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Writing a Personal Constitution

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Write clearly your governing values in order of priority (as Smith outlines in the excerpt from lesson 4).
Then, take each one of those values and set long-term and short-term goals regarding that value. Follow the “what/why/how” approach that Covey uses in his excerpt from First Things First (in lesson 6).
Refer back to the excerpts from Hyrum Smith’s book and Stephen Covey’s books for multiple examples of how to complete this assignment.

“Law 3: When your daily activities reflect your governing values, you experience inner peace” from The 10 Natural Laws of Time and Life Management
In the introductory chapter of this book I told you about the Merrill Lynch executive who wrote to me after the untimely death of his son. Because he had identified his governing values and had done something about them, he was able to experience a degree of inner peace despite this tragedy in his life. He had come face-to-face with what mattered in his life, and he had chosen to do something about it. In other words, he took control of his life. Then, when tragedy occurred, he didn’t have to go through the guilt that so many experience.
I have received many letters of the other kind, letters from dads who have stood in the wedding reception line of a daughter or son and wept because they never took that child to the football game as they had promised, never played catch, never went fishing, never drove into town for banana splits, never did a hundred things they had always intended to do—because they were always out of town or were too busy. Now they realize that the window of opportunity has closed, so they weep at the wedding. It’s not that they’re particularly sad about the wedding, they’re sad about all the things they could have done, should have done, and didn’t.
The same could apply to either a father or mother with a child of either gender. Discovering what’s most important to you, and doing something about it is what inner peace is all about. It’s that simple, but in a way it’s the hardest thing in the world, because insignificant things get in the way, lower priorities that seem urgent at the moment. And, as we’ve already seen, important things are seldom urgent, unless we make them so.
The Productivity Pyramid
In our time management seminars we use a model called the Personal Productivity Pyramid. In the larger context of our lives it might well be called the Personal Fulfillment Pyramid. It shows the four main steps that lead from identifying our highest values to accomplishing our daily activities.
In Law 3 we’ll talk about how to prioritize your governing values. In Law 4 we’ll look at goals, the bridges between our values and our daily activities. And in Law 5 we’ll tackle the creation and management of your daily task list. What I want you to focus on right now, though, is the connection between these components as they are visualized by the pyramid. Everything starts with your governing values. If you set goals that aren’t aligned with your values, you may accomplish a great deal, but you won’t ever be satisfied, because you’ll be neglecting the things that matter most to you. By the same token, if you create a daily task list that doesn’t reflect your long-range and intermediate goals, you’ll be busy but not productive.
There must be consistency throughout the pyramid. And it must be built from the bottom up. That’s why most people are frustrated and stressed out a good deal of the time. They ignore the first three levels (and sometimes the fourth). They may make up a “to do” list. But they haven’t based it on anything but urgency. The hinges that squeak the loudest get immediate attention. Consequently, at the end of the day, even if they’ve crossed everything off their list, they’ve largely ignored those silent, undemanding tasks that never make it onto the list because they are never urgent. They get the car repaired, make the mortgage payment, call the dentist, finish the report the boss needed at two o’clock, have a lunch meeting with a client, and put out a hundred brushfires at work, but they never get around to having a meaningful conversation with their spouse or taking the kids out for ice cream or reading a good book, because these things don’t make it onto the list. Why don’t they make it onto the list? Because, for most people, core values are not driving the planning process. This kind of day-to-day living is like a car without a driver. It goes wherever the slope and shape of the terrain encourage it to go.
We chose a pyramid to represent this process for a reason. The shape of the pyramid suggests a sharper focus as you move from the long term to the short term. It suggests an increasing degree of specificity. Governing values are, by definition, general statements of principle and belief. Long-term goals are created by translating those principles into what you want to achieve several years down the road. The long-term goals, in turn, are reached not in one magnificent leap, but through several intermediate steps. And the intermediate steps are achieved through a series of specific, goal-oriented daily efforts.
If your daily activities are guided in this manner by your fundamental values, you will feel the satisfaction that comes from succeeding at those things that mean the most to you. This satisfaction is a significant part of the inner peace we all desire.
The man who wrote me the letter about the death of his eight-year-old son took this natural law to heart and applied it in his life. He took the time to evaluate his real values. Then he planned his life around those values and, as a consequence, was at peace with himself in spite of the terrible grief he felt. He had earned the right to that inner peace.
The Importance of Establishing Our Priorities
One mistake we must avoid is assuming we’re finished building the base of the pyramid once we’ve merely identified our governing values. Identifying them is not enough. We must also rank them in order of priority. Otherwise we won’t know which of our goals and daily activities are most important. For example, I have a value that says, I maintain a strong and healthy body. I have another that says, I am an outstanding husband and father. Maybe I’ve set goals to play tennis once a week and to do something with each of my kids once a week. Usually this is no problem. I can do both. But what if I have an unusually busy week and I can’t fit both my kids and tennis into my schedule? Which do I do? Well, if I haven’t determined my priorities, I might just do the one that brings me the most immediate pleasure. That’s what most of us usually do. But you may have noticed that I have already decided which is most important to me. Being a good father is value number 5 on my list. Being physically fit is number 10. I do something with the kids. I don’t even have to think about it. I’ve already made that decision. When did I make that decision? Well, I made it when I sat down and created my list of governing values.
If we don’t prioritize those values, we inevitably wind up with conflicting goals and daily activities and the constant need to make perplexing decisions. Let me illustrate with another example. Two other values on my list are: I am financially independent, and I am honest in all things. Now, let’s assume I’m struggling financially. Let’s also assume someone approaches me with an opportunity that’s one hundred percent certain to guarantee my family the long-term financial security they lack. There’s one little hitch, though. You guessed it—this opportunity isn’t exactly legal, and even though I probably won’t get caught, it’s not all that ethical. What do I do? Well, it depends on which value is more important to me. If you look at my list, you’ll notice that I am financially independent is my twelfth value. I am honest in all things is number 8. What this means is that I want to be financially independent—but only if don’t have to buy that financial independence with dishonesty. In other words, being honest is more important to me than being financially secure.
The point I’m trying to make here is that if you don’t rank your values, if you are uncertain about what is really most important to you, you may find yourself having to decide on the spot between two courses of action that may or may not bring you inner peace. This is usually where rationalization and compromise enter the picture. When you are not certain what your priorities are, it’s easy to rationalize. “Well, my family is important to me. With this money I could give them the security they deserve.” Uncertain priorities lead to situations in which actions are not determined by values or principles, but by the desirable ends they may produce. We usually call this “the ends justifying the means.” It happens all the time. And the only cure for it is to clarify in your own mind the priority or ranking of your governing values.
Herman Krannert
In 1925 there was a man in Indianapolis, Indiana, by the name of Herman Krannert, an executive of the Sefton Container Company. On one occasion he was summoned to Chicago to have lunch with the president. He was very excited, because he had never been invited to do that before. He came to Chicago, went to the Athletic Club, and while they were having lunch the president said, “Herman, I’m going to make an announcement in the company this afternoon that greatly impacts your life. We’re going to promote you to senior executive vice-president, and you’re to be the newest member of the Board of Directors.”
Krannert was blown away. He said, “Mr. President, I had no idea I was even being considered for this. I want you to know I’ll be the most loyal employee this company has ever had. I’m going to dedicate my life to making this the finest corporation in America.”
The president was gratified by this and said, “You know, Herman, I’m glad you mention that because there’s one thing I’d like you to remember. As a member of the Board of Directors you will vote exactly the way I tell you to.”
That took the wind out of Krannert’s sails, and he said he wasn’t sure he could do that.
“Come on, Herman, that’s the way it is in the business world. I’m putting you on the Board of Directors. You’ll do what I tell you. Right?”
The more he thought about that, the angrier he became. At the end of lunch he stood up and said, “Mr. President, I need you to understand I cannot accept this promotion. I will not be a puppet for anybody on a Board of Directors.” Then he added, “Not only that, but I won’t work for a company where such demands are made. I quit.”
He came back to Indianapolis that night, approached his wife, and said, “You’ll be excited to know that today I was promoted to senior executive vice-president, made a member of the Board of Directors, and I quit.”
She said, “You quit? Have you lost your mind?”
But when he told her what had happened, she was very supportive and said, “Well, I guess we’ll have to find something else.”
Four nights later a knock came at his door. Six senior executives from his company burst through the door, all excited. “Herman, we heard what happened the other day. We think that’s the greatest thing we’ve ever heard. In fact, we quit too.”
“What do you mean, you quit too?” he said.
“Yeah, we quit too, and here’s the good news. We’re going to go to work for you!”
“How are you going to work for me? I don’t even have a job.”
They said, “Oh, we figure you’ll find something, and when you do we’re going to work for you.”
That night those seven people sat down at Herman Krannert’s dining room table and created the Inland Container Corporation. That empire exists because a guy in 1925 not only knew what his governing values were—one of them was loyalty, another was integrity—but he had prioritized them. Suppose he had changed the order of those two values? Would it have affected his decision? Tremendously. That’s why I emphasize that this is the most important list you will ever prioritize.
Choosing Between Two Positives
Sometimes not knowing the priority of our values leads to a different kind of situation—one in which both courses are favorable. Instead of having to choose between the lesser of two evils, we end up trying to choose between the greater of two goods. And only a clear definition of our values can help us determine which is better. Let’s say, for instance, that your uncle dies and leaves you five thousand dollars. You’d really like to use the money to buy a new used car, because the one you drive to work now is falling apart and, besides, it’s the ugliest car on the block. But for years now you’ve always promised yourself, if you ever got some extra cash, that you’d take your spouse on a second honeymoon to Europe. What do you do? You need a new car, but the trip to Europe would do wonders for your marriage and provide marvelous memories for a lifetime. Well, the only way to make this decision is to examine it in light of your values. If you have ranked your relationship with your spouse higher in priority than looking good with the neighbors, you’ll probably be on your way to Europe, but if providing adequate income for your family is a top value priority and your undependable car is affecting your ability to do that, you may opt for a better car and find other ways to build the spousal relationship. The key is in making the decision based on which value is most important, not on the whim of the moment.
Choosing Careers
If you were to divide your life into categories according to where you spend your time, the largest category would likely be career. The average person spends more than eighty thousand hours at work. That’s an immense investment of time. And, in the context of this natural law, work is also an area where many people experience a conflict between what they do eight hours a day, five days a week, and what they really value. This is one reason why so many people get stressed out at work. They’re doing something they don’t really want to be doing.
A member of the faculty at one business school discovered, after talking with his students, that many of them were majoring in business for some rather questionable reasons. These students were stepping onto a career path, he realized, that would not bring them the happiness they desired, because they were going to be spending the best days of their lives doing something they didn’t really love. To learn more about their motives and values, he began giving his classes a simple anonymous survey that asked two questions: “Why have you chosen business as a major?” and “If money were no issue—if all jobs paid the same—what would you be doing then?” While there were always some students who were majoring in business because they really loved it, many students deeply and passionately would choose to do something else—being a schoolteacher, carpenter, social worker, artist, musician, farmer, dancer, writer, entertainer, coach, youth counselor, mechanic, policeman, pilot, landscape architect, tailor, you name it. But despite these deep feelings, they had instead chosen a lifetime of what may be very unfulfilling work in exchange for financial security.
If this last group of students were to go through the exercise of listing and ranking their governing values, few of them would probably place financial security higher than either happiness or doing something they loved—whether it was carpentry, coaching, or flying planes. But because they haven’t identified and prioritized their values, their daily activities for maybe forty years will be determined, to a large extent, by false priorities. The conflict here between values and daily activities is clear, and the frustration that will occur in their lives is predictable.
Changing Careers
I’ve known many people who regret their career choice, and very often, by the time the frustration has simmered long enough to reach the boiling point, it’s too late to go back to school and be retrained for another career. I have known a few people, however, who started over when they were already well down the path toward what they sensed would be a dissatisfying career. Clayne Robison is a good example. Today Clayne is a professor of music, but he got there the hard way. His story is so compelling that we used it in a video we produced a couple of years ago, Finding Your Values, Reaching Your Goals. In his own words, this is his story:
My father was an insurance agent, so when I came to college I assumed that’s what I should do. I immediately found some friends, and one of my best friends was determined that he was going to be a doctor. And he convinced me that the great contributions in the world would be made by doctors who healed people. I decided, “Yeah, he’s probably right, I’ll do what he thinks is right.” So I started to major in premed. I did well. I didn’t have any trouble. In fact, that’s the best year of college I ever had. But I was not happy.
I spent a couple of years in Germany, in the area included in East Germany. And while I was there during that period of time, I began to see that the real problems of the world are political conflicts, and I was going to be idealistic and solve the problems of the world, like every young intelligent person ought to do, why, I should probably go into something a little bit more politically oriented. I could see the East-West conflict, and I decided I should help solve that problem. So I began majoring in English, and I enjoyed it a great deal. I then applied and was admitted to law school—and went to law school. But within five days, something inside of me said, “This doesn’t really feel right. Something is wrong.”
At the end of law school I took a battery of psychological exams that were given free to Harvard students, to determine why I disliked law school so much. A number of results came from that little session. One of them was that I see things very differently from the way lawyers see them. In fact, the counselor just shook his head and said, “How did you ever make it through law school? You don’t answer these questions anything like lawyers tend to answer them.” I said, “Well, I guess I was proud, and I didn’t like what people would think if I quit, so I stayed.” Finally he asked that critical question: “What do you really like to do?” I glanced over my shoulder to make sure no one was looking, and I said, “What I really love to do is sing.” “Well, why don’t you go sing?”
Clayne found himself at a major crossroads. In his heart, he did indeed want to “go sing.” But that meant not only backing away from a financially lucrative career, but also providing for his wife and their two children while he went back to school to get a degree in music. From my own experience in walking away from financial security to follow my governing values, I know that Clayne’s decision was not an easy one. Implementing it no doubt produced times when the family wasn’t sure there would be food on the table. After long discussions about how to make it happen and with his wife solidly encouraging him, he made his decision and, at age thirty, Clayne Robison “stepped into music.” And, despite the difficulties in making such a major career change, the contrast with his feelings about law school tells it all:
. . . everything was fun, from that moment on. Theory classes were fun. Music history was fun. Writing my dissertation was fun. There wasn’t a thing that didn’t bring me joy in the process of pursuing that course.
When you hear Clayne sing or watch him teach, you can’t help but see that he is deeply in love with his career. He also tries to help his students find their own values and avoid the mistakes he made. “It’s fun to get kids to sing,” he says, “it’s fun to get them to make music, but ultimately, what I’m doing is creating an environment in which my students can develop confidence in their own emerging sense of what is valuable, recognizing that it’s emerging, that it’s going to change. It will be different in five years than it is now. But the important thing they’re learning now is to trust their own sense of what is valuable, not what anybody else thinks, not what I think is valuable.”
Tipping the Scales
The importance of tying values to goals and daily activities cannot be overstated. Whenever there is a breakdown in this process of planning daily activities according to core values, whenever the Productivity Pyramid gets shoved aside, you begin to lose balance in your life.
Before weighing scales were regulated and inspected, some butchers and bakers would dishonestly “tip the scales” in their favor to make a little extra profit. Their customers were cheated—because of the imbalance, they got less than they paid for. Similarly, people are misguided if they believe that “tipping the scales” in their favor by increasing the volume of tasks completed each day equals high productivity. While appearing to accomplish a lot, they usually end up burned out or unbalanced, cheating not only themselves but also those they want to please.
The key to maintaining balance is making sure our daily task list is built solidly on our governing values and goals. Some questions that can help us achieve consistency between values and activities are:
* What is the long-range priority of this project?
* For whom and by when must the task be completed?
* What can I delegate and to whom?
* Is this project more important than another?
* What will happen if I wait on this task?
* Have I included time for myself and my family?
* Are any of these tasks infringing on my values?
As we gain more control over our lives, we experience inner peace—which I defined earlier as serenity, balance, and harmony in our lives through the appropriate control of events. And that inner peace is only possible when the things I’m doing are in line with the things I believe. Value-based goal setting gets under the skin, makes people come to grips with what matters most to them, and guides them in planning their daily activities.
Many people leave training seminars with a warm feeling, but once back on the job, they don’t change their behavior. Why? Because they are not empowered to change. Empowerment requires that people not only learn new principles and skills, but they receive a tool to help them implement those principles and skills. The Productivity Pyramid and the specific planning methods we’ll talk about in Law 5 are just such tools.
In an unpredictable economy the personal productivity of individuals becomes paramount. I have a strong belief in the unlimited potential of people. That’s why I talk about governing values, ask people to identify what matters most, and encourage them to allow these values to direct their daily activities.
What matters most in life should not be at the mercy of less important things. Unless we identify what we value most and put our everyday lives in line with those values, we will plan and live reactively.
Until you come to grips with your highest priorities—your governing values—you really won’t have an overpowering need to set goals and achieve tasks—the upper two levels of the pyramid. But once you have identified those priorities, they won’t just sit on a shelf and gather dust. They usually weigh heavily on your mind until you do something with them. That’s the focus of Law 4, in which we’ll learn how to set specific, measurable, and realistic goals—the essential bridge between your governing values and your daily activities.

“Chapter 7: The Power of Goals” from First Things First
You can want to do the right thing,
and you can even want to do it for the right reasons.
But if you don’t apply the right principles,
you can still hit a wall.
One of the most common elements of all self-help and management literature is the idea of the power of goals. We’ve been told to set long-term goals, short-term goals, daily goals, monthly goals, personal goals, organizational goals, ten-year goals, lifetime goals. The virtues of “measurable, specific, and time-bound” goals have been preached from the pulpit of self-help books for generations.
Goal setting is obviously a powerful process. It’s based on the same principle of focus that allows us to concentrate rays of diffused sunlight into a force powerful enough to start a fire. It’s the manifestation of creative imagination and independent will. It’s the practicality of “eating our elephants one bite at a time,” of translating vision into achievable, actionable doing. It’s a common denominator of successful individuals and organizations.
But despite their obvious value, our experience with and feelings about goals are mixed. Some of us can set heroic goals, exercise tremendous discipline, and pay the price for incredible achievement. Others can’t keep a New Year’s resolution to pass up dessert two days in a row. Some see goals as the primary factor shaping the destiny of individuals and nations. Others see them as superficial, pie-in-the-sky idealism that has no staying power in the “real” world. Some of us stick to a goal, no matter what. And some goals stick to us, no matter what. Some authors tell us that if we think positively, we can do anything; others tell us to stop beating ourselves up when we find out we can’t.
Two Areas of Pain
In all our experience around goal setting, there seems to be two major areas of pain:
1. the blow to our integrity and courage when we don’t achieve our goals; and
2. the sometimes devastating results when we do.
Withdrawals from the “Personal Integrity Account”
As we said earlier, we each have what we might call a “Personal Integrity Account” that reflects the amount of trust we have in our ourselves. When we make and keep commitments, such as setting and achieving goals, we make deposits. We increase our confidence in our own trustworthiness, in our ability to make and keep commitments to ourselves and to others. A high balance in this account is a great source of strength and security.
But when we don’t achieve our goals, we make withdrawals, and this becomes a source of great pain. Over time, frequent withdrawals cause us to lose confidence in our ability to make and keep commitments and to trust ourselves and others. Cynicism and rationalization follow, and these attitudes sever us from the power of setting and achieving meaningful goals. Then, when we need strength of character to meet critical challenges in our lives, we find it just isn’t there.
Stephen: Once I served as an assistant in a survival camp and led a group of students on an overnight hike. We ended up in a valley where we had to cross a river hand-over-hand on a rope. We were exhausted, fatigued, and dehydrated. We’d had no food or water for about twenty-four hours. But we knew that across that raging, forty-foot-wide river was breakfast.
As one of the leaders of the group, I was supposed to go first. I started out with determination and even a little arrogance. I started bouncing around on the rope and showing off. But by the time I got halfway over, I felt my strength starting to go. I tried every technique I knew—from sheer will power to visualizing myself making it across and eating that food—but I reached the point where I was afraid even to take my hand off the rope to move forward. I didn’t have the confidence my other hand could continue to hold up my body weight.
Right in the middle of the river, I fell. The strength just wasn’t there. I was dangling on my safety rope on top of this churning water. The students loved it! “Pride goeth before the fall.” As it turned out, most of them had the same experience. Only a few had the strength to make it.
Building character strength is like building physical strength. When the test comes, if you don’t have it, no cosmetics can disguise the fact that it just isn’t there. You can’t fake it. It takes strength to set a heroic goal, to work on chronic problems instead of going for the “quick fix,” to stay with your commitments when the tide of popular opinion turns against you.
There are many reasons why we don’t achieve our goals. Sometimes the goals we set are unrealistic. We create expectations that don’t reflect any sense of self-awareness. New Year’s resolutions are typical examples. Suddenly, we expect to change the way we eat, the way we exercise, or the way we treat people simply because the calendar has changed from December 31 to January 1. It’s like expecting one of our children to learn to crawl, eat with a fork, and drive a car all in the same day. Our goals are based on illusion, with little self-awareness or regard for the principles of natural growth.
Sometimes we set goals and work to achieve them, but either the circumstances change or we change. A new opportunity surfaces; there’s a shift in the economy; another person comes into the picture; we get a different perspective. If we hold on to our goals, they become masters instead of servants. But if we let them go, we often feel uneasy or guilty that we didn’t keep our commitment. We find it hard to maintain a high balance in our Personal Integrity Account when we constantly change our goals or fail to achieve our goals.
Ladders Against the Wrong Wall
While failing to achieve our goals creates painful problems, accomplishing them can as well. Sometimes the goals we achieve are at the expense of other more important things in our lives. It’s the “ladder against the wrong wall” syndrome, meaning we climb the proverbial ladder of success only to find that it’s leaning against the wrong wall for us.
One of our associates shared this story:
Several years ago, a man announced to his friends and neighbors that his goal for the year was to earn a million dollars. He was an entrepreneur who believed, “Give me a good idea and I can sell a million.” He developed and patented a state-of-the-art recreational product, and then drove around the country selling it.
Occasionally he would take one of his kids with him on the road for a week or so. His wife complained to him about taking the kids, saying, “When they come back, they stop saying their prayers and doing their homework. They just party the whole week. Don’t take the kids if you aren’t going to help them do the things they ought to be doing.”
Well, at the end of the year, the man announced that he had met his goal: he made a million dollars. Shortly after, however, he and his wife divorced. A couple of his kids wound up on drugs. Another went off the deep end. Basically the whole family disintegrated.
This man was focused on a single goal and measured everything against it. But he failed to count the total cost. That million dollars cost him a lot more than it was worth.
When we become consumed by a single goal, we’re like a horse with blinders, unable to see anything else. Sometimes our goals are “hit-and-run” goals that leave bodies strewn along the way. At other times, our goals may be well intended, but accomplishing them creates other undesirable results. A program participant from Russia shared this experience:
Gorbachev wanted to restrict the use of alcohol and not allow the Russian people to drink as much. It was like the American Prohibition, with similar results. Rather than turning to more productive activities, as was hoped, people went from drinking alcohol to using narcotics instead. The government achieved their goal of dramatically reducing the consumption of alcohol, but it didn’t bring them what they wanted.
We typically set a goal with the expectation that meeting it will create positive change and quality-of-life results. But often the change isn’t so positive. Accomplishing one goal impacts other areas of life in a negative way. When we come face-to-face with the results, we become disillusioned.
In light of this “disillusioned if we do, and doomed if we don’t” dilemma regarding goals, is it any wonder that many of us feel uncomfortable with the goal-setting process?
Is it possible to have the power without the problems? To build a strong Personal Integrity Account by setting and achieving meaningful goals on a regular basis? To be able to let go of or change or even partly reach a goal and still maintain, or even add to, our Personal Integrity Account? To ensure that our ladders are leaning against the right walls?
We affirm that it is possible—even that we can access a significant increase in the power of goal setting. The key is in using our four human endowments in a synergistic way in setting and achieving principle-based goals.
Using Our Four Human Endowments
Done well, traditional goal setting is powerful because it accesses the power of two of our unique endowments: creative imagination and independent will.
We use our creative imagination to visualize, to conceive of possibilities beyond our direct experience. We use our independent will to make choices, to transcend background, scripting, and circumstance. When we set a goal, we’re saying, “I can envision something different from what is, and I choose to focus my efforts to create it.” We use our imagination to keep the goal in mind, and our independent will to pay the price to achieve it.
The power of these two endowments is formidable—it’s the power of purposeful living, the fundamental process of conscious change. But it’s only a small part of the power available to us.
What’s often missing in the goal-setting process is the power of two other endowments:
conscience—the deep connection of goals to mission, needs and principles; and self-awareness—the accurate assessment of our capacity and the balance in our Personal Integrity Account
Let’s take a closer look at these two endowments to see how they can empower us to set and achieve meaningful goals.
Conscience Creates Alignment with Mission and Principles
Conscience is powerful because it creates alignment between mission and principles and gives guidance in the moment of choice. The moment we set a goal—the moment we consciously decide to focus our time and energy toward a particular purpose—is a moment of choice. What determines that choice? Is it the social mirror, the agendas of others, values that are truncated from fundamental principles, needs, and capacities? Or is it a deep, principle-based, conscience-connected, contribution-focused fire within?
Goals that are connected to our inner life have the power of passion and principle. They’re fueled by the fire within and based on “true north” principles that create quality-of-life results.
One of the best ways to access this power is to ask three vital questions: what? why? and how?
What do I desire to accomplish? What is the contribution I want to make? What is the end I have in mind?
A principle-based “what” focuses on growth and contribution. It isn’t just setting and achieving goals that creates quality of life. Hitler set and achieved goals. So did Gandhi. The difference is what they chose to focus on. What we seek, we generally find. When we set goals that are in harmony with conscience and the principles that create quality of life, we seek—and find—the best.
Why do I want to do it? Does my goal grow out of mission, needs, and principles? Does it empower me to contribute through my roles?
In the context of mission and vision, the “what” may be easier to identify than the “why” and “how”
Roger: After speaking on the importance of mission and roles in a recent seminar, I asked one of the participants if he would be willing to go through the goal-setting process with me in front of the group. He agreed.
I said, “Okay, choose a role—any role you’d like.”
“What do you feel is the most important goal you could work on in this role?”
“To improve my relationship with my fourteen-year-old son.”
“Well, our relationship’s not that good.”
“So why do you want to improve it?”
“He’s having a lot of challenges at school with friends and peer pressure. He’s being pulled in directions that are not productive. I feel it’s important to be close to him at this time in his life.”
“So I can help him stay on the right path and be productive.”
“Because he needs it.”
“So why do you want to do it?”
“To help him.”
He was beginning to get a little flustered. “Because I’m his father! It’s my responsibility!”
“So why do you want to do it?”
Frustration was evident on his face. “Well, because, because . . .”
There were two people at his table who absolutely could not sit still a minute longer. At the same instant, they both almost shouted, “Because you love him!”
It was written all over his face. It was reflected in his words. It was so evident that people around him could sense the deep love he had for his son. Maybe he couldn’t say it because of the seminar environment, or maybe he hadn’t made the connection with that fire within.
The moment these two people said the words, his face broke into a sheepish grin. “That’s right!” he said. “I love him.” Everyone could feel the strength and peace that flooded over him.
Without this deep connection, we go through life feeling duty-bound to develop sufficient self-control to achieve our goals, to endure to the end, to crawl battered and bruised over the finish line, if it’s the last thing we do. There’s no connection to our deep energy sources, our convictions, our experiences. We’re working against ourselves, not sure why (or even if) we want to accomplish a particular goal. The commitments we make in a moment of enthusiasm don’t have the sustaining power to carry us all the way to successful achievement of our goals.
The key to motivation is motive. It’s the “why.” It’s what gives us the energy to stay strong in hard moments. It gives us the strength to say “no” because we connect with a deeper “yes!” burning inside.
If a goal isn’t connected to a deep “why,” it may be good, but it usually isn’t best. We need to question the goal. If it is connected, we need to push our thinking and feeling until we break through and create an open flow between the passion of vision and the goal. The stronger the connection, the stronger and more sustained the motivation.
How am I going to do it? What are the key principles that will empower me to achieve my purpose? What strategies can I use to implement these principles?
Once we create alignment between the “what” and the “why,” we’re ready to look at the “how” The choice of how often boils down to a choice between “control” and “release” styles of thinking and managing. If our paradigm is one of control, we assume that people have to be tightly supervised if they’re going to produce or perform well. If our paradigm is one of release, our assumption is that, given the freedom, opportunity, and support, people will bring out the highest and best within them and accomplish great things.
The way we see others in terms of control or release generally reflects the way we see ourselves. If we have a control perspective, we assume we have to exercise strict control over ourselves if we want to accomplish anything. If we have a release perspective, we see our primary leadership task as creating optimal conditions for releasing inner capacities. If our focus in goal setting is on the endowment of independent will—gut it out, discipline ourselves, do it no matter what—that’s a good indication that our basic paradigm is one of control.
Roger: I said, “Okay, how are you going to show your love?”
“I don’t know. I guess I’ll just look for opportunities.”
“How else?”
“I’m going to invest the time.”
“How else?”
He sighed. “I don’t know. To tell you the truth, I’m scared. I’ve tried before, and it hasn’t worked. Sometimes it seems like the harder I try, the worse it gets.”
We then began to talk about some of the principles that could be applied in his relationship with his son. We talked about trust worthiness—if you want to build a trusting relationship, be trustworthy. Make and keep commitments. Be loyal to those not present. We talked about empathy—seek first to understand. Give respect.
He began to realize that, no matter how desperately he wanted to help his son, his efforts would never be effective as long as he was building the relationship on the illusion that he could control him with good intent—not on the reality that he could release him with principle-centered leadership and love.
Often in a seminar situation, people choose a business instead of a family role. Most have an immediate sense of “what” they feel they should do.
“Increase sales 5 percent this month.”
“Reduce operating costs 3 percent by the end of the quarter.”
“Improve office morale.”
But when we go through the “why” process, the motivations people recognize at first are usually negative, economic, extrinsically focused, or urgent: “If I don’t do it I’m going to lose my job.”
“If I don’t accomplish it, I’m going to lose credibility, and I’ll feel terrible.”
“We have a real problem here that has to be fixed before it spreads.” As we press for deeper answers, we often begin to hear a different story:
“If I do it, I’m going to feel like I really did my job and earned my pay.”
“I enjoy feeling like I did something and provided a quality service to the customer.”
“I actually care about trying to make this world a better place.”
Many businesses are so focused on the economic or physical dimension that they never tap into the deeper motivations. They fail to recognize or address social, mental, and spiritual needs. They don’t let people connect naturally with what they feel in their hearts—their need to love, to learn, to live for something higher than self. And yet this connection is the very source of the energy, the creativity, the loyalty employers seek.
When we get to the “how,” people who choose a business role usually think they just have to “gut it out.”
“Just have to get in there and do it.”
“Have you tried that before?”
“Did it work?”
We then talk together about some of the “true north” principles that could make a difference. We look at principles of interdependence—empathy, honesty, making and keeping commitments, building relationships. We look at principles of shared vision, win-win agreements, and systems alignment. It soon becomes apparent that knowing what to do and even deeply wanting to do it are not enough. The doing has to be based on the principles that create quality of life.
Doing the right thing for the right reason in the right way is the key to quality of life, and that can only come through the power of an educated conscience that aligns us with vision, mission, and true north.
Self-Awareness Empowers Us to Build Integrity
Our trustworthiness is only as high as the balance in our Personal Integrity Account. Because our integrity is the basis of our confidence in ourselves and the confidence we inspire in others, one of the greatest manifestations of effective personal leadership is the exercise of care and wisdom in building a high positive balance in that account.
Primarily, we build it through the exercise of independent will in making and keeping commitments. But without self-awareness, we don’t have the wisdom necessary to manage such an account. We may set our goals too high, turning potential deposits into huge withdrawals when we fail to achieve them. We may set our goals too low, depositing pennies when we could be depositing dollars. We may pass up daily, weekly, moment-by-moment opportunities to make deposits because we’re too busy blaming circumstances or other people for our own failure to achieve our goals.
Self-awareness involves deep personal honesty. It comes from asking and answering hard questions:
* Do I really want to do it?
* Am I willing to pay the price?
* Do I have enough strength to do it?
* Do I accept the responsibility for my own growth?
* Am I settling for mediocrity when I could be achieving excellence?
* Am I blaming and accusing others for my own inability to set and achieve goals?
Self-awareness prompts us to start where we are—no illusions, no excuses—and helps us to set realistic goals. On the other hand, it also doesn’t allow us to cop out with mediocrity. It helps us recognize and respect our need to stretch, to push the limits, to grow. Since much of our frustration in life comes as a result of expectations, the ability to set goals that are both realistic and challenging goes a long way toward empowering us to create peace and positive growth in our lives.
Self-awareness is ear to the voice of conscience. It helps us to recognize that there are principles independent of us, to understand the futility of trying to become a law unto ourselves. It helps us to be humble and open to growth and change, to realize that we are neither omniscient nor omnipotent when we set a goal. To the best of our awareness at the time, out of all the good things we could do, we choose the best thing, for the best reason, and we plan to do it in the best way.
But the situation may change. We may change. And we can’t act with integrity without being open to that change.
Self-awareness empowers us to ask: Am I allowing the good to take the place of the best? The best may be the goal we set. The best may be in the unexpected opportunity, the new knowledge, the new options created by increased understanding. If change is driven primarily by urgency, mood, or opposition, it takes us away from the best. If change is driven by mission, conscience, and principles, it moves us toward the best. To have the self-awareness to know the difference between the good and the best and to act based on mission, conscience, and principles is to make the most significant deposits in our Personal Integrity Account.
Integrity means more than sticking to a goal, no matter what. It’s integrity of system, an integrated process that creates an open connection between the mission and the moment.
How to Set and Achieve Principle-Based Goals
Without principles, goals will never have the power to produce quality-of-life results. You can want to do the right thing, and you can even want to do it for the right reasons. But if you don’t apply the right principles, you can still hit a wall. A principle-based goal is all three: the right thing, for the right reason, in the right way.
Principle-based goal setting involves the full, synergistic use of all four human endowments:
* Through conscience, we connect with the passion of vision and mission and the power of principles.
* Through creative imagination, we envision possibility and synergistic, creative ways to achieve it.
* Through self-awareness, we set goals with realistic stretch and stay open to conscience-driven change.
* Through independent will, we make purposeful choice and carry it out; we have the integrity to walk our talk.
The principle-based goal-setting process is most effective when it includes: 1) setting “context” goals, 2) keeping a “perhaps” list, and 3) setting weekly goals.
1. Setting Long-Term and “Context” Goals
Most people find it helpful to connect weekly goals with the context provided by their mission statement through the use of long-term and mid-range goals. But the terms “long-term” and “mid-range” put these goals into a chronos framework.
While timing may be an important issue, we suggest that other issues such as relationships with people and with other goals and events are better recognized through “context” goals. The term “context” reminds us that personal leadership is not just having a long-range view—it’s having broad-range understanding.
If you organize around your roles, you could keep a page of context goals under each role in your organizer for easy access. The what/why/how format is an effective way to capture these goals. For example, a context goal in your “sharpen the saw” role might look like this:
* What:
* My goal is to maintain a healthy, well-disciplined body.
* Why:
* So that:
* I can have the strength, endurance, and physical presentation necessary to effectively fulfill my missions.
* I can be an example to my children and to others in effective health maintenance.
* I can build my personal character strength.
* How:
* Good nutrition. I will increase my intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates, whole grains, poultry, and fish; I will decrease my intake of sugars, fats, salt, and red meats; and I will eat smaller meals more frequently.
* Physical maintenance. I will do thirty minutes of aerobic exercise four times a week; I will join a basketball league; and I will get seven hours of sleep a night by retiring and rising early.
* Mind/body connection. I will think positive thoughts about my body and health; I will read and attend seminars and workshops to learn more about health.
* Focus. I will attend to specific health problems.
This “what/why/how” format creates an open connection between mission, principles, and goals. As you prepare to set your weekly goals, you can review these context goals to immediately tap into that connection and select a bite-sized actionable piece that will move you toward them.
Looking at a goal in this way reaffirms the interconnectedness of our lives. Although this goal might be considered a “physical” goal and filed under the “sharpen the saw” role, think of how interrelated it is with each of the other dimensions and with all other roles.
For example, most people report that one of the greatest benefits of regular physical exercise is not in the physical, but in the spiritual dimension—the increase in integrity and character strength. The mental dimension—learning more about health, thinking healthy thoughts, and reducing stress—powerfully impacts the effectiveness of this “physical” goal. Exercising with friends or family members can create a rich social as well as physical experience. Increased health empowers us in the physical, mental, social, and spiritual dimensions of all our other roles.
An awareness of this interconnectedness keeps us open to abundance thinking and empowers us to create a powerful synergy among our goals.
2. Keeping a “Perhaps” List
One problem we have in dealing with goals is that often we read a book, attend a seminar, or have a conversation with someone and come away from the experience with an idea of something we really want to do. We’re not ready to set a goal, but we don’t want to lose the idea.
Most of the time, we let it wander around in an already overcluttered cerebral waiting room, floating in and out of awareness, distracting us from the task at hand and causing a vague uneasiness of something not yet done. Or we write it down on a generic “to do” list that collects items faster than they can ever be accomplished, mingles top-priority items with things that don’t matter much, and constantly reminds us of all we haven’t done.
Far more effective is the “perhaps” list, a list kept under each role of things you might want to do. Whenever an idea occurs to you, write it on the “perhaps” list under the appropriate role for future consideration. Writing it here does not mean it’s a goal or a commitment. Perhaps you’ll do it; perhaps you won’t. It’s simply input to be considered for future organizing. Your integrity is not on the line.
Noting ideas on a “perhaps” list diffuses the anxiety and distraction and makes them accessible for future consideration. During weekly organizing, you can look over the list, translate any item you wish to a goal for the week, keep it on the list for future reconsideration, or discard it as not really that important.
3. Setting Weekly Goals
When we set our weekly goals, the “what/why/how” format becomes more a way of thinking about our roles and goals. As we set our goals, we look at each role, and then we pause in that space between stimulus and response to ask:
What are the one or two most important things I could do in this role this week that would have the greatest positive impact?
The answer to this question may be in a feeling or impression that comes as we review our mission and roles. One man shared this experience:
When I review my roles each week, I often get impressions of specific things I need to do, especially in my role as a father. Something will come to my mind regarding a particular child. I find I’m more aware of my children’s individual needs, more sensitive and open to opportunities to make a difference.
The answer may come as a result of reviewing our context goals in each role, or from an insight or idea we put on our “perhaps” list in a particular role during the week. As we review these things, we create an open connection between our deep inner life and our current situation. We create the context that gives meaning to our goals.
Characteristics of Effective Weekly Goals
As you set your goals, keep in mind five characteristics of effective weekly goals:
1. They’re driven by conscience. An effective goal is in harmony with our inner imperatives. It’s not driven by urgency or reaction. It’s not a reflection of the social mirror. It’s something we feel, deep inside, we need to do, and it’s in harmony with our mission and with true north principles. We need to be sensitive to our inner voice of conscience, especially as we select goals in our most unique roles, where we can have the greatest influence. We also need to maintain balance. It’s important to remember that we don’t necessarily need to set a goal in each role each week. There are times of short-term imbalance when wisdom suggests that we make the conscious choice not to set goals in some roles.
2. They’re often Quadrant II goals. The Quadrant II organizing process automatically creates a connection between the “what” and the “why.” As a result, the goals that we select are typically important, but not necessarily urgent. We may also select some Quadrant I goals that are both urgent and important, but we select them primarily because they’re important.
3. They reflect our four basic needs and capacities. Good goals can be about doing in the physical dimension, but they can also be about understanding and being (the spiritual dimension), relating (the social dimension), and growing or learning (the mental dimension). Many of us feel dissatisfied and imbalanced because the goals we pursue are essentially time-bound and physical. To ignore the reality of other vital dimensions is to severely limit our capacity to create meaningful quality of life. It’s also to deprive ourselves of the incredible synergy that can be created among goals.
4. They’re in our Center of Focus. We each have what we call a Circle of Concern that encompasses everything we’re concerned about—our health, a meeting with the boss, a teenage son’s plans for the weekend, offensive magazines on display in a neighborhood convenience store, the President’s foreign policy decisions, the threat of nuclear war.
We also have another circle that usually falls within this Circle of Concern called the Circle of Influence. This circle defines the area of concern where we can actually make a difference. We may not be able to influence the President’s foreign policy decisions or the threat of nuclear war, but we can do something about our health. We may also be able to influence our son’s weekend plans or the neighborhood store’s magazine display.
But the most effective use of our time and energy is generally in a third circle—the Center of Focus.
In this circle are the things we’re concerned about, that are within our ability to influence, that are aligned with our mission, and are timely. To spend time and effort in any other circle diminishes our effectiveness. When we operate in our Circle of Concern, we basically waste effort: on things we have no ability to control or affect. When we operate within our Circle of Influence, we do some good, but what we do may be at the expense of something better. When we set and achieve goals that are in our Center of Focus, we maximize the use of our time and effort.
Interestingly, we find that as we do this over time, our Circle of Influence automatically increases. We find positive ways to influence more people and circumstances.
5. They’re either determinations or concentrations. You may find it helpful to distinguish between determinations—things you’re determined to do, no matter what—and concentrations, areas of pursuit you focus your efforts around. When you set a determination, you put your integrity on the line. This is when it’s vital to follow through, to keep your commitment, to do what you said you were going to do. The only valid reason for not sticking to a determination would be if you became thoroughly convinced—through conscience and deep self-awareness—that the “best” goal you set had for some reason become only “good.” Then, and only then, could you change with integrity.
When you set a concentration, you identify an area where you desire to focus time and energy. You seek opportunities to do it. You move toward it. But you don’t risk your integrity. If you don’t do it, you lose the benefit of the time and energy you invested, but you don’t make withdrawals from your Personal Integrity Account.
Remember, you don’t have to put your integrity on the line every time you set a weekly goal. In fact, it’s important to manage your actual commitments with great care, being sensitive and wise in building the balance in your Personal Integrity Account. But your caution should not keep you from moving forward with purpose.
Confidence and Courage
To set and work toward any goal is an act of courage. When we exercise the courage to set and act on goals that are connected to principles and conscience, we tend to achieve positive results. Over time, we create an upward spiral of confidence and courage. Our commitment becomes stronger than our moods. Eventually, our integrity is not even an issue. We build the courage to set increasingly challenging, even heroic goals. This is the process of growth, of becoming all we can become.
On the other hand, when we exercise courage in setting goals that are not deeply connected to principles and conscience, we often get undesirable results that lead to discouragement and cynicism. The cycle is reversed. Eventually, we find ourselves without the courage to set even small goals.
The power of principle-based goal setting is the power of principles—the confidence that the goals we set will create quality-of-life results, that our ladders are leaning against the right walls. It’s the power of integrity—the ability to set and achieve meaningful goals regularly, the ability to change with confidence when the “best” becomes the “good.” It’s the power of the four human endowments working together to create the passion, vision, awareness, creativity, and character strength that nurture growth.
To access this power is to create the upward spiral that empowers us to continually put first things first in our lives.
Quadrant II Ideas to Nurture The Power of Goals
Use the what/why/how format to set context goals in each of your roles.
Set up a “perhaps” list under each role in your organizer. During the week, write down ideas that come to you for goals you may want to set under the appropriate role. Notice how you feel about putting these ideas on “perhaps” lists. As you plan your next week, refer to the lists for goal ideas.
As you set your weekly goals, pause and connect with conscience. Act on what you feel is most important for you to do in each role.
Think about how you’re using each of your endowments as you set and achieve goals for the week.
Identify each of your goals for the week as a “determination” or “concentration,” At the end of the week, analyze how this differentiation affected your attitude toward the goal, your progress in achieving it—and the balance in your Personal Integrity Account.




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