Keep Your Eyes On Your Own Paper
Think back to your days in school. When you were taking a test, to prevent anyone from cheating, do you remember what the teacher would say?
“Keep your eyes on your own paper.”
With everything that’s going on in the world and how easy it is to compare ourselves to others, this advice still rings true today. We are in a crisis where our successes and livelihood has never been more available for other people to see. And equally their success has never been easier for us to see.
But as you’ve heard before, what we see from others doesn’t represent the full truth and it leads to an incomplete understanding of how people are living. It's the comparison to that which makes us feel worse about our own.
Whether you've ever cheated on a test before or not doesn’t matter in understanding this concept. To look at someone else’s paper in this day and age means to desire exactly what someone else desires, do exactly what someone else is doing, and achieve exactly what someone else has achieved. That was the purpose of cheating on a test - Not to use their answers as a way to help you understand but to blatantly copy it.
And this influence is broader than you realize. It’s not just your favorite thought leader that influences you. It’s your friends, family, and co-workers. You hear about what they’re up to, or are impacted by what they want from you, and it causes you to shape your life for them and not for you.
But as you know, there’s no ‘right answer’ for life and certainly not one way to do it. But the best way is your way.
Let’s go back to the analogy. What’s a better, more ethical way to get a good test result without copying someone else’s answers (and that’ll serve you in the long run)?
Don’t just blindly copy what other people are doing but observe it, learn it, and understand it so that it informs you in how you want to make your own decisions.
In this test that is life, keep your eyes on your own paper, but also find the smartest people in the class and use their knowledge to give you your best chance at succeeding!
We Fall To The Level Of Our Systems
In Atomic Habits James Clear has an iconic quote “You do not rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems." I want to explain what that means in my experience so that you can actually improve the quality of your life.
The concept is spot on. There’s a reason why we don’t live out our best intentions every moment of every day. Things get in the way - We get triggered into emotional states and unexpected urgencies pop up out of nowhere. It is unfair to have the expectation that we can always be at our best because so much of what allows for that to happen is beyond our control.
So with that in mind, as things start to spiral down you need something that will catch you from going all the way. That’s where systems come in. They’re designed into your environment to help you hold a higher standard with less effort so that it can withstand the chaos of life.
Functionally, when you establish new upgraded systems in your life, you raise your baseline. You elevate your standards and what you’re willing to tolerate by having systems of accountability, awareness, identifying limiting factors, and performance in place to help you be better.
For example, I have a system for going to bed on time. I have an alarm that goes off at 9:15 to help me kick off my night routine. I’ve further solidified that system by telling my fiance my intention and now she’s aware of how I view it as a priority. And as you’d expect, that has positively impacted my sleep schedule and I hold myself to a higher standard.
Another example - There are things that I want to do every morning. My system is to run through a check-list of those things so that I don’t forget one or overlook something important.
Whether you realize it or not, you have a system for everything already. Your life runs on your personal systems. The problem is that many of these systems weren’t designed intentionally and therefore aren’t at the caliber you’d hope to achieve, which is why you don’t achieve to the extent that you want to.
But that can all change quickly and permanently when you invest in building new systems that raise your baseline and improve the quality of your day to day activity. If that’s something you’re interested in, check out a 21 day Bootcamp I put together called the Super Habits System, which is all about installing the core systems that help you increase your daily consistency and capacity to get exceptional results in your life.
“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.”
For Thursday positivity I want to feature a deep thought and quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson. He says “Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.”
You’re reading this because we share something in common. We want to taste our fullest potential. We know that we’re capable of so much more than we’re giving today, and we want to push our limits and see what’s possible.
But notice an important word in this - ‘want’. To want something is an intention. It’s an idea that you like. But unfortunately ideas and intentions don’t do anything. Taking action on them does.
To want something and not do anything about it is to make an empty promise to yourself. You want to get in better shape but you’re unwilling to be accountable to a nutrition plan and commit to a harder workout routine. You want to start growing your business but you’re unwilling to put yourself out there and market in the ways that are required to bring business. You want to mend that relationship but you hesitate to bring up a confrontational conversation.
What happens when you want something but you don’t do anything about it, is nothing. Nothing happens. Nothing changes. And if you’ve been telling yourself you want to have a better work life balance, you want to get back into your routines, you want to get rid of that bad habit… And it has been a while now… Then I want you to really think about this.
We know our tendencies and the conversation that goes on in our heads that holds us back. We’re too familiar with how we’re tempted to negotiate with ourselves, make excuses, or put off that thing for another day. We’re aware of it, and we want a solution that is greater than it so that we can be the best version of ourselves no matter how we feel.
And that’s what Ralph Waldo Emerson is saying - “Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” Someone who can hold us to a higher standard and push us to be better. Someone who can see the potential in us when we can’t see it ourselves, and instill belief in us when we have none. In other words, we need a coach.
I can be that person for you and I’ve already committed to being that person for you. That’s why I show up everyday for you and give you the best I have to offer! And I hope you feel that.
That’s what I want and I’m taking action on it. Now it’s your turn. If you really want to take your health, productivity, finances, relationships, impact, and daily fulfillment to the next level, you can’t just talk about it and you need to do something about it. If you’d like my help in making that step I can support you with it so that in just 21 days your days will become unrecognizably more productive and you’ll feel inspired by how much you’re improving on a daily basis. It’s called the Super Habits System.
A New Angle To Fulfillment
One of the most cherished outcomes of a life well-lived is fulfillment. It’s an indescribable feeling of knowing that you applied yourself to something meaningful. There’s a sense of deep pride and validation that comes from stepping up to a challenge and delivering on it.
We think of fulfillment as a state to achieve, almost like enlightenment or success. And I’d argue that all of these terms share these same misunderstanding - They’re mistaken for being about the destination when in reality they’re about the process.
When you fulfill on something, it means that you follow through on it. Fulfilling on a purchase order means that you shipped the product or delivered the service. You got it done. Fulfilling on a promise means that you stuck to your word and met expectations no matter what difficulty might’ve come up along the way.
With that line of thinking, it’s not a stretch to say that fulfillment comes from delivering on whatever’s in front of you at the highest level.
In my opinion, that’s why personal development is a strong partner for fulfillment. With personal development you get to grow upon your gifts and talents so that you have more to give. Maybe that’s why Tony Robbins has been known to say “Fulfillment is growing and giving”.
If you desire more meaning, joy, and fulfillment in your life, I’ve got some good news. You’re closer to it than you might realize. You can make a choice to apply yourself fully to your work, relationships, health, impact projects, or whatever it is that you care about. You can put in the effort today that fulfills on the responsibilities on your plate. And not just doing enough to check the box, but a deep knowing that you did your absolute best and you can accept the outcome.
Now if you don’t have the amount of fulfillment you want in your life, it really can be diagnosed as one of two things.
1) That you don’t believe in what you do. You don’t see the point or find significance in your role in the world.
2) That while you might have the raw elements of a fulfilling life (a family you’d do anything for, a career that inspires you, and a daily commitment to your own health and wellness), you might not be showing up for it as fully as possible.
That’s why it’s full-fillment. Anything less than giving everything you have to offer will fall short.
Find Your Right Amount
I want to add perspective to a message that often comes out in self-improvement material that many people take the wrong way. There’s an overwhelming narrative that you need to make the right decisions in every moment of every day. You can never have dessert again because sugar is bad for you. It’s never acceptable to hit the “Snooze” button in the morning. Have a positive mindset so that you see the good in everything that happens to you.
While I believe there’s a lot of truth to what I just shared, it requires one very important lens for it to be right in my book - Your choices need to connect to what you authentically want.
As individuals dedicated to our growth, this often means that our daily choices and behaviors need to be in alignment with the best version of ourselves. But guess what? Maybe the best version of ourselves loves ice cream and is okay with having it under the right circumstances. Maybe it’s okay to hit the “Snooze button” and choose to get more rest in the morning.
This leads into an important conversation about the idea of “temperance”. We’ve learned for “temperance” to be so extreme that it’s thought of as self-denial or self-rejection. But the true definition of it is about having just the right amount.
This is what an intentional life is all about. You have the awareness to know what you want, what the right balance is for you, while maintaining a level of discipline to control yourself when you’re tempted to go outside of that.
But it’s all unique to you. You need to understand your boundaries, needs and desires. You need to find your own right amount.
Now let me call out one more thing about this. Intentionality can be used as an excuse. You can deceive yourself that it’s okay to eat ice cream this one time, or press “Snooze” this one time, and convince yourself that it's in the name of meeting the needs of your highest self. But that thought process may not actually represent your highest self as it’s biased by the emotional environment of the current moment.
To account for that, my recommendation is to make these decisions in advance as often as you can. This means that you have an expectation set before you meet that emotional moment and you can use it as a reference point to make the right decision, no matter what your mind might be telling you. It requires discipline, but it helps you find that right amount that you feel really good about, and is unique to you.
How To Diagnose Your Beliefs
I talk a lot about the concept of identity and belief system. The reason it’s so important is because your beliefs make up your unconscious environment and it influences everything you do without you being aware of it. Since beliefs are unconscious they’re very difficult to discover and gain insight into, so I wanted to teach you the process I use to confront my own beliefs and share a few examples that came up this weekend about how I used it.
Before that, let me share that it’s important that you don’t judge your beliefs. Good or bad, it’s often not your doing that you have them in the first place. So approaching this topic with curiosity rather than judgment is essential.
The core process to diagnosing your beliefs are as follows:
1) Bring to mind a specific choice you made, when you decided to take action or not take action, or react in a certain way.
2) Ask yourself what you were thinking in the moment that caused you to follow through on that thing in that way
3) Go layers deeper, asking yourself “why” that was you conclusion until you arrive at something that feels really personal.
Here’s my first example: I was kayaking this weekend and was deciding if I wanted to go further down the coastline. My gut reaction was to turn around, but ultimately I chose to keep going. Wanting to understand what was motivating me to turn around, I became clear on my main reason - The wind usually picks up in the afternoon and I feared it would make it really difficult to get back, a classic rationalization. Probing deeper into that and asking why there was fear involved, I discovered that I didn’t want to expose myself to a potentially strenuous situation. And deeper than that, I connected what was going on to something that I’d already known about myself which is one of my greatest fears - That if I were faced with the challenge to take care of myself through the most dire circumstances, I lack confidence that I could.
I share this this to show you something - The expression of the old limiting belief came up in the most normal of ways. There was an unconscious reason that I caused me to feel a certain way and now I’m more aware of it. And with that reminder I can begin to choose something different.
Another quick example. This weekend I was at an outdoor jazz concert and people were dancing right in front of the band. I love dancing but chose to be reserved and dance on the side rather than front and center. Thinking more about it, that decision came from a belief that I see it as "self-centered to dance in front of a crowd and make yourself the center of attention". Whether I want my behavior to change next time doesn't matter, it's the awareness of it happening at all that's the golden nugget.
Anyway, this is the real stuff. And the more you pause to reflect on how everything is being motivated by something greater, you gain insight into the most powerful force for growth that you have - your unconscious beliefs.
I appreciate you holding space for me as I got a little more personal today. I'm in this alongside you and it's only fair that I give you the reality of my process through it too.
Taking Full Responsibility
The day you are truly free is the day you take full responsibility for your life. When you approach the things that happen to you with a sense of ownership, it creates empowerment that you are in control of the results you generate.
There are a lot of layers you need to go through to really arrive at this place, but it’s something that I’ve found the most successful people in the world have mastered. I first heard it as one of Gary Vaynerchuk’s core philosophies. Jim Rohn says “The day you graduate from childhood to adulthood is the day you take full responsibility for your life.” Jocko WIllink even wrote a book about it called “Extreme Ownership”.
The opposite of taking full responsibility is shaming, blaming, and justifying. Instead of internalizing the results and seeing how you are responsible for them, shaming, blaming, and justifying is your way of externalizing the results. This happens unconsciously because your sense of self is threatened by whatever happened and it wants to create separation from it. But this reaction is harmful over the long run because it doesn't create any lasting change.
Taking responsibility is practicing the ability to respond. Response-ability. It means that you’re consciously interpreting what happened, analyzing the factors and conditions that caused it to be so, and the role that you played within it. Your response is your conscious choice.
The alternative is reacting. This is an unconscious, reflexive action that is optimized to meet short-term needs. This causes you to externalize and blame, shame, and justify so that you have an explanation for what happened but it's only addressing a much more superficial level.
Our growth is in the depth. The more we can elevate our consciousness, and heighten our awareness to what’s happening moment to moment, the more our higher self will be expressed in the ways we show up in the world.
Taking full responsibility is a mindset. If your mindset is just your patterned way of thinking, and you see all events through the lens of being responsible for what happens, you start to tell a story that gives you more agency and a belief that you have control of your future.
The beautiful byproduct of this is - While it’s hard to take responsibility for the challenging, seemingly unfair things that happen, it also energizes your ability to know that you equally can achieve your goals and make your dreams come true!