“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.” — Mahatma Gandhi
Every day you are given the freedom to think big, deep, powerful thoughts — some of which will literally change your life. Our creative imagination makes deep thinking and possible. Deep thinking leads to bold ideas that are unfettered, unfiltered, unbiased and free from overly positive or negative emotion. Because it is through this type of thinking that we find and seek the truth about who we are and what we want.
Deep thinking is fueled by two types of honesty: honesty with yourself and asking someone or those very close to you — who you trust — to be honest with you. As I’ve written about previously, step one in personal development is all about honesty.
If you’ve been putting off your goals and dreams for a few days, months or perhaps even years, it’s time that you instill some discipline and make changes to think introspectively and truthfully about how you can get the results and outcomes you desire in your life.
The distillation of the best advice that I’ve received from successful entrepreneurs like Elon Musk and Sheryl Sandberg, to entertainment icons Denzel Washington and Oprah Winfrey is to set small, incremental goals for yourself. On a personal level, I’ve seen my friend Amy Schumer, as well as my brother, ESPN broadcaster Kevin Connors, and many brilliant business minds reach incredible heights because they pushed themselves to keep setting goals.
I do believe it’s of high importance to have an overarching objective of how you define success, but where the “battle is really won” is in the trenches of achieving wins on small goals.
Amy Schumer is a close childhood friend of mine and someone whose dedication, commitment, hard work and confidence I greatly admire. I’ve watched her become the star she is today by grinding it out and taking small steps, which have led to enormous success.
When we spoke recently, she told me about her mindset and the role that confidence has played during what has been her ascension to the top of the entertainment world. She first wanted to be a stand-up comedian. Then she decided that she wanted to make a living doing stand-up comedy. Next, it was the desire to become a comedian who hit the road and traveled the country and world.
She didn’t wake up one day and think, I’m going to be the next titan of comedy and it’s going to start right away! As she told me,
“When you think and dream in terms of instant gratification, you fall flat on your face.”
So, you’ve likely come to this article with a desire to grow and add valuable insights to improve the way you think and act. That is, after all, what the net result of personal development should be! So, where are you on your journey? Have you spoken what you want for yourself over your life? Have you written it down? What’s holding you back?
We all know that real-life gets in the way, both in a good and bad way, and that obligations to work and family must come first. Where I’m interested in diving into with you is the time management mastery of your “free time.” What does that free time look like? What are we talking about?
I’m talking about the time you have after school has ended and before dinner. And after you’ve put your little one down to bed. That extra 30 minutes where you could get a little bit more sleep, but you know you’d benefit from some extra thought and goal-planning time. And it may come in the morning, where if you wake up a little bit earlier and plan your day, you’ll be well on your way to a much more productive day!
So let’s talk about that and figure out how we can both get better together.
“Self-discipline begins with the mastery of your thoughts. If you don’t control what you think, you can’t control what you do. Simply, self-discipline enables you to think first and act afterward.” — Napoleon Hill
As the age-old saying goes, “Everything begins with a thought.” This principle applies well to personal development work. You can’t just “dive in” and begin when you haven’t thought out what you really want to do. Or, you can. But the chances of succeeding without proper thought and planning are slim.
Then, you’re only reacting rather than proactively making decisions that are in the best interest of your time, money and future happiness.
It took me a while to master the self-discipline of actually waking up early. Do you struggle with that, as well? But now that I am able, it has revolutionized my thought process and productivity. I’m able to focus with greater intensity and energy during the time of the day where the most lucid, vivid thoughts enter my mind.
I begin each day by meditating and truly just letting my mind listen to all the thoughts that come my way. After about 10 minutes, I let those thoughts simmer and I write down what I want to accomplish each day. I do plan by the week, each Sunday, but I’m always willing to make adjustments if something is not working.
It’s critical that you are willing to adjust, if necessary, to the changes that come and can alter your plans. Because improvisation is very often a requirement!
Start with your thoughts. Plan out your objective, then think about and write down your goals in small, incremental measures. Before long, you have a plan that you can be proud of. And be proud of the goals and dreams that you want to accomplish. Don’t give in to self-criticism or the criticism of others. And equally as important, avoid jealous or envious thinking at all costs!
The only race that matters is the one you are running in. Compete with yourself and don’t worry about others.
The reason why I am a huge proponent of speaking your dreams and goals over your life — particularly to your family or loved ones — is because it strikes a verbal contract of accountability. Research and empirical observation have taught me that many people run away from their dreams because of others might think of them. As this Harvard Business Review article shows, some people actually fear reaching their true potential.
For far too long, I was a living example of that. I was afraid to be vulnerable in my writing but not just that, I was afraid to demonstrate vulnerability in words to my readers. It took me overcoming insecurity and personal fear to even speak about my personal struggles and adversity with my wife! But once I did, it blasted open the door to interior freedom, courage and self-confidence.
What about you? Are you afraid of opening up both publicly and privately about the thing that matters most to you? Or even about your feelings and thoughts?
Once I started telling people that I desire to become a New York Times bestselling author and a person who makes his living — and supports his family — based on the work that blends his enthusiasm and talents, I started moving in that direction. I urge you to take your thoughts and convert them into words with someone — or several people — who you trust.
Find your family. I’m not talking about your Mom or Dad, necessarily, it could be your close friend, mentor or business partner. Someone who has rock-solid integrity and is willing to listen to what you truly desire for yourself. Infuse your words with positivity and hope! And then…
From there, it’s all about action. Are you willing to do what you said you would do — and what you imagined in your beautiful mind — through the power of your thoughts? From there, I can tell you what has worked for me. I use the Stephen Covey “Time Management Quadrant” as my guiding methodology.
I encourage you to plan your day and work toward getting to Quadrant II with all that you do. There will be distractions and fires to fight. Surely, there is work you won’t want to do. Make a concerted effort to organize and categorize the “Not Important” time so you can maximize your efficiency.
I use Microsoft Outlook Tasks to group my 10 categories by color. I’ll list five examples for you:
I put my family first, as well as my work, while focusing on things like personal development, meditation, prayer and taking care of my body. There are more, but this offers some insight into how I view several of the most important things in my life. I’m always looking for “an edge” in my writing and coaching for clients.
How can you get better today?
It’s best to demand a lot of yourself without being too critical and thinking negatively. You’ll find your most productive days are when you’re honest with yourself, self-encouraging, and when you work with enthusiasm and discipline to achieve your goals. Find things to inspire you throughout the day, whether it’s a new article, thinking of your next big idea or a great song that makes you jam.
The actions that you take to be productive and your commitment toward personal development is always time well spent. Try to improve everyday and continue to refine and improve your system with new guidance. Think deeply about where you want to be. Think of the values that you hold dear. As you begin to take flight, you’ll realize you built something special to get your started.
Also check out my Amazon bestselling book, The Value of You. I believe it will change your life for the better.
Originally published at medium.com