A 3 Part Proven Recipe For Personal Growth

And The Secret Key Ingredient

It seems to be the universal desire of every young kid to “grow up” as quickly as possible. To them, growing up means getting bigger and stronger physically, which will allow them to conquer the world….or so they think.

It doesn’t take long for us to realize that physical growth alone won’t allow us to get what we want for ourselves and others, nor become the person we desire to be. However, sustained personal growth will.

Now that you’re all grown up, what does growth look like for you?

When I think about growing up, it reminds me of the holiday season for a lot of reasons. One of which is the seemingly endless flow of delicious food. The best dishes are based on well-thought out, tried and true recipes that often have common key ingredients. It’s the same with the recipe for personal growth.

What Is It?

Personal growth by definition is about making positive change in key areas of our life. While the major categories are spiritual, physical, emotional and mental, these can be thin-sliced into a number of different subcategories. There are others as well.

As with cooking, there is a proven recipe for personal growth that yields a great product every time.

What are the Key Ingredients?

The recipe for personal growth is like most other great recipes: If you get the key key ingredients right it makes everything else easier. Here they are:

  1. Decide. Decide whether you want to live life by drift, by drive or by design. Although the first two options are opposites, you end up at a similar destination: being unfulfilled and often unpleasantly surprised or not entirely happy with your results.  With the former you get there by just drifting along and taking what comes. The later is a full-tilt, ready-fire-aim approach that often injuries others and yourself along the way.
  2. Start. Step two can be the hardest because you have to overcome personal inertia and actually do something. Sometimes starting is hard because your not sure where to begin.  If that’s you, then find a role model and start by studying and imitating them. After all, success leaves clues. Once you’ve gained maximum value, continue the friendship and then graduate to the next best level of mentoring and resources you can find.
  3. Stir. Now that you are at temperature, so to speak, keep stirring and adding a pinch here and there of things you need to keep your growth fresh and relevant for you.

Once you have these three ingredients in place, the process for self-perpetuating personal growth becomes exponentially easier because you are now:

  • more self-aware
  • know what you didn’t before
  • know how to reveal your blindspots
  • know seek the information and relationships you need

The end result is achieving the vision of success you’ve defined while experiencing fulfillment along the way….and at the end.

The Secret Ingredient

Like all great recipes, the one for personal growth does have a secret ingredient. Here it is: You have to fall in love with the process and not the destination. As the saying goes, “love the process and the process will eventually love you back.”

Remember, nothing breeds more success like success.

So in summary, the first step is to make a decision. It’s often the trickiest because you have to become self-aware (and now you are). The second step is to just get started.  It’s often the hardest. Like bringing water to boil, it takes a lot of effort initially to raise the temperature. The third step is the easiest because once you get things boiling, it only takes a little consistent effort to keep it at 212 degrees so you can continue to make things happen.

And don’t forget the secret ingredient.  Because unless you fall in love with the process, sooner or later you’re simply going to fall flat.

What ingredient or step in the personal growth process is best for you to focus on now in order to start moving in the direction you want….with fulfillment?


How To Regain Your Time And Energy

4 Sources To Direct Your Flow Where It Needs To Go

When asked, most people today say they feel like they have more to do than ever before. They also say they have less time and energy, despite technology that seems almost magical in some cases. In fact technology, along with many other changes, has made life busier, not less.

Most of us are running on an energy deficit these days.  Sometimes it seems the goal is to get just enough gas back into our depleted tank to make it through the day versus keeping it topped off.

I operated on a deficit for years, despite consuming the latest time management tools, technology and productivity hacks. While those helped a bit, I mostly just got busier, more tired and had more things to do (including having to keep up with the latest system!). I confused time with energy and as a result had less of both.

To move beyond the energy crisis and into thriving requires a different view and approach.  By focusing on and managing energy instead of time, we can get more of both.

Types Of Energy

Unlike a machine, human beings require more than one source of energy. The truth is we need four. And in order to use these for optimal performance  we must value and know how to process each of them:

  • Physical= Energy Quantity. The dichotomies are Expenditure vs Renewal. Knowing how to slow as well as go is vital.
  • Emotional- Energy Quality. The dichotomies are Confidence vs Humility. Knowing and operating in your strength is key; knowing and embracing what isn’t is just as vital.  Learn to feel good about both because how you feel profoundly affects how you perform.
  • Mental- Energy Focus. The dichotomies are Analytic vs Creative. We need both and where focus goes, energy flows.
  • Spiritual- Energy Purpose. The dichotomies are Self-care vs Service. You can’t give what you don’t have so protect the asset (i.e. you) as you give to something greater.

How You Can Get More

The pattern is that each type of energy has it’s own unique quality and opposite characteristics. Just as with Virtues, we must embrace opposites if we are going to flourish in life and business.

Indeed, it’s the pattern of embracing and integrating opposites that provides the rhythm of life and ability to engage in high-levels of sustained performance. Athletes have known this for years; corporate athletes have ignored it for years.

Time is a fixed resource…..everyone gets 24/7/365…..and there isn’t a single thing you or I can do to manage or get more of it. Our energy on the other hand, is a resource we can renew if we’re willing to embrace the oscillation between opposites it requires. Interestingly enough, when all aspects of our energy are renewed and focused, we get into a state of flow that can transform how we experience time.

Focus on and manage your energy, not time, and you’ll end up getting more of both.

Question- do you expect things to get more or less busy for you in the next year or two? If busier, what are your plans to manage your energy to keep up with the demand?

4 Ways To Feel Yourself Back Into “Balance”

So You Can Experience What Matters Most

Just about everyone talks about wanting more “work-life balance”. What you don’t hear much talk about are practical tools and approaches for getting it. That’s unfortunate because there are many.

I’ve written a number of posts about Nash and Steven’s  model of enduring success, a more realistic model than “balance”. Unfortunately, I’ve never had an easy way to know which of the 4 categories they say matter most that I needed to be focusing on. Focusing on in the moment.

After reading Eric Barker’s new book Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong, I’m happy to say that’s changed. His feeling-based heuristic for knowing where you at with these 4 at any given time is both simple and effective.  I know because I’ve put it to the test, both on family vacations as well as at work.


These are the 4 metrics found to matter most in achieving enduring success:

  • Happiness (feelings of pleasure or contentment about life).
  • Achievement (accomplishments that compare favorably against goals others have striven to achieve).
  • Significance (sense of making a positive impact on people you care about).
  • Legacy (a way of establishing values or accomplishments to help others succeed).

The challenge is that while these are important for everyone, the quality and quality are going to be different for each person depending on your gifting, goals, and stage of life.

The bottom-line: if you want to achieve enduring success or something akin to “balance”, then you need to be contributing to some degree to all 4 on a regular basis. Given the variables and variability in each individuals, you might think it impossible to come up with a formula….and your right.


So how does Barker say you know when it’s time to focus on something that contributes to another area instead of just plodding along, drifting or driving?  By paying attention to key emotions or feeling associated with each of the Big 4:

  • Happiness= Enjoying, Pleasure, Contentment
  • Achievement= Winning, Success, Thrilled
  • Significance= Counting (to others), Connection, Loving
  • Legacy= Extending, Reflective, Fulfilled

When you sense you’ve almost had enough, or just enough in one category then switch and link to another that you sense you could use more of. That’s it.

While simple, it will take some initial self-reflection work to get started if you haven’t give some thought to life-planning or your SEI is in the tank.


  • Know the 4 Key metrics of enduring success and what currently contributes to them for you.
  • Practice pausing and learning to recognize the key feelings and their variations associated with each category.
  • Once you sense you’ve gotten to good enough or “just enough” in one category, “switch and link” to an activity in another.

The reality is that you can harness your feelings and use them as a decision-making indicator to help you decide what’s important to focus on next that leads to your enduring success.  It beats trying to see if things are balanced enough in your life, because they never will be.

There is certainly more detail to be had. If you really want to take a deep dive, pages 239 – 251 of Barker’s book as well as Nash and Stevenson’s original HBR article will serve you well.  If not, the approach above is a great start.

Question: How is the typical model of work-life balance currently serving or sabotaging you? What are you doing to get life more aligned with the way you want it to be?  


Why Your Powerful “Why” Doesn’t Always Work

The Key To Accomplishing Stuff You Can't Seem To Get Done

Why is it so hard to get stuff done sometimes, even easy stuff?  There can be a lot of reasons. Some are good and some are just dressed-up excuses. Sometimes, it’s simply because we are “Stuck”.  What isn’t so plain and simple is what to do about it.

Given our inability to sometimes get even simple, small tasks done as well as large, there seems to be an underlying principle at work. There’s probably a formal name for it, but I don’t know what it is. What I do know is that what’s easy to do is also easy not to do.  And this tendency can be incredibly difficult to overcome….I know it has been for me.

While “Silver Bullet” solutions are rare, in this case it’s about close as it gets:  accountability. Simply put, the power of accountability is critical and usually overlooked when it comes to getting the stuff done that matters most, both large and small.

2 Keys To Accountability

Here are 2 Keys to unlock the secret of accountability and making it work for you:

  • Know What
    • Small stuff-  Accountability for the mundane, monotonous or incremental actions that in aggregate really matter.  After all, success is merely a few disciplines, repeated every day. And failure is only a few errors in judgement, repeated everyday.
    • Big Stuff- Accountability for the big projects. It’s the numerous projects that make up the whole that give accountability it’s legs here. Know what the “thin slices” would look like for you.
  • Know How
    • Say it
      • Individually- Connect and ask someone else to hold you accountable to what you commit to do. Make sure the person you ask is both able and willing. 
      • Group- By saying what we are committing to in a group, we leverage peer pressure in a positive way.  Holding ourselves accountable to a group has the added benefit of generating creative approaches we may not have thought of.
    • Write it
      • Writing something down not only serves as a tangible reminder to us, it also activates our brain in a powerful way that simply can’t be tapped by just thinking and talking to ourself. This quote by Michael Hyatt’s sums it up best.
      • Whether it’s in the form of a SMARTER goal or daily checklist of important behaviors, writing it down is can be like flipping a switch when it comes to getting it done.

Why Accountability Works

There are many reason, these are the ones I think contribute the most:

  • It forces us to clearly definey what we are really saying we will do, especially when we write it out.
  • It makes us aware of what we are saying we will do, which helps us better weigh the risks, consequences and rewards.
  • It’s a form of “activation intent.” When we put accountability in place, we’ve actually taking a proactive step towards what we are after.
  • It keeps our commitment(s) front and center because we now have answer to someone or something besides our own rationalizing brain.
  • It brings positive peer pressure into play; no one wants to look bad or let someone down.

Whether it’s a BHAG goal or the small actions you want to transform into habits, sometimes your powerful “Why” just isn’t going to be enough for you to get it done. Your going to have to leverage the other side of that “Why” coin: accountability.

Accountability: It’s just as important as your powerful “Why” and sometimes more so.

What is it you want that your not experiencing or getting done these days?  Take a look. If you haven’t incorporated accountability into the equation, it’s very likely the key to making it happen.

Please leave a comment or share an accountability “hack” that you’ve found works for you. I’d love to learn.

How To Escape The Overwhelm

3 Steps To Set Yourself Free

Choice is a good thing until you have too many and it isn’t.  Especially when those things have to do with what you have to do. Deciding then becomes difficult and leads to The Overwhelm. The psychological term for it is “Decision Fatigue”.

I love flexibility..…it’s one of my core values. Unfortunately, I often let it get out of hand and it gets the best of me.

I’ve learned the hard way that freedom and choice, without context and criteria, can quickly leave you in a puddle of Decision fatigue. In short: overwhelmed and unable to move anything on your agenda forward, let alone the stuff that matters most.

Peter Drucker said that looking back from a historical perspective, the most important change seen won’t be technology. Instead, it will be the unprecedented volume and level on which people had to self-manage…..and were totally unprepared to do so. Unless something changes, that doesn’t bode well for the accomplishment, work-life balance and sense of calm everyone is seeking these days.

So what’s the answer to escaping The Overwhelm that’s overwhelming us?

Before answering, keep in mind 2 key reasons we get overwhelmed in the first place (according to an Essentialist philosophy):

  • Too much social pressure
  • The idea that you can have it all.

Unlike yesteryear, the number of external voices and choices we have today is unprecedented as are our expectations, which have become inflated beyond all measure. The other is timing- we think we can have all we want all at the same time. Why not? Social media has lowered the bar for access, increasing the things that compete for our attention and constantly feed us illusions.

The result? Trying to cram an increasing number of infinite things into a discrete, limited and already overflowing schedule.

The impact? The Overwhelm.

Now, how to get out of it:

  1. First- Prepare. recognize and embrace the fact that you’re going to have to say “No” to some good opportunities. In fact, as you become more successful you’re going to have to say no to some really great opportunities. Easier said than done; it takes a cultivated attitude of the heart and mind.
  2. Second- Pause. Take a deep breath, squeeze or open both hands widely, or take some action that will center you attention. It seems moving your physiology is a key to interrupting your pattern in the moment. It provides a window to put a pause between stimulus and response.
  3. Third- Propose. Ask yourself the key question “What’s  most Important Now?”….as in, right now.  Write down all the other important stuff  on a list for later.  Then, take an immediate next step toward it, even if its as simple as shutting off your phone screen.

The result? Focus

The impact? Eliminating The Overwhelm.  And making progress on your priorities. Even…if….only….small.

You certainly can’t change all the stuff competing for your attention. You can change your mindset and what you do about it using three simple steps.

So,“What’s  most Important Now?” (WIN) for you?  Take a deep breath, and then take the next small step…..right now.