Bridging the gap from idea to implementation isn’t an easy feat. It’s a long, drawn out journey that encompasses chaos and navigates the individual battles of fear, self-defeating beliefs and other habits that hinder rather than help.
I remember a BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training) instructor telling us the secret to making it through BUD/S: Don’t quit.
Don’t quit. That was it — “don’t quit.”
It’s simple, it’s obvious and it’s almost patronizing to tell somebody that if they want to achieve something that they shouldn’t quit.
Simple, yes. Easy, no.
There’s one quality that separates winners from losers, one “thing” that 34 out of the 176 students from my BUD/S class chose to enact that the other 140 who failed chose against. You know what it was?
Will. Individual will.
People who get things done are willing to embrace the suck and keep coming back for more.
People who get things done are willing to take a hit and keep on hitting.
People who get things done know that just because they fail at something along the way, it doesn’t make them a failure.
These are characteristics of people who get “stuff” done, and they do so because they’re willing to find pleasure amidst a whole hell of a lot of pain.
Everybody has their own behaviors and habits that work for them. Whatever they are for you, keep them — but make them better. Don’t settle for what always works because it not always will.
Here are six behaviors that I’ve found to yield positive results. Hopefully they will for you, too.
1. Make self-deposits.
It’s easy to uphold the promises you make to others. After all, you made a promise to them which means you’re now accountable to 1) them and 2) to that promise.
But what about when you make a promise to yourself? Who holds you accountable then? It’s easier to break a promise made to yourself than it is a promise made to a friend because there’s no overwatch, no fear of social judgment.
Hold yourself accountable for keeping promises to yourself with the same scrutiny that you do for others because when you do, you make deposits to what’s known as your “emotional bank account.”
An emotional bank account is just that — a bank account of you that grows with promises kept and depletes with promises broken. The more promises you make to yourself and the more you keep them, the stronger your self-image builds. Your self-efficacy snowballs into an unstoppable force as you see yourself as the type of person who’s able and willing to conquer difficult tasks.
Keep the promises you make to yourself even when nobody’s looking and you’ll build the type of mental fortitude that others wish they had; you’ll be the person others aspire to be.
2. Capture your thoughts as they happen.
I don’t know about you, but the “good idea fairy” has a permanent room in my apartment. She sends her good ideas to me every day, even when I say, “Okay, enough is enough!”
Having a great idea come to mind is, well, great, but also extremely frustrating when you can’t remember what it was.
Don’t fret. Have a system for capturing those little strokes of genius as they happen in the moment so you can revisit them later. You’ll never change the world if you forget the ideas you had to conquer it (that’s a joke). When a new idea strikes you, capture it immediately. Make a voice note, send yourself an email, write any keywords that might spark your memory later on.
Just. Don’t. Forget them.
3. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
One thing that holds people back is the fear of social judgment. “What will others think of me if…?” It’s natural to compare yourself to others, but that doesn’t mean it’s right. After all, you don’t know their story, don’t know what drives them, what challenges them or what’s going on in their minds. Maybe they’re role modeling somebody else in the moment; somebody else they wished they were or some other role they wish they had.
When you take yourself too seriously, what really happens is you place an inordinate amount of pressure on yourself to be received that way by others.
However, what people think or feel about you is out of your control, which means that by expecting others to receive you as you perceive yourself, what you’re really doing is setting yourself up for failure (because you have no control).
And if you’re thinking, “Well, if I don’t take myself seriously then nobody else will,” you’re right — why should they? If you need to tell people how “serious” or how great you are, it’s because they haven’t seen it yet for themselves. You can be “serious” (i.e. focused) while having fun. Nothing speaks to greater self-confidence than poking fun at yourself.
4. Grow yourself daily.
It’s no secret that some of the most successful people stick to an exercise routine, and they do so in the morning. The thing is, they don’t workout to prep their beach bodies for summer (okay, maybe some do). Successful people know that by challenging the physical game, they strengthen the mental game.
And the mental game is everything.
Aim for just one percent improvement every day. By striving to get just one percent better every day, at the end of the year you will have improved 365%, or 3.5 times better than where you began.
5. Be candid, yet courteous.
There’s a difference between “telling it like it is” and “telling it like it is as an ass.”
Tell it like it is but do so with tact. Be mindful of yourself and how you “show up” to the conversation. Pay attention to other people’s reactions that follow your words and non-verbal cues, as those are great indicators to how you’re being received.
Here’s another reason to be candid: it shows respect. If there’s one thing that we all need more of (and I could insert a lot of jokes right here), it’s time.
Nobody has the time to listen to BS. Nobody has the time to dilly-dally around (i.e. waste time) on superfluous “stuff.”
If you want to demonstrate respect or even reward people, offer them candor. Tell them like it is yet in a non-douchebag-way. Don’t waste time — theirs or yours.
People appreciate candor. They want to know where they stand with you and with others.
Social comparison is natural (just not accurate for the reasons cited in #3), so address their curiosity about “where they stand” before they even begin to wonder. Do this, and people will actively seek your feedback in the future because they know what they’ll get in return: honesty.
6. Learn and apply.
Making things happen is one thing. Learning from what you made happen and then applying what you learned next time is another. If you’re not learning from mistakes (or successes for that matter), you’re dying a slow, painful death.
Learning is what keeps you relevant. Competitive. On the cutting-edge.
People, teams and companies compete at the speed of adaptability, but they adapt at the speed of learning.
Have a process to learn. In the military, we conducted After Action Reviews after every major training event and every mission because they enabled us to build awareness about ourselves and each other (and nobody ever suffers from being “too aware”).
The choices you make shape who you are today and guide you to who you will be tomorrow. Build yourself everyday by making it happen today.
Originally published on Medium.
Jeff Boss is Co-Founder of Chaos Advantage, a coaching and consulting firm that works with leaders and their teams to navigate uncertainty and win as one by leveraging the unique experiences in leadership and teamwork of special operations. He is author of Navigating Chaos: How To Find Certainty In Uncertain Situations and Managing The Mental Game: How To Think More Effectively, Navigate Uncertainty, And Build Mental Fortitude, former Navy SEAL of 13 years and host of The Chaos Cast Podcast: Life Lessons For Finding Certainty In Uncertain Situations. Receive his weekly leadership insights here.