Tag Archives: decision making

When You Should Prioritize Self-Care

One of the first things I learned in navy Officer Indoctrination School was “Ship – Shipmate – Self.”

Ship:  Take care of the ship. It is the mission.

Shipmate:  Take care of each other. Be vigilant to the needs and actions of your shipmates and watch out for one another.

Self:  Take care of yourself. You cannot care for others if you are not caring for yourself.

When You Should Prioritize Self-Care

The selflessness of this principle resonated with me. After all, I had joined the navy to serve.

Recently I was visiting my squadron in San Diego. The Providers of VRC-30 supply COD (Carrier Onboard Delivery), moving people and cargo between an aircraft carrier and the shore. Notwithstanding this service-oriented mission, their command philosophy is:

Self/Family:  The men and women of VRC-30 are our most valuable resource.

Team:  We succeed as a team. We fail as a team.

Mission:  YOUR contribution as an individual is critical for our mission.

Both philosophies are sound and reasonable. And despite setting forth opposite views they’re both true. But how can this be? Should we look after ourselves first or make the ship/mission our top priority?

After pondering this conflict I think the answer lies in the circumstances.

During daily life you need to look after yourself and your family first so you don’t unduly burden your teammates and hinder meeting the mission.

But at critical points: a fire, a traumatic event in a friend's life, or defense against an enemy, the mission has to reign supreme. When the stakes approach all or nothing, the personal and familial resilience you built everyday now has to carry you through while you focus on driving the mission to safety in the face of catastrophe or victory.

I’ve written about life balance and self-care before. I never thought about this balance point until now. But it has strengthened my commitment to building resilience.

How do you decide when to focus on yourself verses others? Please comment below.

Why You’re Not Decisive

Entrepreneurs and military leaders share a common trait: Decisiveness. They understand that delaying a decision is gambling. The bet is that without intervening matters will turn out for the good. And while sometimes deciding not to act makes sense, it is better to affirmatively make that decision rather than letting events overtake you.

Why You’re Not Decisive

From the indecisive times in my life I’ve learned making a decision is not the agonizing part. The pain comes during deliberations when I strive to KNOW what the right answer is. Striving for the unattainable never makes sense. All the more so when I could have decided, acted, failed, and taken another course of action all during the same time spent dwelling on a decision. The first course of action would have gotten me closer to my goal or eliminated an option and simplified my next decision.

Basically, there are three reasons for waffling:

  1. Fear of the results. It seems prudent to delay choosing a plan until you can be sure of the results. But, rarely is the outcome of a decision assured. Since you won’t know if your plan is successful until you carry it out you might as well get started. You will make more progress by acting than by seeking assurance of success.
  2. Vague goals. Basketball players cannot decide on a play if there is no hoop at which to shoot the ball. If you don’t know where you want to go it is virtually impossible to make a decision.
  3. Unclear self-image. If you are convinced you waffle or make bad decisions you will waiver anytime you have to decide what to do. Do you see the chicken and egg nature of this dilemma? Certain of your lack of resolve you are indecisive, which in turn proves you were right to view yourself as being indecisive.

The good news is you can overcome all of these.

  1. Accept uncertainty. You don’t have to be right about every decision to succeed. Making lots of decisions is the best training for making better ones. Seek out every opportunity to be the decider.
  2. Gain clarity for you goals. When you find yourself vacillating, disperse the fog. Be absolutely clear about your goals. They should be SMART. One of the strongest arguments for having a life coach is he will help you gain crystal clarity about your objectives.
  3. Adjust your self-image. Break the cycle by forcing yourself to make decisions whether or not you feel prepared. Post an affirmation on your bathroom mirror saying, “I am a decisive person who loves making decisions. I am not afraid of making a mistake and starting again.” Read it out loud every morning.

Decisiveness, a crucial aspect of being an Intentionalist, can be achieved with practice. Start by deciding to be decisive.

What other issues keep you from being decisive? Please comment below.

Your 1st Duty is to You

Sailors and Marines are a pretty selfless lot. While periodically they have to be away for long periods of time, they are devoted to their families, shipmates, and friends. In some cases, they give up life and limb for our nation. For those who do not make this supreme sacrifice, ironically, sometimes their generosity puts their careers at risk.

Your 1st Duty is to You

While on deployment a sailor came to see me. Overwrought about something going on with his family, he was willing to do virtually anything to get home to help them. I asked him if he realized that should he leave the ship without permission he would be counted UA, unauthorized absence, and depending on the circumstances after 30 days classified as a deserter. He told me he understood. Then I asked him how becoming a fugitive would help his family. At that moment the light went on. He realized it did his family no good to be imprisoned without an income.

Young sailors aren’t the only people who hurt themselves out of a misguided sense of selflessness.

Here’s reality. You can only help someone else if you have the resiliency and resources to shoulder some of that person’s burden until he gets back on his own feet. Often this takes longer than you expect. If by helping another person you substantially or permanently damage yourself, now you're in the position of needing assistance too.

Before going on a rescue mission consider the following:

  1. What is the real reason the person is struggling? A person sometimes fails to see the true source of his troubles. With little cost to yourself, your greater objectivity may help him see life more clearly. Certainly if you differ about the problem be skeptical about intervening further.
  1. Having agreed on the issue(s), what needs to be done? Even if you see eye to eye on what’s wrong that does not mean you will come up with the same plan for helping. Agreement here is crucial.
  1. Do you have money to spare? When I give someone money, even if it’s understood to be a loan, I do not expect to be repaid. If I cannot afford to lose the money, I don’t offer it in the first place. As a result I keep my finances sound and friendships intact. If you have to get the money back, it’s a business transaction. Treat it as such.
  1. What about other resources? Money may not be the only thing you will need to expend. Others include time, referrals, impact on your professional and family lives, and taxing of your emotional and spiritual reserves. Keep in mind, having to cut off your help part way through may leave the person worse off.
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If you and the person cannot agree on what needs to be done or if you have insufficient resources, it is not selfish to decline to help. No merit comes from hurting yourself in a vain attempt to render assistance. You don’t need to be the rescuer. Try referring the person to someone else or to an organization that is better prepared to render aid.

Saying no to someone in need may be difficult.

If you cannot fulfill this duty, what makes you think you can serve another?

What circumstance justifies hurting yourself to help someone else? 

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Are You Working Meaningfully?

Are you making as much progress towards your goals as you want to? If not, what is the reason: lack of time, insufficient focus, not relevant anymore? If a goal no longer compels you, drop it off your list or rework it so you are motivated to pursue it. Remember:

If time and focus are holding you back, read on.

Are You Working Meaningfully?

Over the years when I evaluated why I missed reaching goals, typically lack of focus was the primary cause. Too often I tasked myself with matters that were not laser-focused on what I wanted to achieve. Activities that did not support my objective also soaked up time that could have been better spent. So I looked for a simple tool to help me zero in on my objective. The most effective one is the Decision Matrix used by General Dwight Eisenhower. It forced me to decide the importance and urgency of a task.

Eisenhower's Decision Matrix

Through using it I realized categorizing my tasks was just the first step. Next came disciplining myself to let go of not important, not urgent tasks. They are not worth keeping on the list, let alone delegating them, which requires follow up. Related, was coming to terms with the fact that most not important, urgent tasks should similarly be let go. Just because they’re urgent doesn’t mean I should waste time doing them. I eliminated unimportant tasks over a year ago and no one has mentioned my not doing them.

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I recommend you be ruthless in getting rid of all not important tasks.

As a result, you will be left with only important things to do. This will help you better reach your goals in two ways:

  1. Your time will always be wisely spent.
  2. Your motivation will stay higher because you’ll have purpose behind everything you do.

This begs the question of how to decide if a task is important. Here’s the trick: Write down a short summary of each goal next to your Decision Matrix. When someone tasks you, the first thing you should do is examine the request in light of your goals. If the task is directly related to achieving one of them it’s important. If not, discard it or if you cannot, delegate it to someone else giving him the fullest latitude to complete it.

When you task yourself, follow the same plan. Be careful since the tendency is to think if you want to do something then it must be important. Don’t rationalize!

A word on goals: You should have them for all domains of your life. The Three Pillars of FitnessPhysicalMentalSpiritual will help you.

By using this simple plan, you will remain more consistently zeroed onto your goals – a quantum leap toward becoming an Intentionalist.

What is hindering you from reaching your goals this year?

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The One Thing You Need to Succeed

Why do you do the tasks assigned to you at work? Do you have a purpose behind putting up with your spouse’s mishigas (loosely translated – craziness)? How about a reason for chauffeuring your children? If you answered no to any of these questions you’re living someone else’s priorities or desires. I know. I did it for many years.

The One Thing You Need to Succeed

When deciding on a college major I chose architecture because my father wanted me to be an engineer and my mother loves art. My first marriage broke up because my wife insisted I live her life vision, which was incompatible with mine. I stayed in real estate for 20 years because other people admired my being a business owner driving an expensive car.

Not until I was evacuated from the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C. on September 11, 2001, did I ask myself the hard questions that led to my living a life in concert with my deepest values and aspirations.

Being an Intentionalist hasn’t made my life easier. But now there is purpose to my struggles. Defeats have become stepping stones to eventual triumph. Victory is sweet because of the conviction that I truly want what I have achieved. My certainty comes from having a well thought out personal mission statement to guide my actions and goals.

A personal mission statement answers the whys in your life. It serves to guide your goal -setting. (See my post on how to connect your personal mission to setting goals. Most important, it keeps you moving forward,

“And so hold on when there is nothing in you except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold On’” ~ Rudyard Kipling

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There’s no set formula for creating a personal mission statement. I recommend you follow these steps:

  1. Make a list of the experiences you’ve had that gave you the most satisfaction. For example, you may particularly enjoy watching your child play soccer.
  2. Make a list of the five values you hold most deeply. Don’t mistake political positions for values. Examine why you have a particular political belief to determine the values that underlie it. (Signup for my email list and get 49-Days to Refine Your Character to help you gain greater insight into your values.)
  3. Write a sentence expressing each value through one or more of the three realms of life – physical, mental, and spiritual. For example, if you value close familial relationships you could write: Providing my children with the best education and extracurricular activities will forge lifelong, close relationships with them.
  4. Sift the essential idea out of each sentence. The preceding sentence can be summarized as: Prioritize and sacrifice for my family.
  5. Synthesize your essential ideas into one or two sentences that describe WHY you will live your life. Take some time to talk about it with your spouse and children if they are old enough.
  6. Let it sit then edit it. Set your personal mission statement aside overnight then review it and make necessary changes. Repeat this process monthly (more frequently if you want) until you are satisfied that it truly expresses you.

The beauty of having a well-considered personal mission statement is it simplifies future decision-making. All goals you set should begin with how they will support your personal mission. It answers if and how you should expend time, money, and emotion.

Without a personal mission statement, you are as Zig Ziglar calls it, "a wandering generality instead of a meaningful specific." There’s no better time to begin this process than right now.

What roadblocks are you encountering in writing a personal mission statement?

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