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Character, Discipline and Consistency- Why You Need Them

 

Developing character is a major challenge of our times.  We are constantly bombarded by messaging that tells us that appearance is everything, by institutions that reward those who game the system above those who work honestly.  We all know at least one person who got where they are by smooth talk and stepping on the people around them.  But consider, do those people have the confidence of their subordinates? Can their leadership energize a failing organisation?  Do others trust them enough to come to them with problems or to partner with them on major projects?  In a real emergency, would they retain leadership- or would their subordinates look to someone more trustworthy?

Character, discipline and consistency are levers that allow us not only to gain the trust of others, but to trust ourselves.  They allow us to commit to a goal with the certainty that we can do what it takes to get there.  We’ve all signed up for a gym and then never made time to go, we’ve all resolved to commit to major projects that ended up going by the boards.  By committing to work at something incrementally and consistently doing it, despite the boredom, the distractions, the other pressures we face in life, our own tendency to procrastinate and so on, we are telling ourselves that we have the willpower to make major changes in our lives.  If we’ve done it once, we can do it again.  Developing these qualities allows us to become the people who get things done reliably.  We’ve all faced the situation of group projects where others in the group don’t do what they’ve committed to.  If you’re the person who always comes through, then you can be the person people will trust when it really counts.

Watch the video above to hear Brian Tracy talk about the critical quality of self-discipline, and another word we don’t like to hear, sacrifice.


Leading Yourself Into The Situations You Want In Work and Life

Apropos of the Resilient Life Code’s upcoming unit on Self-Leadership, we thought we’d tie Self-Leadership in with two of our recent themes: corporate culture and the Newtonian worldview.  If we attempt to take control of and responsibility for our lives while we still believe that we are victims of a mechanistic world beyond our control, that we are at the mercy of whatever institutional contexts we find ourselves in, we will, inevitably fail.  Here are a couple of approaches that will help you short-circuit this focus on external obstacles and begin to create your own security and your own high-functioning environment from within. 

 

Empowerment

Stephen Covey recounts the experience of a corporation trying to reform its corporate culture in order to improve the quality of its services.

“They essentially said, Our problem is scarcity.  We have scarcity in the way we admit people into our ranks, scarcity in the way we promote them, scarcity in the way we compensate them, scarcity in the way they’re made partners, scarcity in the way the rewards of partnership are distributed.  No wonder we have such a messed-up culture!  No wonder there’s so much jealousy.  There’s so much feigned, pretended, cosmetic unity, but down deep inside there are forces that are splitting our culture apart – hidden agendas operating everywhere, relationship problems, departments at the throats of other departments.”

Scarcity is far less often a fact than it is an attitude.  As a concrete example, there can seemingly be no greater instance of absolute scarcity than famine.  And yet many of the great famines of history resulted from the underuse of alternative food sources that had fallen out of fashion yet could have survived whatever drought/disease/climactic conditions caused the famine.  The opposite attitude to scarcity is abundance.  Just as the scarcity of famine can be created by people’s attitudes, so abundance is also created by our mindset, specifically, a mindset of stewardship and cooperation.  The “reality” television show Survivor is probably the supreme example of scarcity mindsets in action.  Again and again, effective group action is undermined by the politics resulting from a scarcity mindset.  Yet all of humanity’s achievements depend on group effort.  In order to thrive, Covey maintains, people need trustworthy, coherently-aligned, accountable working environments. 

Why is this a self-leadership issue rather than just a leadership issue?  Not all of us are fortunate enough to work in such environments, and it is a key self-leadership skill to begin to turn that around through our interactions, to create our preferred environment around us by reflecting it in our behaviour.  Scarcity, as an aspect of the Newtonian worldview, focuses on an external problem.  Abundance focuses on an internal solution.  We have to become what we want to see in our environment.  That means we need, among other things:

 

Trustworthiness

Trust is the key factor behind the success or failure of any professional group endeavour.  Without trust, as you probably learned working on group assignments in school, it is impossible to do anything efficiently.  Covey roots professional trust in two factors: character and competence.

Character requires, naturally, an integrity based on a deeply-rooted set of principles, honesty and courtesy as we have reiterated so often- but it also requires an abundance mentality- there are always more possibilities, a reservoir of creativity to meet every challenge together, and life is always growing.  Without that abundance mentality, character evaporates, becomes unable to operate.  You can’t keep faith with others if you have no faith in the universe.

Competence includes not only technical competence, but the ability to see the big picture and ability to work well with others.  Competence arises from a positive outlook.  It is the sign of a person on a growth trajectory, of people endeavouring to improve themselves.

 

Mutually Beneficial Agreements

The logical outcome of personal trustworthiness plus the other trustworthy people it will attract is the ability to form mutually beneficial agreements about tasks you have to perform.  The more you do it, the more effortless it will become and the more efficient the collaboration will be.  But to make this work, you need one more thing:

 

Accountability

Scarcity creates competition.  Abundance creates accountability.  First and foremost, that means you have to hold yourself accountable to the terms of the agreements you have made.  The more you do this, the less anyone else will have any need to check up on you, and the more you will encourage personal accountability in your colleagues.  The collective agreement thus becomes a standard against which you can measure your performance, but fundamentally, you are taking responsibility for the quality of your work under a framework of integrity and trust built with others. 

In high-functioning organisations, systems should be in place to reward outstanding work to reinforce personal accountability and encourage further achievement, but the primary reward for us is that by taking these steps toward self-leadership, we become the kind of people who can create productive, abundance-focused environments wherever we go.  Focus on abundance, as we said, brings an inner solution to the external problems of scarcity.

 

 

Flexibility

If sticking to your goals is important, and it is, the other side of that equation is flexibility.  Brian Tracy says “The opposite of flexible thinking is fixed or mechanical thinking.”  The latter is, of course, a hallmark of the Newtonian Worldview.  To be flexible is to be open-minded, to take in new information and differing points of view.  This means listening to what people think even if they don’t agree with you.  It also requires a willingness to admit that you were wrong.  This is excruciating for the ego, as evidenced by the millions if not billions of dollars spent worldwide every year on covering up unpleasant truths.  But ultimately, admitting that you were wrong and changing your approach is far less costly than persisting in a misguided venture. 

State your goal clearly, but be flexible about how to achieve it, and be open to both inner and outer promptings- if you feel good about a particular direction that has just emerged, chances are your intuitive guidance system knows something you don’t.  By being flexible in this way, you can avoid getting stuck in the machinery of set ways of thinking and going down with inflexible organisations.

This is where self-leadership and leadership meet- the two become the same thing.  When we let go of the Newtonian mechanistic universe and its attitude of scarcity and turn toward the quantum universe with its attitude of abundance, we are shifting our focus from the external to the internal, from the problems out there to the solutions we can create within ourselves. 

 

 

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger




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