I love to tweet about all kinds of subjects (you can connect @TheSumoGuy). Two of my most popular tweets were in relation to the time I failed to comment on my wife’s new jumper, and when I didn’t notice that she’d had her hair cut. My lack of observational skills was duly noted.
Those tweets were sent from my hospital bed.
But even they failed to get the level of engagement of this one:
Great Life Insight
The older I get, the more I realize this: there are too many people called leaders, but not enough leadership.
Now your first response might be to agree with the statement but not see it as relevant to you, as you’re not a leader.
Well I’ve got news for you: you are.
It might not be your title, but showing leadership is crucial if you want to get the most from life. Here’s why.
When you research ‘traits of a leader’ you discover answers such as showing initiative, taking responsibility, courage, influence, setting an example, being flexible, and taking positive action. Well, in my book these are all traits that will enhance anyone’s life. Admittedly we might not lead others, but here’s the deal – we all need to lead ourselves.
I recognize none of us are actually born as leaders. When we’re born we’re more dependent on others for our survival than almost any other species.
But we do grow up, at least physically anyway, and as we do so, barring any health or medical issues, become less dependent on others. (I recognize parents of some teenagers may strongly contest that fact, however.)
But not everyone grows up emotionally, and perhaps one of the clearest signs of this is when we fail to take responsibility for our actions, and behave like powerless people expecting others to fulfill and meet our needs.
Now of course we need the support of others. But we also need to grow up and mature into people who recognize we have responsibility for our own actions and decisions.
The key to doing this is to start by reflecting on how we see ourselves. Our self-perception is crucial.
For example, if we see ourselves as having little influence, control, or power in how our lives develop, then we’re likely to live a passive, reactive, and fatalistic life. We can have hopes and dreams, but ultimately whether they become a reality is in the hands of fate, luck, or perhaps a divine being.
But if you see yourself as a leader who is able to shape and influence your future, the outcome is very different.
Here’s the deal:
Whatever you think and feel about yourself and your life will ultimately impact how you live your life. If I were you, I’d re-read that sentence. It’s powerful stuff.
Great Life Insight
The story you tell yourself about who you are and why you’re here will shape your behaviour and your future.
So, in a nutshell, a change in identity can lead to a change of behaviour. Not convinced? Well, here’s an example to illustrate my point.
Occasionally I am invited by a friend to watch Manchester United.
He has rather nice seats, too. And it’s a privilege to go.
But here’s my point. I don’t support Manchester United. However, when I go I behave like a United fan (I always have prawn sandwiches at half time). If I didn’t, I’d never be invited back again. If United concede a goal (which I admit is a remote possibility if they’re playing Bradford or Wigan) I don’t stand and cheer – I value my safety too much.
You see, my temporary identity influences how I behave.
Here’s another way of thinking about it.
Imagine if what you thought about yourself was encapsulated in a word or short phrase and was printed on a T-shirt you wore every day. Now, depending on the message on your T-shirt, that could actually feel quite empowering. Just as wearing the shirt of your favourite sports team identifies who you are, so too would the message on your T-shirt.
However, perhaps the real power of the message is not what it sends out to others but, more importantly, what message you’re telling yourself.
You see, whatever that message is, whatever story we’re telling ourselves, really does influence how we behave.
So, let me ask you a question, to which only honest answers are allowed.
If there was a message on your T-shirt, what would it say?
Because if that message isn’t a positive or empowering one, I suggest it’s time to invest in a new wardrobe.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt from over 50 years on the planet is this:
Great Life Insight
If you want a great life, quit waiting for it to happen. It’s up to you to do something.
Pray, if that’s part of your beliefs, but recognize you could very well be the answer to your own prayers.
Great Life Tip
Start looking within yourself for some answers rather than waiting for someone else to rescue you.
We might have been born helpless, but we don’t have to remain that way.
You’re not a passive bystander watching your life unfold. You’re in the game. You’re the driver, not some reluctant passenger.
Life is happening now. So, it’s time to wake up and not doze through our days.
It’s time to face up to our responsibilities and to do all within our power (however limited that may be) to be the best version of ourselves we can be and to also do what we can to help others.
You may never lead a team, a business, or an organization, but that doesn’t stop you showing some leadership and making a positive difference.
I’m challenged by these words from Barack Obama. I hope you are too:
Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.
That’s so powerful, don’t you think? I reckon I’ll have to tweet that.
This is an edited extract from How to Have a Great Life: 35 Surprisingly Simple Ways to Success, Fulfillment & Happiness, by Paul McGee (published by Capstone, 2018).
About the author:
Paul McGee is a communication coach, bestselling author and one of the UK’s leading speakers on change, inspiring leadership, and communicating with confidence. His thought-provoking, humorous, and practical approach to life has seen him speak in 40 countries and he’s sold over 200,000 books worldwide. He developed the SUMO (Shut Up, Move On) brand in 2002 and more recently launched SUMO4Schools, a programme designed to help young people realize their potential and develop skills for life. To find out more about his work visit www.theSUMOguy.com