Recently, I was traveling through Arizona with my family and took a few moments to admire the beauty of Oak Creek Canyon. One trail took us underneath a bridge. From the top of the bridge, travelers were provided spectacular views of the red rocks and canyons. My vantage from underneath the bridge provided a different perspective. It’s impossible to see under a bridge while you are crossing it. But those who were crossing the canyon had sufficient trust in the construction to complete the span form one side to the other. Think of today as a bridge that stretches from yesterday to tomorrow. Do you trust that today will connect the lessons learned yesterday to a brighter tomorrow? Your leadership development depends on it.
Instead of speeding across the bridge, take a few moments to answer three questions that will help you make the most of today. Your answers will allow you to look under the bridge and see the structure and support that will help you make the most of every day and move you toward a more meaningful tomorrow. These questions provide a practical guide for increasing your mindfulness.
What is your calling?
Don’t gloss over the word. It’s easy to push thoughts about “purpose” to the side and treat it like an overused personal and professional cliché. Unfortunately, too many people will jettison the importance of purpose today. Don’t fall into that trap.
“I won’t just have a job; I’ll have a calling.” Angela Duckworth, Grit
What will you learn today?
I enjoy crossing bridges, but I don’t particularly like to stop in the middle of a bridge. It’s not that I’m afraid of being on a bridge. It’s more that I recognize that a bridge is a pathway that leads from one side to the other. Crossing a bridge is a dynamic process. So is learning. Today will offer countless opportunities for you to learn. Embrace those opportunities with the curiosity of a child and you will reap the benefits. Learn and grow.
“You can renew your mind and your skills and combine your hard-won wisdom and experience with the naïve brilliance and vitality of a rookie. You can live on the steep side of the learning curve.” Liz Wiseman, Rookie Smarts
Sometimes it’s the unexpected teachable moments that will awaken your awareness and appreciation of the richness of your life. Whether today is a day that yields a surprising revelation or it could be better described as a grind. It will be a part of your process. It’s a bridge to tomorrow.
“We are becoming what we will be” Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy
If you expect to learn something today, you will.
What strategic investments will you make today?
Today has a great deal to offer. But, it’s not exactly free. You will need to engage and invest. You may feel that your daily bridge is getting progressively shorter. You’re not alone. Make a wise investment. You cannot increase time but you can increase impact. Determine that you will be fully present today.
Anxious investors look for an immediate return. The greatest rewards in life and leadership do not come easily, nor do they always produce a rapid dividend. Investment comes with certain amount of tension. Impatience and tension have a strange relationship. You can claim them as virtues or vices. Wrestle with both in order to unleash your capacity.
"The impatient leader might try one of two extremes – avoid tension altogether or blast through tension with near-tyrannical and impetuous demands. Neither leads to sustained growth for you, the leader, or the organization." Jon Mertz, Activate Leadership
Learn to avoid the tyranny of impatient expectation by discerning the proper pace. Find the proverbial golden mean today. You can reject apathy that is cleverly disguised as patience and cultivate a measure of healthy impatience that will serve as a catalyst for positive change.
Finally, remember that today is never just about you. An inordinate focus on what you will receive today will rob you of the greatest leadership rewards. The essence of leadership is giving away what you have received. Don’t cross the bridge alone. Invest in others.