Are you committed to getting better, to waking up each day a little bit better in some area of your life than you were the day before?
Most say they want to get better, but few have a plan. That’s not an educated guess, but a fact based on research I did for my book, The Potential Principle. We found that 59% of leaders were “very committed” to getting better…but only 50% of them had a specific, updated plan.
A goal without a plan seems more like wishful thinking to me.
The real question of getting better isn’t “do you want to?” but “what are you doing about it?” For a deep dive into the why, the how and a process you can use, I refer you to The Potential Principle book. But what follows is a simple foundation to launch your improvement program.Download the Potential Principle Handout
Here are 8 principles you can use to get better:
- Anyone can become better. Few of us will ever be best at something. Best is really hard. Better is really easy. Becoming the best at anything is difficult. It usually takes tremendous effort and a long time. Better can happen in an instance. Any slight improvement will make you better. Ever heard the cliche, “Death by a thousand cuts”? Try “Better by lots of little improvements.”
- Desire always precedes better. Your desire to get better must be coupled with your efforts to get better. Better can’t be imposed, borrowed or rented. You’ve got to want it and be willing to work for it.
- Better is your responsibility. Others can help you get better, but they can’t do it for you.
- You can improve anything in your life but not everything. Don’t try to improve everything.You won’t benefit by making everything in your life better, nor do you have time nor energy to do so. Go for significant improvements.
- Better requires an object. Better at what? Be specific about what matters enough to improve (see above).Often improvement goals are too vague. Prioritize getting better at what matters most and what will make the biggest difference, and ideally identify metrics.
- Better is never accidental. It takes intention and effort. You can swing a golf club a thousand times but if you aren’t paying attention, you won’t get better. You’ll just get tired.
- Better needs a process. If desire precedes better a plan needs to follow. The primary reason people don’t get better is lack of a plan.
- Better always beats best. Target the person or company at the top of their game. You don’t have to be twice as good as they are to displace them. All you need is to be a little better.
So now what? Knowing these principles is interesting, but implementing them is powerful. Here is a worksheet to help you get started:
In what area(s) do you want to get better? (the goal)
Why? (the motivation)
How? (the plan)
How much time and effort will you invest? (the work)
You can be better at the important things you do in your life. Just move beyond desire to disciplined action. The payoffs will be gratifying.
(By the way, if you want to get way better at virtual presentations, go to www.VPI.institute and download your free report about what makes or breaks a great digital program.)
Mark Sanborn is an award winning speaker and Leadership Expert in Residence at High Point University, the Premier Life Skills University. For more information about his work, visit www.marksanborn.com.
For a free assessment and information about The Classic Fred Factor online training and a unique opportunity to license the training, go to www.FredFactor.com.
Thank you very Much Mr. Sanborn. I thoroughly enjoyed your discussion this morning at Planet Honda.(I was the gentleman who responded that I had only been in the business about 2.5 months). Your message was extremely thought provoking and inspiring. I wish It had been longer and that I didn’t have to jump out as soon as it was over to help a customer, so I could have spoken with you in person. Thank you again for coming in and speaking to us!!!
Thanks for the great feedback, Christian–much appreciated!
Thank you, Mr. Sanborn, for your insights to getting better. I appreciate your opening point from your findings that “59% of leaders were ‘very committed’ to getting better …but only 50% of them had a specific plan.”
As a pastor serving churches in a denominational setting, I have found this to be very true. Everyone wants to get better is similar to everyone wants to be rich, everyone wants a bigger home, a faster car, etc., at least for discussion’s sake. But, the “want” does not necessarily drive “effort.” In the church, I would state that most leaders are actually “very committed” to getting better, and they often have a plan. But the plan often includes hiring someone else to make it happen. So, there is commitment, but it is not translated to individual responsibility.
Your 8 principles touch on a point made by a book Building Leaders written by Aubrey Malphurs and Will Mancini, “We hold firmly to the assumption that you can teach what you know, but you can reproduce only what you are.” (2004, p. 93). To your context, many want to be better, but the individual realization that they can be better is relegated to metaphoric lingo. Putting a plan in place takes time that is easier to delegate to someone else. But your 8 principles put this into perspective, especially point number 3. I especially appreciate your discussion on being the best. I think that our culture drives that we need to be the best. Our children need to play on the best soccer team. We need to move to a town where the schools have the best coaches. Our church needs to have the best praise team if we want to grow. I need to be the best at my job so no one else takes it. Maybe this is what keeps us from pursuing “better.” Since we can’t be the “best,” we delegate what we believe “best” is and never take time to pursue “better.”
Becoming better requires effort, or as you state, “disciplined action.” Finding leaders who are willing to take this action and engage the challenges of “better” is a challenge in itself. Your blog post has helped me realize that I, myself have been seeking the “best” in others, even willing to recruit “best” and hire it. But maybe what I learned from you is that when I define exactly what I want (object), I can get there by helping each member of my team, including myself, simply strive for “better.” If the church (my context) is committed to being better, we must start with ourselves. “People determine the performance capacity of an organization. No organization can do better than the people it has.” (2004, p. 105). So, to help our team realize this reality, I plan on using your “Potential Principle Handout” at our next team training session. As a result, I look forward to our organization being “better” every day.
Thank you for your blog.