Years ago, when I was on the rubber chicken circuit (that is you speak for your dinner which was usually overcooked roast chicken allowed to sit while you speak until it was good for making door stops), I gave a thirty minute program that was meant to have the audience reflect on how they could become the best they could be given their assets. We all have assets, and some of us have as many or more liabilities, but by focusing on what our assets are and how to use them is a critical element in moving forward to a better self. I called it, Slaying Your DRAGON. While I admit that the hackneyed use of an acronym did help to inspire the use of DRAGON, it was still apt because in many, their own self-doubts and lack of focus becomes the bogeyman under the bed that stops them dead in their tracks. To slay those impediments, it can be said, would indeed be to slay their dragon.
As luck would have it, these steps are the important steps one takes in any event to accomplish this important part of moving forward to your intended goal and they so happen to fit the need for dragon as a mnemonic device to help you remember the steps. If you can remember the title, the steps will make sense and be repeatable and accessible when you need them, which is likely every day. Remember, the point isn’t to take up space or give you something interesting to read. These are actual steps you, or someone you love and want to help, can use to refocus and move forward. Whether it’s depression, anxiety, procrastination, self-doubt or some other internalized impediment holding you back, use these steps to kick-start your move forward. The steps aren’t necessarily easy, but they are simple. Most things are simple once you understand them; but most things that lead to excellence, regardless of how simple, are difficult. I’ll talk more about that at the end, but for now, here is how to slay your DRAGON.
- Decide to make a difference. All of us want to be better, few of us want to be different. We must realize that if we don’t change, our problems won’t either. Don’t just be willing to try, commit to doing it. You must commit to being different and not think about being so. In this case, a real decision is a real commitment.
- Record you thoughts. Making a “thought diary” helps you to see patterns in your life that may cause your difficulty. Finding out what happens just before a panic attack begins can tell you a lot about what you can do to prevent them. This is also true about depression and the fear to act. Listen to your mind, not to get a warm fuzzy or intuitive answer to anything. Listen to it to figure out what it’s saying to you about yourself and your ability to succeed. Sometimes, if not usually, your greatest impediment to excellence or success is your own inner thoughts. You’ll only know that if you listen to them with an open ear.
- Acknowledge your assets and not just your liabilities. Any one of us could speak at length as to what’s wrong with us. Now is the time to make a conscious effort to remember what’s right with you. Let me remind you that if you didn’t have any personal assets or abilities, you would have been shot a long time ago! All kidding aside, you can’t have become an adult that is now reading this if you haven’t had successes along the way. And, you can’t have had successes if you didn’t have inner strengths that got you there. Now is the time to take an inventory of what they might be and remember them. Ask someone you trust to tell you their opinion of what they might be as well. Others may have a greater insight and willingness to tell you what they see, than perhaps you are yourself.
- Get tough with negative thinking. Now that you know your good points, use them to challenge the negative thoughts about yourself and how events might turn out. Remember you’ve handled many nerve wracking situations in the past and you’re still here to tell about them. A sense of “self-efficacy” is the cornerstone for the courage and strength needed to move through a tough time. When faced with a situation that has you wondering, say this to yourself, not as an empty affirmation, but as a truth: “I don’t know how, and I don’t when, but I do know that I will get through this.” Again, remember, you already have gotten through everything you’ve already faced up till now. Worry never helped anything.
- Optimize your efforts by learning to relax. Exercise, hobbies and relaxation techniques are all excellent ways of incorporating intentionality with your commitment to get better. Find what works best for you and stick with it. The great philosopher, John Denver, wrote these words in Thank God I’m a Country Boy, “I fiddle when I can, work when I should”. It’s important to be certain that your relaxation is to support your efforts to move forward, not an alternative to it. Stay focused. Be intentional. Growing up in the era following Dr. Spock and other air-headed gurus, we’ve come to be very easy on ourselves and willing to look for and find reasons (AKA excuses) for not performing. Be critical enough to be useful then learn to let it go and come back to it when it is useful to your purposes. Balance is key.
- Network to create a support constellation. Any time we have to proceed into unknown territory completely alone, it can be a frightening experience. Communicate with those you’re sure you can count on to be there for you and you for them. Nothing makes you feel better than knowing someone out there cares. Feelings are a very bad place to go for answers or useful strategies for success, but they are the single most important reason for doing things. If you had no feelings, life would be little more than a similar existence to a rock. Don’t let your feelings dictate what you do, but recognize that feeling connected and part of system, like a family or a team, gives you a foundation for stepping out into the unknown with greater courage and inner strength. You can still do this if you are completely alone, but it is infinitively easier when you believe someone is in your corner rooting for you.
Earlier I said that this is simple, but not necessarily easy. The reason is also simple. It requires you to seek, find, accept and do something about what might be called your shortcomings or failures. I prefer to refer to them as liabilities which are neither good nor bad, but either help you or impede you in your progress. The fact is, if you know where you’d like your life to lead to and you aren’t there, one critical factor may very well be you. Many insights and a complete step by step is outlined in my book, Naked Thinking, the power of feeling less, thinking more and making better decisions, but nothing you buy, own or even read will do you one lick of good, if you aren’t willing to accept that there’s something you must change and a commitment to do it; and now is the time, and here is the place. Go. Begin today and slay your dragon. I’ll be rooting for you.
Have a truly positive day,
Phil D’Agostino, The V-Motivator