Please exit out of passive reading mode, because I’m about to ask you to do something important. If you don’t have 10 minutes right now, stop reading this and come back to it later.
(…I know more than half of you are thinking to yourself that you don’t have the time, but you’re going to keep skimming anyway. Because that’s what we do. We like instant gratification, right? Unfortunately, this post won’t be nearly as meaningful if you just read it to absorb the gist of it. So I truly hope you’ll take the time to sit down and do this. It’ll be 10 minutes well spent. Promise.)
Now, I want you to genuinely reflect on everything that’s happened in your life over the past 7 days—the decisions you made, interactions you had, emails you received, meetings you attended, meals you enjoyed, etc. Write down the highlights, good and bad, of each of the last 7 days of your life.
Once you have your list of highlights from the past week, grab a pen and paper (old school style!). Using your highlights list as a guide, read each of the bullets on the list below and put one tally mark next to the one in each pair that best described you on each of the past 7 days.
- Had a sense of gratitude III
- Had a sense of entitlement IIII
There should be 7 tally marks in total for each pair—one to represent the theme of each day of the past week for you.
Here are the pairs:
- Had a sense of entitlement
- Had a sense of gratitude
- Criticized more than I complimented
- Complimented more than I criticized
- Was more likely to hold a grudge
- Was more likely to be forgiving
- Took credit for other people’s victories
- Gave other people credit for their victories
- Blamed other people, things, and circumstances for my failures
- Accepted responsibility for my failures
- Watched TV more than I read
- Read more than I watched TV
- Didn’t actively reflect on my life
- Actively reflected on my life (via journal, blog, audio or video recording, etc.)
- Secretly hoped someone would fail
- Deeply wanted someone to succeed
- Thought I knew it all and didn’t embrace new opinions
- Admitted I didn’t know it all and opened myself up to learning
- Operated from a transactional perspective
- Operated out of a desire to truly transform situations
- Talked about other people, sometimes in negative ways
- Talked about ideas more than I talked about other people
- Hoarded information and data more than I shared it
- Shared information and data rather than hoarded it
- Felt paralyzed by fear of change
- Decided to embrace change
- Flew by the seat of my pants
- Was intentional about writing down and sticking to my “to-do/project” list
- Exuded anger more than joy
- Exuded joy more than anger
- Didn’t set any goals
- Did set goals and develop life plans
- Didn’t have a clear sense of who I wanted to be
- Actively kept/reflected on my “to-be” list, and lived accordingly
Once your tally marks are all down on paper, count up the number of successful behaviors vs. unsuccessful behaviors (I’m sure this is obvious, but the first one in each pair represents the unsuccessful behavior; the second one is the successful behavior).
Which side wins? Were you surprised? What unsuccessful behaviors have you been engaging in more often than not that you need to let go of now? What successful behaviors are you actually really good at, and could be more conscious about cultivating going forward?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I can hear you saying it now: “Seven days isn’t a big enough sample size,” or, “The last week was particularly challenging.”
When are we going to stop giving ourselves excuses for living mediocre lives?
For illustrative purposes, I’ll use myself as an example. When I did this exercise, I realized that out of the last 7 days, I’ve spent more time holding a grudge and being upset about something than I’ve spent being in a state of forgiveness and acceptance about it. I’ve been failing this week at exuding the kind of joy I actually feel about all the things going right in my life, just because one thing is going not-so-right.
I loved doing this exercise because it was a healthy wake-up call to get over myself. And whatever unsuccessful behaviors you’re engaging in right now, you need to come to terms with those tally marks and get over yourself, too.
Think I’m being harsh?
The reality is that today may be the last day you get. THE LAST DAY YOU GET.
To me, that notion isn’t depressing or upsetting; it’s sobering. If these past 7 days were your last 7 days—the only 7 days people remembered about the way you lived your life—how would you be remembered? What would people say? What would you be proud of? What would you regret?
Here’s the thing. Few of us take adequate time to stop and reflect on who we’re becoming. So, while it seems harmless that you criticized someone or watched TV or held a quiet grudge this past week, it matters. It matters because one week of behaviors quickly turns into two, and then 4, and then 40, and then 400. And, if you aren’t paying close attention, you’ll wake up one day wondering how you got to be so critical, resentful, and addicted to television.
Habits are sneaky like that.
If you want something to be different, then change your damn behavior. If you want to be successful, stop thinking and behaving like an unsuccessful person. And the level of your willingness and commitment to doing something about the last two sentences?
That’s how you can determine if you’re going to be successful.
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