When I got my first coaching client in 2009, I had no idea that leadership coaching would turn into a career. But just last week, I was calculating my coaching hours and I found that I have coached over 5000 hours in the last six years. That got me wondering what are the most common, powerful lessons clients have learned in our sessions. Luckily, I write those down. At the end of each meeting, I ask each client to identify the most powerful lesson or idea from that meeting. I boiled over 3000 key learnings down to these:
1. Focus on what you can control: It is so easy to get distracted by all the meaningless noise around us. Any effort you spend on trying to control the people and events around you is wasted. Focus on your own attitude and actions.
2. Don’t say “yes” out of obligation: This is a surefire way of becoming stressed out and less effective with the things that ARE important to you. You can only do a few things really well at one time. Stop obligating yourself to crap that you don’t have the time for just because of what someone else will think of you.
3. Have a written plan: There is a word for goals that aren’t supported by a plan; they are called wishes. Without a written plan, you’re probably going to fail.
4. Don’t say “no” out of fear: This is the corollary to number 2. Because growth only happens outside of your comfort zone, you’ve got to get uncomfortable. Looking through all of my meeting notes it is hard to find any major successes that happened inside my client’s comfort zones.
5. Seek out accountability: If you are like most people, you suck at holding yourself accountable. You are likely to let yourself off the hook and make excuses for why you haven’t accomplished the things you say are the most important.
6. Don’t rely on motivation: I can’t even count the number of times I’ve heard someone use “I just lost my motivation” as a reason for giving up on a goal. Motivation isn’t a magic pill. What you need is more discipline.
7. Do something to pursue your purpose: You are special. You have a purpose. You have important work to contribute to the world. You have let that purpose sit on a shelf too long. Go do something about it.
8. Don’t try to do It alone: The myth of the self-made man is exactly that, a myth. The truth is that you will need the help of others in order for you to accomplish your goals. Ask for help.
9. Become more intentional: Most people lead busy lives. “Busy” means that they run from one thing to another, putting out fires, rarely present in the moment, and rarely at their best. “Intentional” is the opposite of busy. Intentional people are prepared for their day, they show up early, they know what they want to accomplish and they carve out time to work on the most important things. Busy people rarely accomplish great things. Intentional people can’t help but accomplish great things.
10. Don’t ignore your fitness: In order to have a shot at living a remarkable life, you will need energy, you will need confidence, and you will need to feel great. Take care of your body and it will take care of you.
11. Be Present with your loved ones: There is nothing more important than being fully present with your family. Do whatever it takes to remind yourself to be present when you’re with them.
12. Don’t rescue the people around you: Are you constantly coming to the rescue of your co-workers or your family members? Knock it off. By swooping in and saving the day, you are enabling their lame behavior. Allow them to fail and learn their lessons.
13. Confront your biggest fear: Each of us has a monster under our bed. It is the fear that we have had for years, maybe decades, that we refuse to deal with. That fear messes with your self-confidence and causes all sorts of weird problems in your life. Do something about it.
14. Give and ask for forgiveness: Grudges and guilt are poison. They pollute our relationships, our attitude, and our self confidence. Go apologize and ask for forgiveness.
Being a leadership coach is the best job I could ask for. Every time meet with a client, I am reminded of my own goals, and the struggles I face in my own life. I’m also reminded that anything is possible as long as I’m willing to do the work. I can’t wait to see what goodies the next 5000 hours holds.
Which of these lessons resonates the most with you? It’s probably the lesson that is keeping you stuck? Learn it.