Recession, growth, austerity, surplus--wouldn't it be great if you could always feel like you were winning, no matter what changes were taking place around you?
I'm going to teach you a little exercise I use to cultivate that winning state of mind every day.
The danger for so many people--especially those with big ambitions--is that they measure themselves by their ideals, their notion of how things should be, and this completely blinds them to any progress they've made and the opportunities in front of them. They fall into what I call "The Gap"--the permanent distance between your ideals and where you actually are. Like the horizon, "The Gap" is always there, and it's always moving away from you.
This isn't a theoretical exercise, but a real, day-by-day experience for people who measure themselves that way. They're perpetually discouraged and disappointed, and always judge themselves as falling short of the mark. Needless to say, nobody else measures up to their standards either.
Don't get me wrong: Ideals are absolutely essential. They give you the inspiration to imagine a bigger, better future, then establish goals that will move you toward that vision. When it comes to measuring your progress, though, ideals are no help at all.
If you want to measure your progress in a useful way, look back. Measure from where you started, and you'll immediately be able to see, appreciate, and enjoy your achievements, then build on them.
When you go to bed at night and think back over the day, how do you feel? Are you disappointed and discouraged, or happy and satisfied? About 15 years ago, I realized that how the day went was entirely up to me, so I created a little exercise to make sure I would start and finish each day in the confident, positive mindset that's most useful to me.
Just before I go to bed, I review my day and decide what my three wins were. Regardless of anything else that happened during the day, I had three wins, and I visualize each of them in turn.
The second part of the exercise is to imagine the day ahead and choose what my three biggest wins will be tomorrow.
Doing this lets me fall asleep feeling good about the day I've just had and wake up excited about the day ahead. I go out and try to have the three wins I imagined, but I often have even bigger ones--which just gives me great material when I do the exercise again that night.
What a phenomenal breakthrough to realize that you have absolute say-so about the meaning of your past and your future. You're telling the story about your life--the story you've already lived and the story you're going to live tomorrow. You can strengthen this ability, too, through daily practice, and share it with your spouse, your children, your clientele, and the people you work with: Three wins for today, three wins for tomorrow.
My team and I have developed a free iPhone app called WinStreak to help you make a daily habit of this exercise. Log your three (or more) wins from today, then the wins you want to have tomorrow, and the app will track your winning streak, showing your progress on a calendar. Make this activity a regular part of your day, and you'll have an endless source of confidence, achievement, and satisfaction.