Inspired by Mike Figliuolo’s new book One Piece Of Paper – which challenges leaders to distill their philosophies to a single sheet, making it easy for them to live and others to follow – I’ve completed Mike’s worksheet for “Leading Yourself.” See my answers below. What are your leadership maxims?
Leading Yourself (Heidi Grant Halvorson’s Leadership Maxims)
Why do you get out of bed every day?
My maxim is: Don’t visualize success. Visualize the steps you will take to succeed.
I wish I could make the universe deliver wonderful things to my doorstep just by imagining them. I can’t – and neither can you, no matter what anyone tells you. There is not a single piece of hard evidence that “visualizing success,” and doing nothing else, will do a damn thing for you. In fact, you are less likely to achieve your goals when all you do is imagine yourself achieving them. People who think not only about their dreams, but about the obstacles that lie their way - who visualize the steps they will take to make success happen – are able to stay motivated despite setbacks, dig deep, and turn their dreams into reality. You have what it takes to succeed - stop waiting for it to happen to you, and make it happen for you.
What guidelines do you live by?
My maxim is: I love it when a plan comes together.
The A-Team’s Colonel “Hannibal” had it right – it’s all about having the right plan. If-then planning, in particular, is a really powerful way to help you achieve any goal. Well over 100 studies, on everything from diet and exercise to negotiation and time management, have shown that deciding in advance when and where you will take specific actions to reach your goal (e.g., “If it is 4pm, then I will return any phone calls I should return today”) can double or triple your chances for success.
When you fall down, how do you pick yourself back up?
My maxim is: It’s not about being good. It’s about getting better.
Most people assume success has a lot to do with intelligence, but that’s surprisingly wrong. No matter how high your IQ is, it says nothing about how you will deal with difficulty when it happens - whether you will be persistent and determined, or feel overwhelmed and helpless. What matters is whether your goals are about being good or getting better. Where being good is about proving how smart, talented, and capable you already are, getting better is about developing those skills and abilities – about getting even smarter. Studies show that people focused on getting better - who see a less-than-perfect grade on a math test or awkwardly-given presentation as a sign to try harder next time, rather than as evidence of “not being good at math” or “not being a good public speaker,” find their work more interesting, and are less prone to anxiety and depression than their be-good colleagues. They are more motivated, persist longer when the going gets tough, and are much more likely to ultimately reach their goals.
How do you hold yourself accountable?
My maxim is: Focus on the finish line.
Imagine you’re running a marathon, and you see the Mile 10 marker. Is it more motivating to think about how far you’ve come (10 miles), or how far you have left to go (16.2 miles)? The answer, which will seem a bit counter-intuitive to some, is that you should focus on the miles to-go. Too much to-date thinking, focusing on what you’ve accomplished so far, will actually undermine your motivation to finish rather than sustain it. Studies show that to-date thinking can lead to a premature sense of accomplishment, which makes us more likely to slack off. We’re also more likely to try to achieve a sense of “balance” by making progress on other important goals. We end up with lots of pots on the stove, but nothing is ever ready to eat. If, instead, we focus on how far we have left to go (to-go thinking), motivation is not only sustained, it’s heightened. So don’t make the mistake of settling for a job only half done – always keep your eyes on the prize.