Without question, choices play the biggest role in how our lives turn out. Some people make their lives difficult by making questionable choices. Others move through life easier because of good choices they’ve made.
Regardless of which road a person takes, I know this: we don’t always get what we want, but we always get what we choose.
When I think about the tough choices I’ve made, I come to three realizations:
My choices have shown me myself
If you want to know who people are, don’t look at their resumes. Don’t listen to what they say. Just watch what choices they make.
I may say I have certain beliefs. I may think I hold certain values. I may intend to act a certain way. But my choices will ALWAYS reveal who I really am.
Many choices were not easy
Leadership is difficult. Think about it—anytime you are out in front breaking new ground, you are in uncharted territory and there is no established track to run on. That means making choices continually because none have been made for you.
And to add to this difficulty—the stakes are high. The choices you make impact not only you, but also your family, and many others.
The choices I made changed who I was
Writer and professor C.S. Lewis observed, “Every time you make a choice, you are turning the central part of you – the part that chooses – into something a little different than what it was before.”
Most people enjoy having freedom to make choices. But anyone who makes a choice needs to understand something very important: once you choose, you become a servant of that choice.
John Maxwell is constantly encouraging me to choose my choices. This application helped him become a better leader, and I believe it can help all of us. Here are three choices we need to make:
Choice #1: My standards for myself will be higher than what others might set for me.
It is my observation that great leaders are never satisfied with their current levels of performance. They continually push themselves to reach their potential. Their expectations for themselves are always higher than any standards others might set for them.
Set your standards high and keep them high,even if you think no one else is looking. Somebody will always notice—even if it’s just you.
Choice #2: Helping people is more important than making them happy.
Do you want to lead or be loved? Sometimes leadership means disappointing people at the rate they can stand.
Often, it’s because people want what they don’t need and need what they don’t want. That means someone needs to say something, and that task usually falls on the leader’s shoulders.
At the end of the day, I want to know that my best helped the entire team, even if it comes at the expense of their happiness.
Choice #3: My focus will be on the present.
There is a sign in John’s office that I absolutely love: “Yesterday ended last night.” What a great reminder to live in the present. All we have is now!
The more we replay yesterday, the further we move away from today’s opportunities. Opportunities never look as good coming as they do going, and they wait for no one. As leaders, we must be focused on our present capabilities, not our past regrets.
Leaders need to know what they stand for and what they will stand up to. Every choice we make regarding these two areas will determine the success of our leadership.
I often recall the bone-chilling words of Coach John Wooden, “There is a choice you have to make in everything you do. So keep in mind that in the end, the choice you make, makes you.”
Let us all choose wisely.
John Maxwell Leadership Podcast