Every day is a battle whether we want to recognize it or not. It is when werecognize it as such, and have mastered the fight, that we can win. But, if we don't fight, we can't win.
If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. - Sun Tzu
Our days are not a sequence of events and situations that just happen to us. In fact, they are much more controlled and less formidable than some of us think. To influence the outcome of every day, you need to understand how to master your three main interactions with: environment, people, and self.
1.Interaction with Environment
Our environment has a significant influence on us. It can make us more productive, happier, and more successful. And as easily, it can have a negative effect on us. In some instances, you may be able to change your environment to influence the outcome and in others you can’t. But even when you can't, the mere recognition of the fact that a particular aspect of your environment is influencing you can help you control how you react to it. Following are some examples.
Clutter. Is your car cluttered? Clean it. Many of us spend more than an hour in car every day. Cluttered or dirty car can negatively influence your mood by the time you get to work. In fact, it can condition you to not think clearly. Although our things are often a reflection of our inner selves, changing our things has the potential to change us—how we feel and how we perform. You may think it’s insignificant, but it’s not. Clutter subconsciously makes you feel not in control of your life because it is in control. Learn to recognize that you are in the driver’s seat and take control. You may be pleasantly surprised how a clean car can help you positively start your workday. De-cluttering your life (car, home, or office) is a battle with our human hoarding instincts.
Clothes. Do they discomfort you in any way? Change them. Many of us tend to attach emotions to clothes and can be seriously affected by them. When you thinkyou look good, you will feel good, and in return you are likely to perform better. Every morning, consider consciously selecting your clothes and pay attention to the reasons behind your choices. Changing your wardrobe or dressing up with a purpose every day is a battle with the closet inertia that many of us have for one reason or another.
Email. Do you have many unread emails in your inbox? Schedule the time to read them (if you plan to read them) or mark them 'read' or just delete them (if you do not intend reading them). I have noticed over the years that the majority of employees, whose email inboxes are filled with hundreds or even thousands of unread emails, tend to be more stressed and are prone to inconsistent performance. You see, every time you look at your inbox that has a high number of unread items, you subconsciously self-inflict stress and worry—“Have I missed anything important?”, “Is someone waiting for my response?”, or “Do they think I am not paying attention?” Some of us even have bad dreams because of it. People who know how to manage email (on a daily and hourly basis) feel more balanced and in control of their lives. Consider adopting David Allen’s 2-minute rule to email processing. Managing email is a battle with procrastination.
2.Interaction with People
Conversations. Do you like to talk and be the center of attention? Just stop. Instead,listen more and learn to ask questions. If you think that your eloquence and eagerness to speak are viewed positively, think again because they are likely perceived as arrogance and disrespect. Also, resist the temptation to talk about your talents or to market them constantly. Instead, let people discover them. Humility is a virtue. Being humble is a battle with your ego.
Confrontations. Do you tend to avoid confrontations? Resist this natural pull. Confrontations are normal aspects of any personal and business relationship. Any attempts to try to avoid dealing with them could be perceived as cowardliness or slipperiness. Instead, expect confrontations as you would expect different points of views. Always focus on facts, respect others’ feelings, speak tentatively, and never accuse. Accepting the view of confrontations as a tool for problem-solving is a battle with your fear of rejection.
Presentations. Are you afraid of “the stage”? Relax, so do most people. I heard it say that most of us would rather be in our own coffins than give a eulogy at a funeral. Yet, in today’s business environment, it’s almost impossible to find a job where you would not be in front of a group of people making a presentation. Ample practice and visualization of the presentation act before the presentation day are the keys to reducing the anxiety and increasing self-confidence. I am an introvert, and these two techniques helped me tremendously. Interestingly, having occasional mishaps with presentations are also seen as authentic and favorable because most people naturally relate to this. So, don't worry too much about needing to be perfect. Not avoiding public speaking opportunities is a battle with disbelief, a habit of telling yourself that you can't do it or that the worst will happen.
3.Interaction with Self
Emotions. Do you have a short fuse? Replace it with a long one. While we may not be able to prevent the feelings that cause many of our negative emotions (e.g., anger, fear, frustration, anxiety, alarm), we can definitely learn how to control them. First, identify the situations that evoke your negative emotions. Then, try to either shift your focus or modify your response. For instance, when being accused of something, instead of firing back with “You are wrong”, take a deep breath and say, “Can you help me understand…?” Or, when disagreeing with something, replace "I disagree" with "Could I share my point of view?" Likewise, don't say, “I don't care about X”, but instead say, “I am more focused on Y…” And above all, remove your negative body language—no folding of arms, no clenched fists, no fidgeting, no rubbing throat, and no movement of crossed leg. Controlling your emotions is a battle with your particular human nature and cognitive wiring.
Motivations. Do you expect others to motivate you? Don't waste your energy or you will be disappointed. Instead, take control by considering some of the following: visualize your successful self every day, develop a habit to read books, commit to regular cardio workouts, practice quiet time, create and follow your own morning routine, etc. For instance, my morning routine consists of an early morning cardio exercise, making fresh grapefruit juice, reading inspirational material, and visualizing a successful day while reviewing my calendar. If I skip this routine, I tend to feel demotivated and down. Establishing and keeping such self-motivating routines is a battle with denial, a state of mind that suggests that either you don't have a problem or that the solution isn't going to help you.
Attitude. Do you tend to act as “glass half-empty?” Change your attitude! Your attitude can determine your success or can create the foundation for your failure. It shapes how you react to events, people, and the world in general. Your attitude toward an object is your chosen perception of the object based on the initial value you placed on it. The key word here is “chosen.” We consciously choose to see obstacles as either barriers or hurdles. We consciously choose to see our mistakes as failures or lessons. We consciously choose to see difficulties asproblems or challenges. Our chosen attitude can control our emotions and can also become our motivation. If you tend to use these phrases, you have chosen a negative attitude: “I am concerned about…” or “I worry that…” When confronted with a difficult situation, instead of saying, “I have a problem,” try to say, “I have an opportunity.” Consciously choosing a positive attitude is a battle with many things: fear of failure, risk aversion, inertia, and others.
To put a spin on Winston Churchill's quote, some people dream of success while others wake up and fight for it. Learning to understand and deal with your physical and social environments, and most importantly yourself, can help you overcome the many unfavorable perceptions, negative pulls, and undesirable tendencies to be able to succeed in your endeavors and not fear the result of many battles.
Finally, as you may have already noticed from the above, it turns out that the difference, in which really successful people master their interactions with the environment, people, and self, lies in mastering just one thing—yourself.