Your Best Self in 3 Steps

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A lot of us live our lives at lightspeed. We wake up each morning, often thanks to a smartphone that we immediately proceed to engage with. We plow through emails and to-dos, scroll social feeds, and guzzle down coffee like our jobs depend on it (and sometimes it feels like they do). Why? All for the sake of getting sh*t done. I personally love to get sh*t done. But not just any sh*t. Sh*t that matters.

Now, you might be asking yourself: how do you know the good sh*t from the bad sh*t, Pete?

Easy. Decide for yourself. Look inward and figure out what drives you. What calls on you to propel yourself forward in specific areas of your life, whether professionally, personally, or both. I like to call these driving factors Purpose Pillars. This article provides great context around Purpose Pillars and how to decide what really matters most to you—i.e., the good sh*t.

You’ll find that we use Purpose Pillars as high-level goals or intentions to guide our life. Unfortunately for the majority, these goals or intentions often go unfulfilled because they’re never broken down into easily digestible pieces.

Break.

Them.

Down.

I promise you, it will make it so much easier.

Example: you set the intention to be a good husband and loving father. You can break this down into daily actions, like “call my wife at lunch to see how her day is going;” or “send a text to my son about how proud he makes me.” With true mindfulness or intentional attention, goals and intentions are readily met.

I know, it’s not rocket science. But it does require personal ownership and willingness to create a routine that allows you to live your best life every single day. Liken it to brushing your teeth (although my teenagers think that’s optional): when you miss a few days, your teeth are not going to fall out, but if you NEVER brush them, they’ll decay, yellow, and require more dental work than a pro hockey player. Same with intentional attention—miss a few days and the repercussions are hardly noticeable. Over time though, your personal satisfaction will begin to rot.

The best part? Creating your best life through intentional attention only takes about three minutes of your day. That’s less time than you spend waiting for your cold brew at Starbucks. I recommend using a journal or an app on your phone to perform this easy, three-step routine:

  1. In the morning, jot down your daily intentions. One is great; keep it to no more than three.

  2. Set an alarm for a mid-afternoon check-in. Once the alarm signals, take a deep breath (or a series of breaths … remember, mindfulness), and review your intention(s). How are you doing? You still have time!

  3. As the day winds down, take a moment to reflect. Did you realize your intention(s)? Hit your goal(s)? Make a note: why or why not?

If you realized your intentions, yes! Go you! If not, don’t worry. Make a note of what led you off course and include something you’re grateful for that day. And if you miss a day, that’s okay! The purpose of this activity is to establish a daily routine to focus your attention on what matters. Evidence shows that the simple act of writing intentions and goals down and then gauging performance will significantly improve the probability of success.

For those who are self-quantified enthusiasts like me, you can even turn this information into a helpful dashboard. Create a system to rate your daily performance. For example, +3 for excellent, +2 for good, +1 for okay, 0 for neutral, -1 for subpar, -2 for poor, -3 for very poor. Track your scores in a spreadsheet and look for patterns. Identifying patterns or trends of behavior will allow you to better hone your ability to focus. It’s not meant to measure your worth, but more so to serve as a compass, guiding you on the path to becoming your best self.

So, enough already—wherever you are, whatever time of day it is, make it happen! Decide what matters most to you. Discover the goals and intentions that will help get you there. Break them down into smaller, more readily achievable actions. And finally: get that sh*t done!

This story appeared in Thrive Global on October 29, 2018.