Step One: Start with writing down your roles.
To help guide our long-term goals and even our daily choices, we need to put down in ink what roles are most important to us.
Writing down our roles keeps them in our awareness and helps us pay attention to all the important dimensions of our life. As you do your weekly planning, you’ll find that you don’t necessarily have to set a goal in every role every week. Some weeks may require a focus on only a couple of roles in order to achieve what you want.
Each role must be seen as a stewardship. You have been entrusted in life to fulfill each of these roles. They are your roles. You’ve chosen them. You also choose the goals for each role. Remember, it is YOUR choice.
Step Two: Prioritize your roles.
Look at your list and start prioritizing your roles in order of most important to least important.
You might be looking at your list of roles and thinking, “Boy! I’ve got a lot of roles to prioritize!” Being involved in lots of people’s lives is a good thing, but too much of even a good thing can lead to burnout. Are there some roles that are causing you a lot of unneeded stress?
Perhaps you’ve taken on a few roles that don’t provide any fulfillment and take away time from the roles that are truly important to you. You might then consider pruning those “dead” roles away to strengthen your core responsibilities. This can be tough to do, especially if what you’re eliminating is a “good” thing. But you don’t want the good to become the enemy of the best.
Step Three: Determine your contribution in each role.
Try not to think of your roles in terms of “to-do” lists. Roles are never just about what you do but are ways through which you express who you are.
Would your actions align with your values? Write a statement for each role describing how you want to be in that role and the contribution you want to make.
List all the roles you play in your life. Then pick the very few where it doesn’t feel right to settle for ordinary. Especially in our relationship roles, we ought to feel some obligation to the other person to bring our best self. If you want to be a ho-hum spouse or parent, you might be missing the point of those relationships.
Step Four: Define success in each role.
While we are all given job descriptions for our professional roles, most people have never stopped to ask what kind of parent or friend or spouse they want to be.
What words do you associate with extraordinary in that role? The clearer you can paint that vision, the more likely you will accomplish it.
Remember that this isn’t extraordinary compared to other people; it’s compared to what you would default to, your ordinary mode—what I call “cruise control.” This is an extraordinary wholly defined by you.
There really is no generic definition of extraordinary in your roles. You choose.
Step 5: Schedule one action a week that gets you closer to who you want to be.
Before your week begins, sit down with your list of roles and pick one thing you could do that week to get closer to extraordinary. And here’s the key: put it on your calendar.
Ask yourself, “What one thing can I do this week in this role—that you’re not doing now—that if you did on a regular basis, would make a tremendous positive difference in this relationship?”
These actions don’t have to be complicated:
- “I’m going to compliment my spouse every day.”
- “I’m going to read with my child after dinner.”
- “I’m going to take my team members out for lunch.”
You can see why you have to limit the number of important roles—five new actions in a week is a lot on top of what you already have going on. If your list feels overwhelming or you have an especially busy week coming up, you can scale back in a couple ways:
Simplify each action: text a friend or buy concert tickets for next month—five-minute commitments that still make an impact.
Focus on fewer roles that week: perhaps you choose an activity just for leader and spouse.
The power of going small.
Don’t underestimate the power of these small, deliberate actions. Even if you only do something every other week, you’re closer to extraordinary than you would be in default mode.
Don’t get discouraged. Life is a journey—of course we’re going to stumble and get off track. That’s okay! Pick yourself up and get back on your path towards extraordinary.
You can live your life on cruise control, responding and reacting to whatever comes your way. Or you can reach for extraordinary where it counts most.
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