The biggest problem with deciding to do something is deciding to wait to do it. Why put off doing something you really want to do? Anything worth doing is worth doing now. Here are 20 things you need to say to yourself this week–not because you plan to do something but because you’ve already done it. And each is a lot easier to accomplish than some grand, sweeping, hopefully-life-changing-but-in the-end-you-never-manage-to-accomplish pledge. So let’s get started! –Jeff Haden
Your parents love you. They want the best for you. They are always there for you. But they won’t be around forever. Call them.
“I finally got started!”
You have plans. You have goals. You have ideas. Who cares? You have nothing until you actually do something. Every day, we let hesitation and uncertainty stop us from acting on our ideas. Fear of the unknown and fear of failure often stop me and may be what stops you, too. Pick one plan, one goal, or one idea. And get started. Do something. Do anything. Just take one small step. The first step is by far the hardest. Every successive step will be a lot easier.
“It’s totally my fault.”
Everyone makes mistakes. That makes it easy to blame others for our problems. But we are almost always also to blame. We did (or did not) do something we could have done differently or better. Instead, take full responsibility, not in a masochistic, “woe is me” way, but in an empowering way. Focus on being smarter or better or faster or more creative the next time.
“That wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought …”
The most paralyzing fear is fear of the unknown. (At least it is for me.) Yet nothing ever turns out to be as hard or as scary as you thought it would be. Plus, it’s incredibly exciting to overcome a fear. You’ll get that “I can’t believe I jumped out of an airplane!” rush, an amazing feeling you haven’t experienced for too long. So go do something you were afraid to do. I promise it won’t be as bad as you thought.
No one receives enough praise. No one. Pick someone who did something well and tell them. And feel free to go back in time. Saying, “I was just thinking about how you handled that project last year” can make just as positive an impact today as it would have then. Maybe a little more impact, because you still remember what happened a year later. Surprise praise is a gift that costs the giver nothing but is priceless to the recipient.
“I’ll show you, —hole.”
One of the best ways to motivate me is to insult me–or for me to manufacture a way to feel insulted. I use rejection to fuel my motivation to do whatever it takes to prove that person wrong and, more important, achieve what I want to achieve. Call it childish and immature. I don’t care–it works for me. And it can work for you. So next time, don’t turn the other mental cheek. Get pissed off, even if your anger is unjustified and imaginary–in fact, especially if your anger is unjustified or imaginary–and use it for fuel to shake you out of your same-thing-different-day rut.
“Can you help me?”
Asking someone for help instantly recognizes the person’s skills and values and conveys your respect and admiration. That’s reason enough to ask someone to help you. The fact you will get the help you need is icing on the achievement cake.
“Can I help you?”
Then flip it around. Many people see asking for help as a sign of weakness, so they hesitate. Yet we can all use help. But don’t just say, “Is there anything I can help you with?” Most people will automatically say, “No, I’m all right.” Be specific. Say, “I’ve got a few minutes. Can I help you finish that?” Offer in a way that feels collaborative, not patronizing or gratuitous. And then actually help. You’ll make a real difference in someone’s life and take a solid step toward creating a real connection.
“I did something no one else is willing to do.”
Pick one thing other people aren’t willing to do. Pick something simple. Pick something small. Whatever it is, do it. Instantly, you’re a little different from the rest of the pack. Then keep going. Every day, do one thing no one else is willing to do. After a week, you’ll be uncommon. After a month, you’ll be special. After a year, you’ll be incredible, and you won’t be like anyone else. You’ll be you.
“I don’t care what other people think.”
Most of the time you should worry about what other people think–but not if it stands in the way of living the life you really want to live. If you really want to start a business but you’re worried that people might think you’re crazy, screw ’em. If you really want to change careers but you’re afraid of what people might think, screw ’em. Pick one thing you haven’t tried simply because you’re worried about what other people think–and just go do it. It’s your life. Live it your way.
“I’m really sorry.”
We’ve all screwed up. We all have things we need to apologize for: words, actions, failing to step up, step in, or be supportive. Pick someone you need to apologize to–the more time that’s passed between the day it happened and today, the better. But don’t follow up your apology with a disclaimer that in any way places even the tiniest amount of blame back on the other person. Say you’re sorry, say why you’re sorry, and take all the blame. Then you’ll both be in a better place.
“I’m the king of the world!”
According to Harvard professor Amy Cuddy, two minutes of power posing–standing tall, holding your arms out or toward the sky, or standing like Superman with your hands on hips–will dramatically increase your confidence. Try it right before you step into the next situation where you know you’ll feel nervous, insecure, or intimidated. (Just make sure no one is watching.) It may sound strange, but it definitely works.
You’re busy. Your plate is full. There are plenty of reasons to sit tight, stay safe, keep things as they are. But that also means tomorrow will be just like today. Say yes to something different. Say yes to something scary. Say yes to the opportunity you’re most afraid of. When you say yes, you’re really saying, “I trust myself.” Trust yourself.
Still, you can’t do everything. You can’t help everyone. You may want to, but you can’t. Sometimes you just need to say no: to a favor, to a request, to a family member. Sometimes you really need to be able to focus on what is important to you. Say no at least once before the end of the month–the harder to say, the better. And don’t worry if you feel selfish: When your heart is in the right place, what you accomplish by spending more time on your goals will eventually benefit other people too.
Maybe there’s an employee you really need to let go but haven’t. Or maybe there’s a customer, or a vendor, or even just a friend. Sometimes the best addition starts with subtraction. Pick someone who is dragging you down or holding you back, and let them go.
“It’s not perfect, but that’s OK.”
Yeah, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Yeah, perfection is the only acceptable outcome. Unfortunately, no product or service is ever perfect, and no project or initiative is perfectly planned. Work hard, do great work, and let it fly. Your customers will tell you what needs to be improved–which means you’ll get to make improvements that actually matter. You can’t find out until you let go. You can’t really do anything until you let go.
“That’s not my job–but who cares?”
Job descriptions are fine until they get in the way of getting things done. No matter what your role or what you’ve accomplished, you’re never too good to roll up your sleeves, get dirty, and do a little grunt work. No job is ever too menial, no task too unskilled or boring. The next time you see something that needs to be done, just do it. Not only will it get done, you’ll feel better about yourself for doing it.
“I’m really glad I tried their way.”
Sure, we’re all individuals. (OK, I’m not.) Most of the time, we should set our own courses and follow our own paths. But sometimes the best thing to do is copy what made someone else successful. Pick someone who has accomplished what you would like to accomplish and follow that path. Don’t always try to reinvent perfectly good wheels.
“Wow, that was stupid. We should do that again!”
Sometimes the dumbest things result in the fondest memories: the time you and two employees stayed up all night loading trucks and listening to every Zeppelin album in order; the time you and a crew stayed in the plant all weekend during a snowstorm cranking out orders. Each happened more than 20 years ago, but my memories are still vivid. Do something seemingly stupid or outrageous or crazy, the harder the better. You probably won’t love it while you’re doing it, but the result will be a memory that will always make you smile.
Self-talk is awesome, but sometimes, at the end of a day when you’ve worked incredibly hard and kicked serious ass and still made time for friends and family and done everything possible to make sure all the important pieces of your world are in place and taken care of, look in the mirror, smile, and nod at the person looking back. Sometimes the best way to end a great day is with a silent acknowledgment of achievement and, more important, fulfillment.