Shawn’s Blog

2 Simple Ways to Do Hard Things

We all have moments when we come across something we “have” to do that we don’t want to do, feel like doing, or is just plain hard. What can we do in those moments to not just do the task at hand, but to do it without resentment?

The answers might surprise you.

Step 1: Find your Agency, then ACT

Every single one of us has a gift that God gives us called Agency, or choice. Merrium-Webster Dictionary defines this as “the capacity, condition, or state of acting or of exerting power.” In other words, it is our ability to choose and to act. When we get into these difficult moments, we should stop and find our agency so that we can act through our personal power to improve our situation.

It does not matter how difficult or terrible the situation, there is always a place where agency exists. It is taking the time to find this agency and making a decision that will make all the difference.

The most powerful example of this comes from the life of Victor Frankle. During World War II, Frankle was imprisoned in 3 Nazi concentration camps including Auschwitz. Finding himself in the most awful of circumstances, with Nazis doing strange “scientific” experiments on him, Frankle discovered a truth that can help all of us in our own lives:

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” -Victor Frankl

In Frankle’s case, he chose to be pleasant and kind to his captors, and by doing so won the greater victory.

How does this apply to you and me? Whatever circumstance we find ourselves in, we can take a moment and find our agency, our choice. Often there is much we can do in a given situation. Sometimes there is less we can do, but there is always something we can do. Find that place and live in it.

Powerful motivational speakers and mentors tell people to change their personal phraseology from “I should (task)” to “I must do (task)”. I think a more powerful phrase is “I choose to (task) because (purpose of task).” The difference is we are not forced or compelled to do something; instead, by choosing for a specific purpose we give ourselves perspective, permission, and buy in.

Step 2: Change your Perspective to Find Greater Purpose

I find that the most powerful choice we can make is to change our perspective, which will allow us to change our heart and gives us a purpose.

A perfect example of this was Mother Teresa’s work in India. In her work, she and her nuns would pick up wounded and dying people from the gutters of impoverished areas of India and care for them. This was extraordinarily difficult work. Sometimes the victims had maggots in their infected wounds. How did they do such difficult work? What Mother Teresa told her nuns that when they were cleaning the maggot-infested wounds to imagine that they were touching and cleansing the wounds on the body of Jesus.

One nun came to Mother Teresa in tears of awe and joy, exclaiming, “Mother, I have been touching the body of Christ for 3 hours!” This difficult work became a privilege because the nuns understood that they were doing God’s work. This same perspective allowed Jesus’ disciples to endure difficult challenges, like when the leaders of their nation had them beaten for preaching about Jesus. They went their way “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name” (Acts 5:41).

So the next time you find you have a difficult task ahead, remember these two things:

1) Find your Agency and ACT
2) Change your Perspective to find greater purpose.

To Change your Heart, Change your Perspective

Have you ever struggled to accomplish a task that seems mundane, or accomplish a goal that is hard for you to get behind? Here is the key principle to changing your heart:

(summarized text of video):

Sometimes we struggle to get behind a task or organizational vision. We find ourselves grasping to find the proper motivation that will allow us to flourish. When this happens, we simply need to find a new perspective that will allow us to change our hearts.

A perfect example of this was Mother Teresa’s work in India. She had nuns who would pick up wounded and dying people from the gutters and care for them. This was extraordinarily difficult work. Sometimes those victims had maggots in their infected wounds. What she used to tell her nuns was that when they were cleansing them, to imagine that they were touching and cleansing the body of Jesus and cleansing his wounds.

A short time after hearing this, one nun came to Mother Teresa in tears of joy and awe, saying, “Mother, I have been touching the body of Christ for 3 hours!”

The purpose of this story isn’t to discuss religion as much as it is to understand that by changing your perspective, you can change your heart.

Another example of this principle comes from Dow Hydraulics, where a manager came to me seeking my consulting advice. He said to me, “I’m having a hard time motivating my employees. They sit all day and grind tiny parts to match minuscule specifications.”

I asked him if his employees knew what the part did. He answered that they did not. I asked him what the part was for. He explained that it was an integral part of the landing gear of an aircraft.

I told him, “Hear is what you do: Take your whole crew on a field trip to an airport, preferably where a military family is being reunited. Watch a plane land and the military personnel come out of the plane and embrace their loved ones after years apart. Then turn to them and say, ‘The reason why you are hear is for you to understand that you just brought that person home safely. You made that happen! The part that you grind to meet minuscule specifications is a vital part in the landing gear of that aircraft. YOU BROUGHT THEM HOME! You brought that family back together!”

So remember, when you need to change your heart, simply change your perspective.

2 Secrets to Sustaining Motivation & Momentum


Abridged text of video below:

Sometimes when we start something, we get really, really excited about the future, and then we start walking up the hill and realize we actually have to do work. We have to make phone calls, we have to do tasks, we have to talk to people. And guess what? People sometimes say no! And then we loose our motivation. Has this ever happened to you?

There are 2 ways to get past this.

The first step is your Personal Why. This is something that you create that motivates you. Maybe you are getting married and want to get the right ring, or maybe you want a beautiful home. Maybe your why is making lots of money, or maybe it is about traveling the world; maybe it is becoming the top person in your industry. Whatever it is, take an image of it, find some kind of representation and hang it up on your mirror where you can see it every morning to remind yourself of your personal why.

Once you have your personal why, you think that you are going to take all the steps and conquer, but the reality is that it is only going to take you part way and soon you are going to find yourself falling back. Why? Because you’re really in it for you. That’s the issue with personal why’s that many people have. The thing is people (your clients, customers and co-workers) can tell whether or not you are real. There is Power in AUTHENTICITY. Studies have been done showing that those who are feeling authentic feelings use different muscles in their face and body than those who are faking those feelings. What that means is we need to find  a reason beyond our own selfish reasons!

So, let’s take the next step. The second set is to discover your purpose. Each individual and organization should understand how they fit into society. Peter Drucker taught that you can find your organizational purpose by asking these 2 questions:

1) Why do we exist other than to make money?

2) If we ceased to exist, what would the world miss out on?

A perfect example of understanding your organizational purpose comes from Walt Disney. He took his 2 daughters to the park every Sunday and watched them play on equipment that he could not be a part of. He wanted to find a way to interact with them more fully. He also wanted everyone to have that opportunity. So he created Disneyland. What is the purpose of Disneyland? It is to bring families together and to create family memories.

Find your organization’s purpose. Your organization might be your employer, your department, or even you family. Whatever it is, remember this: Purpose over procedure. That is, your purpose should drive not just your heart and motivation, but what you do and how you do it (procedures). If you lead with purpose, you will work on the right tasks to achieve your purpose instead of wandering in and out of meaningless tasks that lead to nowhere.

Further, when you lead with purpose, those you speak with with feel of your desires to help themThis will open their hearts to what you have for them.

Eventually, leading with purpose will not be enough by itself. When there are awful, hot days, the power of the personal why will sustain you. And once you are with people, focus on tapping into the power of your organizational purpose. Cycle them back and forth, and you will find increased power in every step.

So remember, purpose over procedure, and you’ll find that as you learn to utilize your personal why and your organizational purpose as motivation, you’re going to work your way upward with more power and ease until, before you know it, your at the top!