One of the things that makes successful people different from less successful people is the small decision-making that goes on throughout the day. In fact, highly successful people do things they don’t want to do – sometimes just because they told themselves they would and should.
Certainly, I’m not the only one who ever heard one of my parents respond with “Because I’m the parent, and I told you to – that’s why!” whenever I objected to an assigned task with a whiny “Why do I have to do it?” And, even though it’s one of those “I’ll never do that to MY children” items, I’ve said the same thing to each of my children at least once.
At some point, of course, we have other voices that speak to us about things we should and shouldn’t do, and often those are the voices inside: The voice of reason, the voice of compassion, the voice of intuition, and the voice of the Spirit, that still small voice that is often drowned out by the noise of the world and the din of our own incessant mental dialog.
As I was riding my bicycle this morning along one of the paths here in Phoenix, I was talking to a friend on the phone about the value of exercise. “Even getting on the bicycle and riding it around the block each day is valuable,” I said, “if only because I am breaking habits by doing something I don’t want to do.”
I was pontificating, of course, and continued “Someone wise and dead said that the difference between highly successful people and less successful people is that highly successful ones do things they don’t want to do…I just can’t remember exactly who said that.” Of course, I was saying all that in the context of encouraging my friend to get on their bicycle that day, even if for a short while.
At just that moment, as I went up the short grade from the path to the adjacent street, I saw a cyclist by the side of the street. Their bike was on its side and they were scooping something off the pavement and putting it back into a bag. “Uh-oh, I said to my friend through the Bluetooth headset nestled beneath my helmet. “Looks like someone spilled their backpack onto the pavement.”
As I went past the cyclist on the other side of the street, my inner voice interrupted me: “You should stop and offer help.”
“Yeah, I don’t really want to,” was my instant mental reply.
As I turned the bike around I said to my friend. “Hang on a sec. The hypocrisy of what I just decided in light of what I just told you is quite obvious. I’m turning around to see if the person needs help.”
As I approached the cyclist, who by now was pretty much done picking things up, I said “Hey, everything ok? Can I help?” They looked up, thanked me for offering, but no, and went back to zipping their backpack and righting their bike.
3 things happen
That felt like a failure, but it really was the first step in an increasingly intentional effort to pay attention to “the voices.” The results so far and the results to come are worth it. Here are three:
1. I become better at listening to the inner voices
We all have experienced (and practiced) “selective hearing,” with which we tune out certain sounds and tune in others. That’s how we heard and understood the lyrics to songs our parents couldn’t figure out. That happened with lots of practice. The same is true when listening to inner voices: we simply get better at it the more we set out to do it and … do it, even if our doing is delayed, as mine was.
It’s important to listen to the inner voices because they are the heralds of inspiration, conscience and creativity. Not everything the inner voices say is worthy of action — but all of it is worthy of reflection. The question “Why did I think that?” leads to insight even when the question is not definitively answered.
2. I am more aware of the “other” around me.
Funny how that works — by going and listening inside I actually am better connected with those outside. Perhaps that is because the “inside” is where I find my greatest commonality with others. Differences are primarily external.
When I listen to the inner voices, I’m also increasing my active listening to those around me and THAT’s how I discover what they value. Only then can I begin to creatively step into the third benefit.The inner voices are the mouthpieces for the creative energies that drive entrepreneurial, corporate and even philanthropic success. They are the birth-mothers of the 'next big thing,' the 'killer app' and the genius humanitarian solution.Click To Tweet
3. I am able to step into adding value to others
As part of The John Maxwell Team, I’ve absorbed the vocabulary of my mentor, John C. Maxwell, who has made “adding value” a cornerstone of his philosophy. But John is admittedly not unique in this. Public corporation executives have a fairly clear definition of their duty to “shareholder value” — because the shareholders have made it clear.
When I was directing the branding at what is now CDK Global, the CMO had all of marketing and product marketing focused on a cycle of value discovery, creation and delivery.
The inner voices are the mouthpieces for the creative energies that drive entrepreneurial, corporate and even philanthropic success. They are the birth-mothers of the “next big thing,” the “killer app” and the genius humanitarian solution.
They’re also the “holy nudge” that prompts me to contemplation and action.
As John often tells us, adding value to others in this way takes us way beyond success to significance…and that’s where I want to head.
So, yah. I’m hoping I’m going to hear voices more often. And…I’m going to start paying attention to what they say.
What are the voices in your head saying?