Have you ever noticed how some leaders are unhappy with their lives? People who lead consistently see the way things are, and they point the way to how things could be and should be. If you lead well, it means that you see problems. It also means that you see the opportunities for change to happen from those problems. As my friend Nathan said, “I want to encourage you to be a problem solver, not just someone who finds the problems in society.” We already have plenty of problem identifiers in our culture. Why not create solutions for problems?
When we are looking at the problems around us, we often become consumed with the problems to the point of obsession. Our brains are wired to see problems. If you’re not careful, you might move to a point in life where you really only have “problem brain.” This is what happens when your brain only identifies problems, but you don’t provide space for solutions to occur. It is easy to see how you can become unhappy very quickly.
In the book Boundaries for Leaders, Henry Cloud teaches a practical principle for how to move past only seeing problems, only focusing on the negative, and feeling like things can never really change. Here is the principle:
As a leader, you always get what you create and what you allow.
You have ownership over your life. Now, your life very well may be filled with problems, but only focusing on the problems is most likely not going to create the results you want (unless your goal is to be negative and cynical in which case you might stop reading this as we’re talking about creating a positive, happier life in this post.)
In August of 2016, I opened my business. The first year of business is hard. Don’t let anybody tell you differently. I would often obsess over things that were out of my control, and in so doing, sometimes become paralyzed by all the things that I determined “wouldn’t happen.” Then, I would be reminded that I could focus on the inputs that lead towards outcomes. When I focused on the inputs, I saw more positive results. It seems simple enough, but my brain like your brain is drawn towards problems and the things out of my control. It is easier to focus on the outcomes, and the daily things out of your control rather than your inputs. Your inputs are what lead towards your success.
Over the past month, I’ve had the honor of walking with 2 groups I am coaching – one in Downtown OKC, and one in Edmond. It is a 6 week course called Lion Leader, and the endeavor is about creating the results you want in life. We don’t play blame games, make excuses, or allow toxic thinking to limit us from what could be possible in our lives. I have loved seeing how the principles of ownership are making shifts that lead towards quick results in their lives.
Here is a big idea that drives the Lion Leader process. If my brain is drawn towards what is wrong, then how I approach life, work, and friendships needs to be strong enough to create the results I want. Part of that has to do with creating boundaries on my thinking, my actions, and my decisions. When people hear boundaries, they often think only of restriction. These boundaries restrict the negative, and unleash the positive. The boundaries are a reminder to me of the kind of life I want to create, and the person I am choosing to be. Here are the four areas we want to see every Lion Leader experience in their own life.
1. Love Hard. I believe you and I were made to love and to be loved. You can problem solve all day long, but don’t forget to bring your heart along in the journey. Don’t become so disconnected from the people you lead, that you don’t actively love them. Sometimes loving hard is listening well. Sometimes loving hard is encouraging and inviting, or it could look like vulnerability. Sometimes loving hard is challenging. When you love hard, it unlocks you to give and receive in ways you would never otherwise experience.
2. Live Full. This is a commitment I have to make, because my brain can easily run towards what can’t be done. Some people tell me I am encouraging all the time. Well, my brain is drawn towards problems just like anyone else’s brains, but I do try to focus on the positive. Living full to me is bringing all of myself to what I am doing. It is amazing what is possible when a room with just a few “can-do” people set their minds and hearts towards what is in front of them.
3. Lead Strong. For some people, this is the image of someone with the corner office on the top floor. To me, a person who leads strong is someone who commits to facing the demands of reality, and will do what needs to be done to get things done. This is a person who believes humility, courage, and kindness still have a place. Strong leaders are people leaders who remind the people around them how important they are. Sometimes leading strong looks like a smile and a non-anxious presence in the room, and sometimes leading strong is a person in tears about an injustice or hurt they or someone on their team is facing.
4. Laugh Often. Have some fun. We commit every week to do things that are fun, because I’ve found a lot of people won’t have fun unless they commit to doing something fun. It is easier to identify problems, focus on the negatives, or just work themselves to death. I get it. There are a lot of problems in the world. If you open your eyes to it, there are a lot of great things happening. Enjoy life, and laugh often. It is a short journey.
Creating change is possible, and the path of change can be enjoyable if you choose how you will face what you face. I hope when you see the problems in front of you, that you find solutions to them.