Way back in the sixth century, the Chinese philosopher Laozi said, “The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.” Some things just don’t change.
If you want your life to work, you’ve got to take the steps. Here are three things you can do starting right now, today. These things will not only improve your world in huge measure, but will also give the people around you a better person to work with, live with, and partner with. Hey…you can change the world. Just look at your feet and get moving.
1. Make agreements only if you actually agree.
Doesn’t this seem obvious? If you say you’re going to do something, do it. If you say you’re not going to do something, don’t. One of the fastest ways to lose goodwill and trust among people is to say one thing and do something else. People don’t like being blown off after making agreements with you. If you routinely make agreements and then do the opposite of what you’ve said, you are systematically undermining your credibility. To say nothing of your likeability.
But this kind of thing happens all the time, right? What is going on? There are all kinds of reasons why we might make an agreement that we won’t honor. We may not know what we want, so we follow someone else’s lead, and only later decide we don’t want to do what we said we would. We may be exhausted by an argument and feel like it’s easier to just say the thing that will stop the argument. We may know what our boss (our partner, our kid) wants us to say, despite the fact that we have serious reservations about the plan. We may just want to make everyone happy. We may agree because we just didn’t think enough about what the agreement means in terms of actual work.
But these things will cause us more harm than good in the long run. Besides, they’re wimpy. Don’t be wimpy; it’s not good for you or the world. Get to know your own mind, get clear about what work is involved in a commitment, and to be willing to do it. Otherwise, don’t agree. Be strong enough to take the fallout of saying no. Of doing it your way. Of not agreeing. Man up. Woman up.
2. Encourage rather than discourage.
It’s so easy to shoot people down. We are, after all, just human beings, likely to falter, predictably weak, full of inconsistencies, and annoying habits. Even when we admire someone, we may think it best to tell them what they’re doing wrong and how they could be better. Are you the one who always has something discouraging to say? Stop it.
Because aren’t we incredible, too? Yes, we are. We humans are capable of amazing feats, of daring adventure, of brilliant thinking, of breathtaking accomplishment, of heartening kindness. When we focus on the greatness in each other (and ourselves, by the way) we tend to bolster that area and grow it a little bit. So what do you want to focus on in other people? What do you want to emphasize? So what if your colleague came up with a lousy idea? You could say, “Wow that is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.” It may just be. But what if you said, “Hey, I am glad you’re thinking about this stuff. What would happen if you looked at this this way?” When we encourage, we allow people room to be bigger, smarter, and brighter. When we look to encourage, we have to actively seek out what is good in any situation. It’s a good practice (see number three.) When we encourage, we let people know that they are valuable, whether their particular idea at that moment is worth pursuing or not. People who feel valuable do better stuff. Simple.
Easy, right? But powerful. Smiling can change your world and the world around you. I’m talking about genuine, eye-crinkling, full-mouthed smiling. Smiling like you mean it. If you’re smiling, you’re thinking good thoughts. You’re finding something around you to appreciate. And if you’re paying attention, there’s almost always something to appreciate. One of the best ways to change your world, the world, is to focus on the things worth smiling about. And then smile.