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Free Weights and Philosophers

If you haven't read Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, let me summarize it for you. The most important principles are in the graphics included above. The fundamental mistake most people who don't feel particularly effective or powerful make is devoting their time to urgent, rather than important matters that often lay outside their ability to significantly change the outcome or condition that drew their attention in the first place. Examples include:

  • Attending meetings that don't further your highest work priorities

  • Cleaning up after your kids

  • Looking at, but not responding to or deleting e-mails

  • Engaging in political arguments on Facebook

  • Saying "Yes" when "No" is the answer that protects your best interests

I have a former client who is extremely successful in his work because he's talented, passionate, has uncommon integrity and a ferocious work ethic. But we've been trying to resume training for over a year. What keeps him from pulling the trigger, in my view, is his inclination to put others' needs first. So, although he is deeply invested in the idea of getting back in shape, the broadening scope of his circle of concern as he has started his own business and, perhaps, a reluctance to delegate or limit the scope and volume of the work he accepts, may be the very things that hinder his ability to achieve the underlying objective for his business – to improve the day-to-day quality of his and his family's lives.

Reinhold Niebuhr authored the familiar quote known as the Serenity Prayer. It is, perhaps, the spiritually-based and more sweeping version of how to correct the misstep characterized by Covey more than 50 years later. The bottom line is that we tend to direct our attention, energy and emotional capital toward a broad array of circumstances and situations that can make us feel frustrated and dis-empowered. We judge and lament what we can't change and we ignore what we can change that will redefine our self-image in a dramatic and powerful way. Simply shifting our focus to what's well within our control (our views, our habits of self-care and our methods of deciding what areas to make a priority in our lives), we can experience life-changing transformations, feeling more powerful and peaceful at the same time. Time with contemplation, meditation, prayer, or whatever religious or secular activity takes you out of your "monkey mind" is a great start, and represents the core of what should be our "sphere of concern". A close second is exercise and healthful eating.

Give these two areas the priority they both deserve, and, along with "quiet time", you'll be amazed at how good you can feel and what quality of life you can experience here and now.

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