Three of the saddest words I know are “I used to…”
I frequently encounter people who tell me they used to practice the Fred philosophy. They used to be of service in the community. They were once committed to excellent service. But not anymore.
The common explanation is they lost their passion and enthusiasm. They got tired, burned out, or discouraged. The challenges of life overcame their commitment, and they lost heart.
If you truly desire to be extraordinary, you have to keep your commitment vital and ongoing. It may be time to renew your resolve.
Here are a few ways to help get you started…
1. Decide to be happy here and now.
According to speaker and author Charlie “Tremendous” Jones, “If you can’t be happy where you are, it’s a cinch you can’t be happy where you ain’t.” I’ve never met an unhappy Fred (If you’re unfamiliar with my work, a “Fred” is a term I use to describe someone who doesn’t settle for normal. Who, like my mailman Fred, chooses to be extraordinary.) I’m sure Freds have times when they’re unhappy—we all do— but I’ve never met a consistently sour Fred. That demeanor just doesn’t go with the spirit of Fred. The truth is, if you’re not basically happy, you’ll have a hard time spreading happiness to others. You can’t give what you don’t have. Science backs up what Freds inherently know— Freds not only live better; they also live longer. A thirty- year study by Mayo Clinic found that optimists live longer than pessimists. It turns out that looking on the bright side and letting go of things you can’t control is good for your health! We all have our lot in life (and sometimes it feels like a used car lot to me!). Life isn’t easy. But often it’s simpler than we make it. We have a choice: we can change our lot or we can accept it. If we aren’t able to change our lot in life, despite our best efforts, we’re down to one option: accept it. But the way we accept it makes all the difference. We can expend our energy kicking and screaming against the injustice of our situation, or we can accept with grace and magnanimity the conditions we can’t control. Freds, I’ve come to believe, go one step beyond. They don’t just change their lot in life; they help others live on a better lot too.
2. Try something different.
Are you employed where you really want to work? If not, what steps are you taking to find more meaningful and rewarding work? While it’s wise to find a career that’s a good fit for you, don’t make the mistake of thinking a different environment is necessarily going to solve all your problems. People often think they will be happy if they could just find a different job. However, I’ve observed that unhappiness tends to follow people. If you aren’t happy now, a different job probably won’t make you happy either. A better alternative might be to do your current job differently. Have you ever seen a police officer wearing earphones while directing traffic and having his or her own private dance session, waving arms and tooting a whistle? It’s enjoyable for motorists to observe, but more than that, I have to believe it makes directing traffic a lot more fun for the police officer too. An ordinary employee might think that the job of directing traffic is drudgery. But a Fred thinks, I’m doing the work I’ve been given to do here, so why not make the most of it? I shared this story when I was speaking recently, and an audience member approached me afterward. “I directed a lot of traffic in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina,” he said. “It was really stressful. People were angry and on edge. But a funny thing happened. When we started having fun directing traffic—being more patient and engaging motorists in a positive way—they responded in kind. They offered us food, told us jokes, and conversed with us. It made the situation better all the way around.” Helen Keller said that life is either a daring adventure or nothing. There is satisfaction in knowing that you do extraordinary work simply by choice. It is also gratifying to be extraordinary for the sake of others who are facing trials. You have the opportunity to make their journeys a little more enjoyable, and along the way you’ll find that your journey improves as well. You can suffer through your work, or you can surf through the day, adding as much happiness and fun as you possibly can. Nobody can make that choice but you.
3. Remind yourself regularly.
Remembering to make doctor’s appointments, pick up milk on the way home, return those DVDs, and get your oil changed takes up lots of memory. By now you have probably developed different ways to remember those important things you’re supposed to do. Sometimes when we’re making life changes, our biggest challenge is remembering to carry out the decisions we’ve made. It isn’t that we’re not committed to taking this step to do something new or implement something better. It just takes a lot less energy to do things the same way we’ve always done them. The same phenomenon applies to being a Fred. Even if you agree with the Fred philosophy and want to resemble Fred in spirit and behavior, your good intentions will fail if you don’t first remember what to do.
This article is a modified excerpt from FRED 2.0: New Ideas on How to Keep Delivering Extraordinary Results. Several additional ways to renew your resolve are featured in FRED 2.0, now available where books are sold.
Visit www.marksanborn.com/fred2 now to learn how you can gain instant access to a Fred 2.0 “EXTRAordinary Results” Resource Kit.