What Are You Thinking?


What are you thinkingWe met John decades ago when he was 12.  He lived with his mom and brother.  He never knew his father.

The family was barely scraping by.

Anne and I did what we could to help the family in various ways, and enlisted the help of some of our friends as well.  At the time we were leading our church youth group.  John began to come along and we ended spending a lot of time together.  Over the course of many years we grew quite close.

We ended up moving from Winnipeg when John was in grade 12.  We stayed in touch after we moved and realized that after high school graduation John was struggling to figure out what to do with his life.  We suggested he move out to BC to live with us and we would help him get through university.

John said “yes”.

So now our 2 preschool sons had a big brother and John began the intimidating adventure of university.  No one in his family had been to school beyond high school – he would be the first.  He decided to go into nursing which is a highly demanding and competitive program.

Anne, who is a teacher, began to work with John to develop the study habits necessary to get through the program.  We also worked with him on the writing skills he would need to do well.  However, before any of this, we sat down with John and talked about his goals and standards of performance.

“What’s your goal for your marks?  What percentage are you working towards?”, we inquired.

I will never forget his answer:

“My goal is to pass.”, he replied.

We began to realize that John had a very low expectation for himself.  He expected to simply pass – 50%.

We helped him realize this was an inappropriate expectation and that he should expect more of himself.  He then needed to apply himself to accomplish his goals.  He agreed and set a 75% average as his goal.

He ended up meeting and even exceeding his goal, graduated, and went on to become an exceptional medical practitioner.  He works with an international NGO on the front lines of health crises like cholera in Haiti, Ebola in Liberia, medical care following the typhoon the Philippines, working in war torn South Sudan, and most recently set up and led a surgical clinic in the middle east.

He is an amazing man who is literally changing the world.  He has changed the lives of thousands of people.   He has been doing so for years.  We are so proud of him.

I believe his journey to changing the world began the day he chose to raise his standards.  He chose to believe he was capable of more.  He chose to think differently.  But more specific than that, he chose to think differently about himself.  He changed what he believed about himself.  Then he changed his behaviors to come in line with his thoughts.

How about you?  What are you thinking?  More importantly, what do you think about yourself?  What standards do you hold yourself to?  Do you hold yourself to high standards, or low ones?

Where in your life and in your leadership do you need to raise your standards and expect more of yourself?  Check what you think about.  Think about your thinking – it’s called “metacognition”.

Your thought life ultimately determines your behaviour.

And, the people you lead are no different.  Part of the job of a leader is to raise the standards of behavior for those you lead.  It would be prudent to find out what your people think about themselves.  What expectations do they have of themselves?  Perhaps you can help them raise their personal expectations from simple “passing” to something they never thought they were capable of.

Great leaders help their people raise the expectations they have for themselves.  That’s simply helping people become aware of what they think about and what they believe about themselves – then encouraging, equipping and empowering them to believe they can be and do more.

Let’s learn from John and change what we think we’re capable of.  Raise your standards for yourself.

What are you thinking?

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Leading and Living on Purpose.