by Tasha M. Troy
I might be a goal setting junkie. I love to look at the future, think about what it might mean, chart out a path to achieve different goals, and plan a course of action. I am a very future-oriented type of person.
Because of this, I’ve managed to accomplish quite a number of goals, but the truth is there are countless other things that never made it past the idea stage. They remained simply an aspiration. And even today, I can remember some of those ideas and I think, “I wonder what life would have been like if I’d pursued X, Y, or Z.” Why did I let these great ideas die?
When you’re trying to achieve anything or to improve yourself in any way, self-leadership is definitely the starting point. Where I find I tend to fall is with the little things, for example, getting up without hitting the snooze button too many times or choosing to read a book instead of watching TV in the evening. Little decisions affect the big picture.
In his book Leadership Gold, John Maxwell gives us four keys to leading yourself well. I will share the first two keys with you now and the last two next month.
The first key is to learn followership.
Everyone’s out there trying to learn how to be a good leader, learning leadership, but John argues that you need to start with becoming a good follower first. An area where that has been an important element for me has been in my own continuing efforts to engage in education, to learn more, and to grow.
For example, for many, many, many years, my focus has been to teach English to adult professionals. As an adult, I chose to learn a new foreign language – Korean – after I finished college. I will be honest: it was a much more challenging endeavor than I expected it to be at the time. In retrospect, it makes a lot of sense that it was a challenge, and because I engaged in that difficult challenge, I was able to relate to my adult students a lot better as they were grappling with learning a foreign language as adults.
Today, some of the skills that I am struggling with that I’m learning and getting better at implementing, I have mentors who are teaching me. The more I try to do things my own way, the harder it is. The more I relax and listen and follow the instructions of my mentors, the easier my endeavors become, the easier it is for me to reach my goals. Bottom line? If we can become good followers, it helps us relate to the people we’re trying to lead in a more effective way.
The second key is to develop self-discipline.
In his book, Developing The Leader Within You, John Maxwell calls self-discipline the price tag of leadership. This is an area where I think everyone struggles from time to time. The truth is, if you can learn how to make commitments and follow through – even when no one is watching, even when no one notices – you’ll be able to lead yourself and all others much more effectively.
This is the area I still need to grow in a bit. My goal is to wake up at a certain time so that I can get things done before I go into the office, and I have not yet had the self-discipline to actually get out of bed at that time. Fortunately, every day is a new opportunity to accomplish that goal!
Take It Deeper
Which of these areas is a challenge for you? Do you have a hard time following someone else’s lead? Or do you sometimes let your self-discipline slide? Have you let that discipline slide for so long, it’s out of sight?! Good news – you can always start right where you are.
I know that sometimes it’s hard to know exactly where to start.
If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I offer an ongoing live online course on personal and professional development: Professional Development Essentials. We meet online every Monday night to discuss different elements of personal and professional growth and challenge each other to apply what we’ve learned. Let me know if you’d like to experience one lesson for free (firstname.lastname@example.org)!
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