sharing a key insight from my book, 7 Principles of Transformational Leadership, that I believe will help you elevate your thinking, and in turn elevate your impact and your performance.

Victor Hugo said, “The human soul has still greater need of the ideal than of the real. It is by the real that we exist; it is by the ideal that we live.” I agree, but let’s be real about the ideal. Can every day be an ideal day? Probably not. Do the choices we make increase the possibility that the number of days we experience as an ideal day increase? Yes, absolutely.

Here’s my bold admonition. Living an ideal day is a choice. There’s no way around the fact that we have a choice as to how we choose to plan and live our days. Victor Frankl, the renowned psychologist in his wonderful book, Man’s Search for Meaning, recounted how in the face of unfathomable horror, deprivation and cruelty of a German concentration camp, he could choose his experience. He didn’t simply put on rose colored glasses and think happy thoughts. He chose to accept his circumstances and focused on his hopes for what he would experience and accomplish after his release.

Victor Frankl didn’t delegate his choices for his daily experiences. He chose his experiences and worked tirelessly in the camp to share his choice with fellow prisoners. He unquestioningly posited that we all have a choice as to how we experience and live our day.

Yes, there are days when walking into the office knowing you will terminate an employee with two children in college and a new home is hard and challenging. No one will disagree with that. But far too often leaders see only the negative. They view work as a four letter word and see their days as filled with land mines, a relentless need to do more, do it faster and do it cheaper, and an onslaught of political, manipulative or lazy people who make your day frustrating and challenging.

Viewing your day this way has you arriving home only to greet your family and or friends exhausted, overwhelmed and incapable of a meaningful connection. This type of day has you checked out emotionally because you’ve used up all of your emotional energy simply surviving the day. Which day are you choosing? Are you choosing an ideal day of your making or a real day simply responding to the exigencies of the day?

You’re closer than you think

The good news is that your ideal is much closer than you think. It’s a simple shift in perspective or belief away. Eight years ago my wife grew exasperated sleeping next to me. My snoring was waking her in the middle of the night even though she was wearing ear plugs. I scheduled a sleep study and learned I had a mild case of sleep apnea that with a C-Pap machine allowed me to wake in the morning without the feeling of having gone fifteen rounds with a heavyweight boxer.

My sleep quality increased, but my sleep quantity didn’t. I was waking at 2:30am and staying awake for forty-five minutes to an hour. When asleep I had high quality sleep, but I wasn’t sleeping long enough.

I worked with a sleep coach; yes, there are such people, and learned that an increase in sleep quantity was closer than I thought. The perspective I brought to my sleep was that going to bed earlier was the prescription I needed. The opposite was the case for me. I needed to go to bed forty-five minutes later and by doing so I would sleep without interruption throughout the night. It was counterintuitive.

I learned two important lessons. The first lesson is that coaches are the fastest way to increased performance and the best way to make performance sustainable. The second lesson is that we are most often closer to our ideal than we can see. When we have a shift in perspective it changes the way we act and respond. By changing the way we act and respond, we change the results we get. Living our ideal day is that simple and shouldn’t be made any more complicated.

Where do you start?

In the previous sections you identified what you love doing, what you’re good at, and what value you bring to your team and organization. You’ve articulated what you believe and what makes you distinctive in the eyes of your most important relationships. And you’ve seen your leadership impact through the eyes of waking up, growing up and showing up. With this backdrop there are three things you need to do in order to live your ideal day. You must reframe your past, reclaim your future and recalibrate your present.

#1. Reframe your past. You have to be able to look at the negative events in your past and say, “it may not have been ideal, but here’s how I’m going to view these events and what I’ve learned.” In choosing to focus on what is positive you become highly resilient and it shapes your reactions and behaviors in positive ways. This can be hard at times, but reframing negative experiences into positive ones is incredibly powerful and within your control.

#2. Reclaim your future. In order to have high hopes for your ideal day there must be hopes, dreams, aspirations or big ideas that have grabbed hold of you and that you have said yes to. Big dreams or aspirations leave us acting like a gambler who goes all in. In that moment the conversation is “under no circumstances will I take no for an answer on this type of personal and professional life in 2018. This is the life I am claiming.” When you live your leadership purpose there’s no way out and there is no backdoor. When you say, “I will accomplish this.” you have reclaimed the idealized day you have in mind.

3. Recalibrate your present. Recalibrating your present requires discerning what things you should not do again and what you absolutely should do again. This strategy requires recalibrating what worked and what didn’t work over the course of the last year. What was something that accelerated your performance and your sense of satisfaction? What created hope for you, and what created anxiety? Identify the areas of your present that will get in your way and do whatever you can to reduce them or eliminate them. Find those things that are going to help you create greater growth and double down on them.

If you reframe your past, reclaim your future and recalibrate your present you can live your ideal day. But be forewarned. The most revolutionary act you can ever take is to claim your ideal day and to move toward it with faith, confidence and a deep sense of resolve. When you articulate your ideal day it’s essential that you share it with someone you trust and respect. When you share your ideal day and that you are pursuing it, it becomes real and tangible. It doesn’t mean everyday will be ideal, but it does mean the number of ideal days you have will increase appreciably.

The following chapters support all of the work you’ve done so far. In the next chapter specifically, you apply what you’ve learned in ways that are professionally rewarding as well as exciting in their ability to dramatically increase the level of growth you want in revenue, performance and the quality of your personal and professional relationships.

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