I have a birthday on Sunday! I am not sure the exclamation point reflects excitement or shock. As a kid, who doesn’t anxiously anticipate their birthday? It seemed like every New Year of age opened the door to new opportunities and privileges.
Now, I must admit, there is a bit of awe and wonder about how quickly I arrived here. I like to say that I know our lives do not unfold as we plan or wish because if they did I would have a lot more hair. I looked in the mirror this morning and observed what little hair I have left needs a trim.
What also stared back at me was a sense of urgency. It’s not anything new. Who hasn’t felt it? When we are young we called it impatience. But make no mistake we were in a hurry. We may not know where we are going early in in our lives, but surely we had our foot on the accelerator.
Now as I close in on 60, I am looking at running the races that will make up the last quarter of my life. Sixty is a couple years off but coming into view and fueling a keener sense of urgency. The fact it is my birthday is important for a couple reasons. First, it is a day to celebrate the greatest day in my mom’s life (I like to say this to her because it makes her laugh).
What Does Urgency Do?
Secondly, to wrestle with and use this sense of urgency to clarify where I am going to invest the gift of a new day—hopefully a new year.
If I understand anything about time it is that we have a warped sense of it. We grossly underestimate how long it takes to get important and impactful things done. And we plod along falsely believing time is limitless and expandable. Yes, expandable in the sense we can push countless dreams and ambitions into the future believing there will be ample time to get them done.
We all come to realize that the second half of life arrives faster than we ever imagine. I know mentors and coaches told me this, just as I am sharing it with my clients, but maybe we just have to see and feel it for ourselves.
My Birthday Wishes
It is not secret that success leaves clues. If you want to be successful find other people who are successful and do the same things. As I identify and study people who have grown in impact and effectiveness over the course of life’s race they all possess three qualities.
- A teachable spirit. They seek the truth, lead with questions and embrace an endless sense of curiosity. They willingly and openly accept feedback.
- Humility. Pride stands in the way of nearly everything that has true value. Humility is like a welcome mat that allows them to love, lead and pour into the people that cross their paths.
- A purpose outside of themselves. They are driven but not for the sake of achievement. They see the world through the lens of serving.
Preparing for the Fourth Quarter
John Maxwell famously said, “Preparation doesn’t begin with what you do. It begins with what you believe. If you believe that your success tomorrow depends on what you do today, than you will treat today differently.”
I believe we all feel a sense of urgency. An urgency that rises when we embrace the fact that we never have as much time as we think we have. So, how do you prepare? How do we treat today?
As I look preparing for my fourth quarter, I am asking myself three questions in the context of what is necessary to be more teachable, grow in humility, and serve a greater purpose.
- What do I need to do more of?
- What do I need to do less of?
- What do I need to stop doing?
In the pursuit of any change or improvement, these simple questions can reset and invigorate your race.
Staying On Track
I like to say that life is series of temporary inconveniences. There are countless interruptions that take us off course. We are responsible for many of these interruptions because we can’t or won’t say no to things that don’t reflect our most important roles and goals.
Marshall Goldsmith in his book, Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts–Becoming the Person You Want to Be, speaks to this challenge and offers a powerful solution. He suggests using AIWATT—“Am I willing, at this time, to make the investment required, to make a positive difference on this topic?”
You and I have a limited amount of time and energy. We spend it physically, intellectually and emotionally. When we spend emotional energy we deplete our daily energy tank the fastest because emotion burns hottest and depletes our energy the fastest. It’s all right to fired up, but if you don’t choose well you won’t have the energy for things that truly matter and that you can affect.
My mom just turned 79, my father-in-law turns 90 next week, and my wife, sister, and nephew recently celebrated birthdays. You too are going to have a birthday soon—Happy Birthday! I hope my birthday reflections will help you celebrate a great year of contribution and impact.
Question: How would you answer those questions? You can leave a comment by clicking here.