September 2012

Well, here we are, the final blog for this year. I hope that if you celebrated the Christmas holiday, it was merry and bright. I also hope you got the greatest Christmas gift in the world: something you liked.

Why is that the greatest Christmas gift? Because if you like it, it means you don’t have to return it!

Americans return a lot of gifts. According to the New York Times, they returned almost $260 billion dollars of gifts in 2014 alone.

If you’re a business owner, returns can be a bad thing – or a good thing. If someone comes into your shop to return a gift, that’s money you’re losing. But if that person then heads back into the store to find something better, that’s money you’re making.

The value of a return depends on your perspective.

Over the last two weeks I’ve shared with you about the need for reflection. We’ve paused to examine both relationships and responsibilities, because who you spend time with and what you spend time doing are the primary factors in determining the return you see for your efforts.

So today, in the final blog of 2016, I want to help you take a look at those returns, so you can figure out where you have room to grow in 2017.

What did I accomplish this year?

The starting place for reflecting on your returns is figuring out just what you achieved over the past twelve months. If you’re like me, you begin each year with a list of goals that are meant to keep you accountable. Sit down with that list and make a note of which of those goals you accomplished. Then add any other accomplishments that weren’t on your goal list, but happened nonetheless.

If you’re not like me and don’t have a complete list from the beginning of the year to work from, then take a few minutes to sit down and create a complete accomplishment list now. It might be helpful to divide it into three sections - home, work, and dreams. Don’t shortchange any accomplishment, even if you feel like it’s too small to make the list. Write each one down as it comes to you, no matter how big or small it may seem.

Which of those accomplishments mattered most to me?

This question may seem out of place, but it’s essential for your next step of growth. Knowing what energizes you is good, but knowing what gives you fulfillment is even better. Go back over your list of accomplishments and ask yourself which ones mattered the most to you. Not necessarily which ones were the most successful or even which ones mattered the most to other people; which ones connected with you in a way that was highly satisfying?

The results may surprise you. Sometimes things catch us by surprise because they reveal our growth in key areas. And some things are just so much fun for us that we want to do them more! When your growth areas begin to line up with those areas where you’re having fun, then you’re on your way to finding your sweet spot.

How can I build on those accomplishments next year?

The final question to consider is how you might do more of what satisfies you next year. This requires more than a few minutes of reflection; for me it takes several days of just mulling over those accomplishments that mattered most to me and looking for patterns and clues within them.

For example, if the accomplishments that mattered most to you were related to being a better parent, you know to continue to prioritize spending time with your children and family. As you prepare for 2017, you can plan special events, family outings, or even quiet days at home, in order to spend more time with the people who matter most to you.

By spending a few days at the end of 2016 on this exercise, you will begin developing a plan to do more that matters in 2017. The key to building on what you accomplished this year is intentionality.

I hope that as 2016 comes to a close, you’ve been encouraged to spend time reflecting on your year. Whether your goal for 2017 is growth in your relationships, your responsibilities, or your returns, the key is all about setting yourself up for success with a thorough look back. After all, experience is not necessarily the best teacher – evaluated experience is.

Here’s wishing you a very happy new year.

Do you know anyone who likes being busy? Someone who enjoys nothing more than juggling items on their to-do list?

I’ve met people like that before, people who connect their self-worth to the number of items in their calendar or the different hats they may wear. And while all of them were busy, not all of them could say they were productive.

In fact, most of them said the opposite.

For all the pride they took in being busy – in feeling needed – they also struggled with the sense that they didn’t get nearly as much done as they should. The responsibilities they were juggling were diminishing their effectiveness instead of highlighting it.

This month, I’m writing about three areas for reflection that can set you up for success in 2017. Last week I wrote about reflecting on your relationships, and this week I’m writing about reflecting on your responsibilities. As you head into the new year, it’s crucial to understand one of my favorite leadership lessons:

The secret to success is determined by your daily agenda.

I want to help you make progress in the coming year by clearing away some responsibilities for which you shouldn’t be responsible. So grab a pencil and paper or open up a new note on your phone. We’re going to make a list and check it twice as we answer three questions for reflection on responsibilities.

What responsibilities did I assume?

The first place to begin is to figure out what responsibilities you took on over the year. There are some, like being a spouse or a parent or an employee, that you have because that’s part of your role in those areas. These are easy to identify. But there are other responsibilities that go under the radar – things that you take on out of a sense of duty or opportunity - like carrying someone else’s weight at work, or being an emotional sounding board for a friend.

These are the responsibilities that tend to accumulate and choke out your energy and passion. You often take on these responsibilities because you want to help others, but in the end, they become more of a hindrance than a help. It is crucial that you list these out alongside the larger responsibilities you hold. Everything from coaching soccer to taking out the trash should make your list.

I recommend writing this out to help you see things with perspective. Staring at a list of important and not-so-important responsibilities forces you to begin prioritizing. Which also leads you into the next two questions for reflection.

Which responsibilities could someone else have done?

This is a simple enough step, but it’s crucial to helping you get better. Look at your list of responsibilities and put a check mark next to those that another person could do. Whether it’s feeding the cat or changing copy toner at work, if the job can be completed by someone else, it gets a check mark. Once you’ve gone through the entire list, take a moment to count the check marks.

I’m willing to bet that there are more than you thought there would be. Each one of those checks is a potential responsibility that you can give away to someone else, but more than that, each check mark is a responsibility you don’t have to carry if you don’t want to. People often shoulder burdens because they feel they have to, when the truth is that someone else can carry that burden just as well – if not better. And that brings me to the third question.

Which responsibilities should someone else have done?

This is where you get to the really good stuff. I want you to go back through your list, and look only at the checked items. Of the ones with a check mark, which ones are better handled by someone else with more time, more skill, or more knowledge?

In other words, which responsibilities need someone else at the wheel?

When you find a responsibility that someone else should handle, underline it. As you review your list once more, I promise you’ll find more than one responsibility that not only can go on someone else’s plate, but should go on someone else’s plate – and off of yours.

At the end of the day, this list is only helpful if you actually do something with it. I strongly recommend finding someone to take over several of the responsibilities you underlined. Chances are good that responsibility will be a growth step for that person, even as it’s a relief to you.

If you worry that giving up responsibilities will make you look lazy, I have good news for you. Channeling your freed-up time into those responsibilities that only you can do will prove just how productive you can actually be! Letting go can actually be the first step to the greater responsibilities you desire.

I’ll be back next week for the final post in this series, but until then, what are some of the responsibilities you think you need to let go of heading into the new year?

It’s December, and as the holiday season swings into full gear, chances are you’re getting ready for a party or two. Now, I love parties. I enjoy getting to spend time with the people closest to me, and to connect with new friends. But some parties are more fun for us than others. We look forward to them for weeks, and we’re energized after they end.

Then there are the other parties. The ones we don’t look forward to as much. Some of them, we even dread. And when they’re over, we feel drained. Those parties can end up feeling more like an obligation than a joy.

What is the difference between the two types of parties? In my experience, the first group is filled with people we really enjoy spending time with. The second, not as much.

Now, sometimes a holiday party list can be symbolic of all of our relationships. Which relationships fill us with energy? Which ones drain us? Which interactions do we look forward to? Which do we dread?

This week’s post is about reflecting on our closest relationships. Perhaps no other type of reflection will benefit you more for 2017. As author and speaker Jim Rohn once said, a person is the average of the five people he or she spends the most time with.

My friend, I agree with Jim Rohn, that whoever gets your time shapes your life.

So, here are three essential questions to ask about your closest relationships. Their answers help you determine the way each person lives life. If the people closest to you don’t live in a way that aligns with your own life in these three areas, you need to take a closer look at how much time and energy you give to those relationships.

The Thinking Question: What kind of thinking do they exhibit?

There’s a great verse in the Bible that says, “As a person thinks, so they are.” A person’s thinking is the first question I consider when reflecting on our relationship. You see, there are three types of thinkers: abundance thinkers, realistic thinkers, and negative thinkers. The first two types see life through a lens of possibility. Abundance thinkers always expect and pursue the best possibility. Realistic thinkers have the ability to see all possibilities, weigh them equally, and pursue the best one for the situation.

The third type, the negative thinker, sees only the worst possible outcome of any situation. They’re like Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh: even if the sun is shining, they’re worried about the effects of too much solar radiation. They have a hard time pursuing positive possibilities because they just don’t see them.

Thought processes matter a great deal, so as you look at the people closest to you, ask yourself: Are they positive, realistic, or negative? If you’re not sure, consider the results of their thinking. Do they regularly pursue possibilities, or are they somehow stuck worrying about negative outcomes? We tend to mimic the thinking of the people we spend the most time with, so it’s important to be around positive and realistic thinkers.

The Value Question: Do they add value or subtract value?

Adding value is one of my most important goals in life. I see it as my calling. But I also recognize my need to spend time with people who add value to me. Those people are others-focused; they look for ways and opportunities to add value to others.

People who only subtract value are like a cell phone with a bad battery: they constantly need someone else to charge them up. They extract energy, hope, joy, dreams and other good things from the people around them, because they don’t cultivate those qualities within themselves. Spending time with them feels like a constant drain on your energy.

So ask yourself about the people closest to you: Do they tend to add value to me at least as much as I add value to them? Or do they mostly take from me? You can’t sustain a life of growth if you’re constantly giving your life to someone else. So while you can’t completely avoid people who drain you, you need at least as much time spent with those who recharge you.

The Action Question: Do they do what they say?

The final question I want you to consider is all about action. I like football, and one of my favorite things to watch during a close game is the sidelines. I know it sounds silly, but you learn a lot about a team when you watch the players who aren’t in the game.

If a team is close-knit and pulling toward the same goals, you’ll see the players on the sideline bouncing, chattering, equipment at the ready just in case they’re needed in the game. If a team is falling apart, the sideline players will be slumped on the bench, lost in thought, completely disinterested in the action on the field.

My friend, you want to spend the most time with people who do things with their lives. People who are more than talk, who are always ready to jump into the game and pursue a win. So the question you need to ask is: Do the people I’m closest to take action on what they talk about? Idea people are good, but ideas without action are useless. People who follow through show you who they really are – through the things they are committed to, passionate about, and willing to work towards.


It may be too late to bail out of some of those Christmas parties, but each one is only one night out of your life. For the next 365 days, I want to challenge you to spend the most time and energy on relationships that energize and add to your life. Don’t be afraid to pull back from unhealthy relationships, or to eliminate them altogether. To reach your potential, you need more people in your life who are pulling for you, than on you.

(Now, I understand that some relationships in our lives are more permanent than others. You can’t – and shouldn’t – eliminate every draining relationship. But you can put healthy limits on them in terms of your time, energy, or conversation. I believe it’s possible to love and serve everyone, while reserving your inner circle for those who help you be your best.)

Next week, I’ll share some things to consider as you reflect on your responsibilities. But for now, I’d love to hear other questions you might suggest to someone who needs to reflect on their relationships.