You feel it inside you – some days it consumes you. You know deep inside there is more you want in life. But what can you do about it? The challenge seems too big.
June 14th is flag day. The most memorable flag is the Star Spangled Banner. When I visited Ft. McHenry in Baltimore, knowing the story and the song, tears poured from eyes when I thought about the relentless pounding of the British with their bombs and rockets. For 25 hours the men in the fort endured a hellish barrage from a much bigger and stronger enemy.
Why the tears? Because we won. The flag is a symbol of struggle and victory.
It is a flag that overcame huge challenges. The odds were stacked against it, and the few men who held the fort. But their commitment to a future they couldn’t yet see was bigger than the challenge.
That story and that flag serve as our guide to overcome our challenges. But it takes commitment. Here are four actions to take to change your life. I call them the FLAG strategies.
1. Focus on what’s good
Surviving starts by changing your focus from what’s bad in your life and what’s not working because it will get you down and feeling depressed but will in fact put you in the position to have more bad situations to come into your life.
Why does this happen? Because we simply get what we focus on.
Ken Davis, a best-selling author, speaker and humorist, tells a story when he went moose hunting with a bow and arrow. After spending considerable time practicing aiming and hitting a target with precision, he set off into the woods in search of his prize.
When he suddenly came upon a huge elk with massive antlers. It was very close, an easy shot, but he couldn’t take his eyes off the horns. He drew his arrow back, aimed, and hit the elk in the antlers! Exactly where his focus had been.
You see, we always get what we focus on. It doesn’t matter if you have some great things going on or happening in your life. If you continue to focus on the bad or negative things you will get more.
So you need to change your focus.
First, start with what’s going well or right in your life now. Ask yourself what makes you happy. Write it down. Spend some time thinking about these answers. You’ll find you have a whole lot more going right than you thought.
It’s easy to slip into the old mode of focusing on everything going wrong. But if you spend even a few minutes a day, preferably first thing in the morning, focusing on what’s good your entire day will begin to change for the better.
You can even take it a step further and find another person who also seems to be struggling and give them some of your focus. Help them with a problem, do an act of kindness for them or just spend some time helping them see what is good in their life.
When we turn our attention to others, and away from ourselves, our attitudes and outlook immediately brighten.
2. Lead those around you
You set the tome for everyone around you. Probably you aren’t even aware of it. Our attitudes affect everyone around us, and vis a versa.
Whenever we hear about leadership, our first impression is on position. You might ask, “Well, I’m not the boss so how can I lead”?
Yes there is position-based leadership and we see it every day in every business, committee, church and event. We place someone in charge and they are given the most responsibility.
However, not everyone who is in a position of leadership is a leader. I’m sure you know of a time when a member of the group actually had more influence than the appointed leader. We naturally tend to gravitate toward those people because we know they care. They care about us, the group and the outcome. The next time you are in a group or on a committee, sit back a little and watch. You will be able to notice who the ‘real’ leader is.
You too can become a better leader. It really isn’t about charisma or talent. It’s more about caring about the people and serving them to achieve the desired outcome. It is showing a genuine interest in them, helping them and encouraging even the smallest victories.
Whether you are at work or on a committee or helping out in the community, take some time and invest a little of yourself in others. Maybe just focus (there’s that word again!) on one person and do what you can to help them out. Others will begin to notice it and will naturally look to you for help also. Don’t be stingy. A true leader is a servant to others.
3. Acknowledge your challenges
This one is hard. Not because we aren’t aware of the challenges or problems we have. Most of them are tearing us up inside – and out. This isn’t good for your health or those around you.
Just like you learned how to focus on what’s good in your life to change your outlook, taking the time to acknowledge the fact you have challenges and problems is the first step to overcoming them.
Learning how to acknowledge them for what they are, you can turn them into an ally.
We get our strength from what challenges us. When you know what you are faced with and take time to accept it and understand it, you will begin to find solutions that previously had not occurred to you.
This is because now your mind is focused on solving the problem instead of on how it is affecting you. So where before you were paralyzed or stymied by the challenge it has not become an ally and helped you find a solution or many solutions.
Sometimes we, though, we just need to get through it. There may be no other options but now you know and accept what you are faced with.
4. Grow for survival
The secret for surviving the day is planning for the next one. Unless the end of the world comes, there will always be another day.
Your personal growth is a commitment to your future.
I grew up on a farm and was shy and introverted. I could go to a party, sit off to the side all alone and have a great time! By the time I went to college I decided I needed to figure out how to change. I knew that what I achieved in my life would be up to me and the opportunities I accepted. That’s a big challenge for a shy person.
So I began to read to self-help books, personal success and personal development books. Books on leadership and business growth followed. I found in those books many valuable tips, tools and actions to take to improve how I responded to the challenges I faced as an introvert. I knew the more I continued to read and grow personally, the more opportunities I would find and have presented to me.
I may not have pursed them all, but each one gave me new skills and influence and opened up doors for others. Without reading to improve myself I never would have had the opportunities to lead that I’ve had.
Harry Truman said “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”
I found my books in libraries and book stores. Today, all you need is a computer, a tablet or smartphone. There is a world of information and help right there at your fingertips. The only question you need to answer is:
Will you take the action to pursue knowledge, skills and improve your talents?
You alone are responsible for your future – no one else. You can make it what you want you just need to prepare yourself.
So I challenge you to use this FLAG strategy to change your life. As the saying goes, “If it’s to be, it’s up to me!”
The next time you hear the national anthem sung, remember the FLAG strategy. If 1,000 soldiers in a small fort can withstand the bombardment of an enemy far superior by keeping their focus, then your challenge should be easy.