Do you want to stand out or be an also-ran? The choice is yours. It was a cold wintery day of December 2012 when something inside me changed as a leader. I was traveling to New York to deliver a session that came unexpectedly just before the holiday season.
After exiting the airport, I was lucky to find a cab soon. The cab driver greeted me with a huge smile, welcomed me to New York and asked me my name as she put my luggage in the trunk. As I entered the cab, I was impressed with the cleanliness on the inside. She offered me bottled water and some chips, all complimentary.
Throughout the journey, she spoke with great enthusiasm. And as we conversed, I was thinking to myself, ‘How is she so happy on this Christmas eve, driving a taxi when everyone else is enjoying with their family?’
As my hotel came, I paid her more than the taxi fare and asked her the secret to her happiness. She looked at me, smiled and said, “Some years back I was leading a hand-to-mouth life, waiting in line at airports, struggling to find customers and competing with other taxi drivers in the area. Then one day, I heard a talk show on the radio and what stuck with me was an inspirational line that said: ‘You can choose either to quack like a duck and complain all your life or to spread your wings and soar up high like an eagle.’”
That day onwards, she said, she made a conscious choice to spread her wings and fly up high like an eagle. “I changed myself internally, and that brought about changes in my actions and in my external world. Today I no longer stand in line for customers. My clients have my card, and they call me when they need a ride.”
As she waved me goodnight and drove away, I could clearly see how she had changed her results. She had consciously awakened the leader within and led herself to success.
Each of us can spread our wing and fly high like an eagle. Yet in reality, only a few of us manage to fly high. For most of us, getting through our day is a challenge. This is because your leader within isn’t active. You aren’t able to lead yourself. This is why negativity overtakes our thoughts. We become remote controlled in the hands of people and circumstances.
Our culture and the corporate world teach us to lead our teams, family, business and clients. However, these are secondary. First, you’ve got to lead yourself. Lead your emotions, your feelings, your actions, energy, and thinking. You’ve got to awaken the leader within you.
It’s said that one day, Frederick the Great of Prussia was walking on the outskirts of Berlin when he encountered a very old man walking ramrod-straight in the opposite direction.
“Who are you?” Frederick asked his subject.
“I am a king,” replied the old man.
“A king!” laughed Frederick. “Over what kingdom do you reign?”
“Over myself,” was the proud old man’s reply.
Each of us is “monarch” over our own lives. We are responsible for ruling our actions and decisions. If you do not lead the self, you will struggle to guide others.
Let me share here with you three ways to awaken the leader within you and lead yourself to success. Once you practice these, you will begin seeing the change in your results.
1. Develop a Blueprint
Martin Luther King spoke to a group of students at Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia on 26 October 1967. He started off his speech with an impactful question: What is your life’s blueprint?
We all have a blueprint. A blueprint is simply a story, belief, or strong desire about how our life should be in any specific area. Think about it, why do so many people say they’re going to do something and then never follow through? Whereas a few people do something inside their head and heart that gets them to follow through.
Why aren’t people taking action? What makes some people excited to progress in business while others are pulling themselves each day? The answer lies in their blueprint.
But many of us today just drift along and let life happen to us. Are you living the life you want or are you’re simply going through the motions as you try to gain the approval of others? The best resources, opportunities and outer factors will do no good if the blueprint is not enriched. A clear blueprint is like a GPS that guides you towards your destination.
2. Pay Attention to Patterns
In my role as a speaker and executive coach, I spend a lot of time studying other leaders around the world—both past and present. In my studies, I typically look for two different kinds of patterns: patterns that lead to success and patterns that lead to failure.
Do you find yourself caught in specific loops in life? Are there situations that keep happening which you can’t help but wonder “Not again!” or “Why me”?
The answer to this lies in our patterns. Pause for a moment and think about your patterns. Are you obsessed with perfection? Do circumstances and people upset you? Are you always looking for problems? Do you make goals and achieve them? Do you read? Begin to recognize your patterns and upgrade them.
3. Practice Silence
There’s something I value now in my life more than I ever did in the past—it is silence. Every leader must practice the art of silence. As everything on the outside gets faster, scarier and more demanding, I urge you to take refuge on the inside for clarity, concentration, and coherence.
Make it a practice to stay in the moment, realizing that the past no longer exists and the future is not something to be anxious about.
By developing internal silence, you build a sheltered cove within yourself, a place of stability from all the busy-ness that takes place around you.
Today, awaken the leader within you. Lead yourself out of negativity and small talk. Lead yourself toward motivation and success. Those who do not awaken their inner leader will at all times be at the mercy of people and circumstances.
Success begins and ends with YOU.
A version of this article first appeared on Thrive Global.
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