Self-leadership: Don’t wait for big opportunities, lead yourself to them
Deep down we all hope to meet and work with people who will bring the best into our life (and out of us) – a spouse who will open the doors to unconditional love, a boss who will lead us to big career achievements, friends who will make us laugh and always express strong support, maybe even new business partners who will share with us new ideas for profitable ventures.
If you’re hoping deep down for that kind of encounters, don’t forget the fact that to attract great people in your life who open doors to big opportunities, you have to be that kind of a person. You are the one who must walk the world with heart open to unconditional love first, you are the one who must initially have clear career goals and help others achieve theirs, you are the one who must create opportunities for yourself, not only wait for them.
The perfect word for that kind of a mindset is self-leadership. It means that you have the same attitude towards yourself and other people as you wish life in general and others would always have towards you. Life treats you more or less like you treat yourself. Others treat you more or less like you treat them. When you start to lead yourself, other people and opportunities start following you. That’s why every success starts with self-leadership.
Here are the core elements of self-leadership that will lead you (technically, you will lead yourself) to the right people and big opportunities:
Understand yourself and build a superior life strategy
Your life strategy is shaped by your beliefs, values, and goals, and thus by your decisions of how you will spend your time, energy, money, skills and other resources you possess. Most people don’t even analyze and reflect what life strategy they follow. They simply live life how they were raised and based on their inherited behavioral patterns. It’s called being reactive, it’s living life on autopilot.
Self-leadership starts with being proactive – getting to know your true self, having a clear picture about your strengths and weaknesses, and shaping your life strategy based on all that. Only then can you act out of your strengths and manage the weaknesses that are holding you back. A life strategy, together with clearly defined goals, is the first step towards a successful life.
Make sure you have a strong emotional purpose
A very well defined life strategy is never enough, it’s only one part of the success equation. Only rational goals take too much self-discipline to ever be actually accomplished. Every big goal has to be fueled with a strong positive emotional purpose – life mission. Your life strategy needs to be backed by strong emotional reasons that drive you through all the obstacles and difficulties on the path towards your goal.
Thus you always need a clear and powerful answer to the question of “why?” you are fighting for something. Setting great goals always starts with why. You probably know the saying that if you want to build a ship and need help from other people, don’t drum them up to collect wood. Instead enrapture them and make them long for an adventure on the sea that will make their life worthwhile. Motivating yourself is no different. Don’t only strategize and think about the end goal, have a strong motive of why you want to go on that journey.
Properly organize your lifestyle and develop good habits
There is a big fight over what the difference between management and leadership is. In real life, they go hand in hand. There is no good management without leadership, and there is no great leadership without management. Consequently, self-management is an important part of self-leadership. If we turn to theory, the functions of management are planning, motivating, organizing, staffing and controlling.
The planning part in self-management includes building a superior strategy and setting goals, while the motivating part comprises of having a strong why. We discussed both of them. And now we’ve arrived to the organizing part of management. When it comes to self-management, organizing yourself is about productive day-to-day functioning. That includes managing several areas of life:
- Managing the body – It all starts with your healthy body. Without health, everything else in life collapses, which is why managing your body is a fundamental part of self-leadership. Getting enough sleep, following a healthy diet and exercising regularly are the basics of taking good care of yourself. Managing your body is about a healthy lifestyle and balancing rest, play and work.
- Managing the mind – In today’s creative society, your mind with all its creative and analytical potential is the greatest weapon you possess. Thus you have to carefully manage your mind by avoiding mental masturbation (news, browsing low-quality articles, social media etc.), fixing cognitive distortions, and instead using your intellectual potential for having interesting conversations, reading books and brainstorming new ideas.
- Managing the spirit – Managing your sprit can be a religious, spiritual or completely practical act. No matter where it comes from, the essential parts of it include seeing life as a gift, being grateful for everything you have, creatively expressing yourself through hobbies and work, developing a strong sense of self, trusting in yourself and life, and possessing basic goodness and a loving nature.
- Managing emotions – Emotions are not only important fuel that drives you towards your goals, they also make life more colorful and worthwhile. Paying attention to your needs, expressing your emotions in a healthy way, doing things out of love, as well as showing compassion and empathy towards yourself and others are all important parts of self-management.
- Managing time and keeping productivity high – There is never enough time to do all the tasks, but there is always enough time to do the most important tasks. That’s what time management is all about. Proper time management consists of eliminating time wasters (TV, many meetings, social networks etc.), minimizing distractions, organizing and prioritizing to-do lists, and successfully dealing with procrastination when it hits you (it happens to all of us).
- Managing competences – Your competences make you potentially the most profitable investment of your life. They are the ones that open the doors to great people and opportunities. Competences are your inner resources, consisting of your knowledge, skills, intelligence, empathy and personality traits. With enough inner resources, you can always create or acquire external resources – money, contracts, status etc. (by providing and delivering value to markets). At some point, properly managing external resources also becomes an important part of self-leadership.
Build a motivational environment for yourself
The last function of management is staffing. It means finding the right people who help you achieve your goals. Things are no different in personal life than they are in business.
You need to build a motivational environment for yourself, and supportive and encouraging relationships are in the center of every environment that enables you to flourish. You simply can’t succeed alone in life. You need a team.
Again, it’s your job to be proactive and find the right people who will embark on the journey with you. They won’t just knock on your door. Hoping that the right people will just pop up in your life is naïve. As we said, you have to become the kind of person you would want to attract into your life. That’s how you attract the right people and that’s the first step in building a motivational environment.
Stay agile on the path towards your goals
The road towards your goals is never a straight line. The road is always filled with blocks, dead ends and unexpected challenges. It’s natural and expected that you will have to stay flexible (or agile) when it comes to achieving your goals. An important part of self-leadership is thus listening to environmental forces (feedback) and aligning your strategy in a way that you can achieve your goals with the least resistance.
You know the rule. When one door closes, another one opens; or maybe a window; or maybe you have to dig a hole underneath the wall. There is always a new path, you just have to find it. An important part of self-leadership is managing your ego to the point where you have no problem adapting and changing your plan. It’s called agile and lean personal productivity.
You must absolutely keep your end goal in mind and the strong emotional drive in your heart, but at the same time you have to stay completely flexible about how you will get to the desired location. It’s how life works. The strongest ones don’t survive. The most flexible ones do.
Be gentle and kind to yourself and regularly reflect on your actions
When it comes to leadership, the central elements are always strategizing, asserting yourself, self-discipline, finding a way to make a step forward, and so on. What we often forget is that empathy, warmth, compassion and tenderness are also important parts of self-leadership. It happens quite often that people are nicer to strangers than they are to themselves. That’s not good self-leadership.
You must be gentle and understanding towards yourself, especially when things don’t go as planned and when you fail. You need to let the wounds heal and then reflect on your actions, which leads to big insights into how to improve your life strategy. In the end, an important part of self-leadership is continuously improving yourself and developing new healthy habits that lead to a better quality of life. And when it comes to learning and improving, failure is a much better teacher than success.
In summary, don’t wait for the perfect moment or the right opportunities. Lead yourself to the perfect moment and walk right into the middle of endless big opportunities. You can achieve that by:
- Knowing yourself, building a superior life strategy and setting clear goals
- Making sure your visions and actions are backed with strong positive emotions
- Properly managing your body, mind, spirit, emotions, time and talents
- Building a motivational environment for yourself and surrounding yourself with the right people
- Staying completely flexible about how you will achieve your goals
- Regularly reflecting and being kind to yourself – enjoy the path and love life!
Blaz Kos writes about data-driven personal development at AgileLeanLife.com. Blaz helps people shape superior life strategies by: (1) employing the best business practices in personal life management, (2) teaching established psychological techniques to better manage mind and emotions, and (3) setting goals based on understanding market paradigms, the quantified self, and following cold hardcore metrics that prevent any fake feeling of progress.