As we start the new year I’ve been thinking about choices.
I realized that there are some simple, key choices that we all have immediately available to us that can help us be more true to ourselves, and become happier and more successful at work and life — no matter where we are starting from.
These is certainly not an exhaustive list, but I have found that focusing on each of these practical choices always brings about a bigger positive change in my life and work than I expect.
Choice #1. The right people
Who you choose to spend time with has an enormous impact on your life. It strongly defines your level self-confidence (positive or negative), and your energy to move your life forward in ways that are important to you. And sadly, the reality is that the negative people have a bigger impact than the positive. So choose very carefully.
Spend time with people who make you better.
Spend time with people who encourage you to grow — people who challenge you in fun and inspiring ways to be the best version of you. Choose people who become happy when they see you grow.
Prioritize spending time with these people.
The world (or even perhaps some people in your group of friends or family) is full of people who will try to make you feel like you are doing something wrong by reaching further and wanting to improve yourself.
If you have these people in your life who don’t want you to grow, who hold you back, sabotage you, or try make you feel bad about your efforts to improve – these people are not your friends. Walk away.
If you are forced to work with bosses or peers who are holding you back, change something. — Either change your job — or (if you don’t want to change your job because it has other positives) add a new inspiring person to your mix whose energy will counteract the force of the toxic ones. Purposefully limit your time with these negative people.
Choice #2. Don’t give away your power
As a follow on to the first point when people try to drag you down or hold you back, remember, it is always about them. It is never about you. Expect it and guard against it. Keep pushing forward.
Don’t give away your power to make others feel more comfortable.
Don’t be afraid to be best yourself at full strength. It is good for you, and everyone that matters. Let the people who don’t honor the real you go away.
For example, one thing I see as people advance in their careers is that someone will get a promotion, and then become uncomfortable leading former peers.
If you get a promotion, step up. Don’t feel like you have to shrink away from the power of your bigger role to get former peers to like you. They need you to lead. Very often I have to advise new executives “it’s time to give yourself a promotion”!
You are allowed to be the best, most powerful version of you.
Sacrificing your power and becoming a smaller version of yourself to make someone else feel better about themselves does not work. It doesn’t actually make them feel better, and you suffer the loss of your true and best self.
Remember, not all people have the energy and ambition to invest in success the way that you do. That’s OK. Because that is only about them. It has nothing to do with you. Don’t let their smaller view make you feel bad about your bigger goals.
By the way, you have a boss who insists that you do this — that you stay small to make him or her look better, 1. You have a bad boss. 2. It’s not about you. 3. You really need to get a new boss!
If you haven’t read my book RISE, now is the time.
Choice #3. Be Creative
All people are creative. All people have a need to be creative. When we are little kids, we all sing, dance, draw, and paint. ALL of us. Then many of us stop because we are told by someone in the world that we don’t have enough talent — as though we don’t have a right to continue to do those things.
If you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or out of control, you will feel a lot better if you create something. Invent something that was not there before you made it. Sing, dance, draw, write, build. The outcome is actually not important at all. The process is.
Turn off all the distractions from the various glowing screens in your life for 30 minutes, and create something entirely from your own brain and efforts. It will make you feel better. And it gives your brain a real rest from the usual stresses, because you are actively engaging it in something else that you are in total control of.
Choice #4. Exercise
Awhile back I wrote a blog about What I learned from exercising 100 days in a row. I’m still at it. I’m well past the 6 month mark now.
Do something physical every day.
Exercise also makes your brain feel better and gives you more positive energy for your work and life. The biggest lesson I learned from exercising every day is that is it far easier to do something “not optional” than it is to do something that I think I “should do”. And I definitely feel better. (I can eat and drink more too!)
Choice #5. Remove Clutter
Most professional people I talk to are very busy and feel overwhelmed in some way. They have too much work and not enough time. I’ve written and spoken about Ruthless Priorities, and Strategic Time Management. But one of the most straightforward things you can do to save time and reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed is to simply eliminate clutter.
Eliminate clutter in your email inbox, in your office and your sock drawer. When you eliminate clutter, you don’t have to spend time looking for things. The important things show themselves.
When you eliminate clutter in your physical space, it eliminates clutter in your mental state. It helps you think more clearly about what is important to you, it makes you feel more in control, and it reduces the feeling of being overwhelmed.
Choice #6. Don’t stay angry
There will always be things in the world that make us angry. Science says that the physical/chemical anger reaction is a real thing in our bodies. But it’s important to note that that physical reaction runs its course in 90 seconds.
So getting angry is not a choice. But staying angry is a choice.
Whenever I pass the 5 minute mark on being angry I remind myself that this is now my choice. Staying angry makes you really tired. Nothing in life is better when you stay angry.
Defending your right to be angry over and over again doesn’t make you feel better, it keeps you stuck and exhausts you. I love the expression:
Staying angry is like you drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die
I also love something the Dali Lama said when someone questioned him about his pursuit of happiness in the face of so much suffering in the world. He explained that he spends 1 hour per day to thoroughly mourn for all the people and animals suffering in the world. But only 1 hour. Then he moves his focus to gratefulness and kindness for the rest of each day. I might not have that exactly right, but it’s hard to imagine that that is a bad idea!
What do you think?
What choices do you make that make you happier and more successful?
Join the conversation about this on my facebook page.
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Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)