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Posted: October 26, 2009

Stay in the moment—and other rules for success

Don't waste time thinking about yesterday or worrying about tomorrow

Laurence B. Valant

Editor's Note: This is an excerpt from business performance improvement expert Larry Valant's book, "Stop Breaking These Rules! 100 Hard-Hitting Truths for Business Integrity and Performance."

16 - "Better to remain silent and thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt."
- Abraham Lincoln

Many people who are insecure (who lack real self-esteem and confidence) have an almost uncontrollable need to speak up when it is:

a) Inappropriate

b) Not based on facts

c) The sheer result of a need to be noticed

Such behavior invariably is embarrassing to those who are knowledgeable and informed, and who have no real need to gain in-depth understanding from an uninformed point of view, or a need to be noticed; therefore, when in doubt, be quiet.

While most people will not think anyone a fool for remaining silent, many will be singularly uncharitable when ignorant or boorish comments are made that contribute nothing. That is when all doubt is removed, and foolishness is indeed confirmed.

So, a word to the wise should be sufficient, and I will be quiet.

17 - Stay in today.

Without resolve, I find it very tempting to focus on yesterday and the things I could have done differently, or to give my attention to tomorrow and be concerned about how I can make tomorrow turn out well. In the process, I pay too little attention to today and to what I can contribute to this moment and the people in this moment with me.

I have counseled clients and friends who are going through such difficult situations that their fears overwhelm them. At such times, I have reminded them to, "Stay in today! Focus on what you can do today!" This one-day-at-a-time perspective has gotten me and those I know through demanding times.

Adopt a stay in today creed:

• I am given this moment once. I will value today! This moment, this day is precious!

• I will release what happened yesterday. It is beyond my ability to call it back and change it.

• I recognize that what may happen tomorrow is beyond my control.

• I will focus all my energies on today and on the people around me.

While it is important to review and learn from previous actions and outcomes and plan for tomorrow so that I understand what it is I must accomplish and by when, I must never squander this day with time consuming, self-centered thoughts about yesterday or fruitless speculations of tomorrow. I chose to stay in today.

18 - Anger is a manifestation of fear.

If I am afraid, for whatever reason, a possible manifestation of that fear is anger. My anger may be caused by someone's actions that affect me or someone I care about, an injustice, an unwelcome outcome or my own actions - or lack thereof. But the cause doesn't really matter; if I see a different result than I expected, it is entirely possible for me to react with anger.

I might also talk myself into anger. I may take action, and while waiting for the results of those actions, convince myself that the outcome will not be as I expect - even though I do not yet know what that outcome will be.

In these cases, I am using my anger to deal with my uncertainty, which upon close examination is an unhealthy need for control. So my anger is my way of covering up for my lack of control of outcomes and results. In my experience, such anger has never served me well; rather, it has served to create issues and problems that did not need to have existed.

When I can learn to accept outcomes which are different from those I anticipate, I am on the path of personal growth and effectiveness.

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Laurence B. Valant is President and CEO of Valant & Co., a Denver-based business performance improvement consultancy that has worked with almost 300 firms to increase their value by billions of dollars. He is co-author of the hot-selling new book, “Make Plan! With Effective Execution” and now, “Lead and Manage!” Valant can be reached at lvalant@valantco.com or at 303-589-3840. If you want more information or would like to order a copy of “Stop Breaking These Rules! 100 Hard-Hitting Truths for Business Integrity and Performance,” please visit www.valantco.com.

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