(This post is excerpted from The 5 Coaching Habits of Excellent Leaders.)

Observe all men; thyself most.

– Benjamin Franklin

The most valuable type of knowledge is self-knowledge. Knowing your tendencies, preferences, values, personal limits, natural gifts and weaknesses helps you make the right commitments and keep them.

Aside from personal introspection, a good way to learn about yourself is to capture data on how others perceive you. For example, regularly ask your team what you can “Start, Stop and Keep” doing to help them be successful. You can have a “Start, Stop and Keep” discussion after finishing a project, wrapping up a meeting or during a scheduled review.

Another important aspect of self-knowledge is to have a clearly thought out set of personal values, a few things that are vital to you and reflect your uniqueness.  For example, Lee’s personal values are to respect, serve and equip others. Your values should dictate your decisions and behavior, not your circumstances or fleeting feelings. Being a reliable person not only means doing what you say, it also means doing what is right, regardless of what you have committed to.

Julie recently attended a session to help students prepare for college, and more importantly, for life. The presenter encouraged students to make early decisions about many things going forward, not just the university they choose. Some of these areas included making early decisions about the vision that they have for their future, what it will take to realize their vision and how they will handle difficult decisions. Since similar decisions lie ahead for each of us, making early decisions now can make the future much easier by:

  1. Removing the stress and pressure of making decisions “in the moment.”
  2. Being comfortable that your decisions are aligned with your values and vision for your life.
  3. Ensuring clear thinking about consequences of decisions – good or bad (i.e., consider today what this action/decision will feel like in five hours, five days and five years).

Making early decisions increases the likelihood that you will realize your vision for a project, task, career, family, etc. To this day, Julie honors two early decisions she made in third grade – not to drink coffee or smoke cigarettes. She did not like the smell of the combination of coffee and smoke, so Julie decided to avoid these many years before they were even an option for her. That commitment made it easy to avoid coffee and cigarettes for her entire life. This early decision provided freedom for her and required little thought or energy at future decision points.

In which areas of your life can you make early decisions? Your values, your relationships, your leadership, your faith, your education, your health, your career, your legacy.

It’s never too late to make an early decision. Early decisions help pave the path to your desired future, whether you are in third grade, college or mid-career. Think about the future for you and your team. Make an early decision today to pave a smoother path for tomorrow and to help you become more personally reliable.

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