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How to Get Gutsy

How to Get Gutsy
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    “If you wanna run with the big dogs, you’ve gotta get off the porch.” This was the sage advice given to me some years ago as I considered my first entrepreneurial venture. You’ve got to take risks. Be gutsy. All of which led me to wonder what guts really is. And, more importantly, if you don’t have it, can you get it?

    What is “gutsyness?”

    According to the American Heritage Dictionary, Guts (in our context) is…

    1. Courage; fortitude.
    2. Nerve; audacity.

    To me, “guts” translates to a willingness and ability to embrace risk. What kind of risk?

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    • Risk of trying and failing
    • Risk of exposing your true-self and being judged
    • Risk of losing status, time and money
    • Risk of injury or death, and
    • Risk of…succeeding at whatever it is you are attempting

    Looking at the above list, it’s pretty clear there are activities that require you to take risks that, addressed and embraced, are constructive and have the potential to add to your life. These would include turning a deep interest into a profession, introducing yourself to a potential mentor, client, partner or lover, writing a book or creating a painting for public display.

    Other activities, though, are substantially more likely to require risks that are likely to take away from the quality of your life. Those would be actions that place you in peril. And, while, occasionally justified by extreme circumstances, my focus is more on the willingness to take the day-to-day risks with the potential to enhance your life.

    Guts and genes

    Who hasn’t been in a scenario where you wished you had the guts to do something, but just couldn’t get it together to try? We tend to blame ourselves for “wimping out,” but interestingly enough, a solid chunk of gutsyness is not learned or conditioned, it’s genetic.

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    According to Jungian theory, we all have innate personality preferences or types. If you have kids or know anyone with kids, this is readily apparent. Two kids from the same parents literally come out of the womb with radically different personalities, temperaments and preferences.

    Seeking to create a usable tool to identify genetic personality preferences some 60-years ago, Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers created their Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®). This tool allows you to determine your innate personality preferences. Indeed, you can even take variations of the MBTI® test online today. Give it a shot, it’ll only take 10 minutes. Then, see how close the results come to revealing your deep, dark secret personality traits.

    I was blown away when I took mine. Part of my profile reveals a strong tendency toward introversion, which, for those who have known me for years, is not surprising. But, for those who know me only through business, it’s pretty shocking, since I make my living largely in the public eye.

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    So, genetics plays a strong role in your preference to take the various risk involved in being gutsy. And, according to most, there’s not a whole lot we can do to change that. But, another chunk of gustiness is actually not inherited, but learned.

    Guts and environment

    While we arrive on this planet with a certain attitudes about risk, our interactions, relationships and experiences as we go through life also play a major role in molding just how gutsy we are. The more we risk stepping out of our genetic comfort zones, the more opportunities we have to “learn” about the benefits of being gutsier and then “choose” to take those same actions again in an attempt to get those same feelings that came from our adventure in gutsyland.

    Which begs the question…

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    If you didn’t inherit the gutsy-gene, what can you do about it?

    First, you’ve got to ask yourself, “if I’m not too gutsy, do I really need to change?” The short answer is, it depends. A certain aversion to the risk of injury or death is natural and good. It stops you from being reckless.

    But, if you have an irrational fear of injury, death, judgment, failure or embarrassment or simply an aversion to risk that stops you from participating in the everyday joys of life, that needs attention. Similarly, a certain amount of caution in social situations is fine, but when it engenders a level of fear that stops you from doing things that would add genuine joy to your life, it’s time to do something about it.

    Here’s a three-step approach that’s gone a long way toward moving me past my natural tendency toward introversion and contemplation to regularly taking fairly major risks, both personal and business.

    1. Visualize gutsy action and success. Twice a day, visualize engaging in the activity that would require guts and then succeeding wildly. Make it as vivid and detailed as possible. Use all of your senses. Over time, this really helps to alleviate the anxiety/fear that holds you back. Through repetition, you tend to desensitize your fears and anxieties, while simultaneously reinforcing your belief that, should you take a gutsy action, you will succeed.
    2. Take incremental action. Pick a situation that gives you the opportunity to confront one of your fear-inducers in a controlled, supported, incremental and gentle manner. For example, if you have a fear of speaking in front of people, commit to a small weekly gathering of friends and begin speaking up, rather than scheduling a 20-minute presentation in front of your entire company. Then, begin to commit to events/actions that will allow you to confront your fear in increasingly more exposed situations. This process lets you experience serial success, builds confidence and gets you “incrementally gutsy” over time.
    3. Rinse and repeat. The more-often you engage in this process and succeed, the more you’ll believe in your ability to succeed and the more willing you’ll become to step out of your box.

    Share your experiences, stories and other techniques to help make the transition from gutless to gutsy.

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    Last Updated on July 8, 2020

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    It is easy, in the onrush of life, to become a reactor – to respond to everything that comes up, the moment it comes up, and give it your undivided attention until the next thing comes up.

    This is, of course, a recipe for madness. The feeling of loss of control over what you do and when is enough to drive you over the edge, and if that doesn’t get you, the wreckage of unfinished projects you leave in your wake will surely catch up with you.

    Having an inbox and processing it in a systematic way can help you gain back some of that control. But once you’ve processed out your inbox and listed all the tasks you need to get cracking on, you still have to figure out what to do the very next instant. On which of those tasks will your time best be spent, and which ones can wait?

    When we don’t set priorities, we tend to follow the path of least resistance. (And following the path of least resistance, as the late, great Utah Phillips reminded us, is what makes the river crooked!) That is, we’ll pick and sort through the things we need to do and work on the easiest ones – leaving the more difficult and less fun tasks for a “later” that, in many cases, never comes – or, worse, comes just before the action needs to be finished, throwing us into a whirlwind of activity, stress, and regret.

    This is why setting priorities is so important.

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    3 Effective Approaches to Set Priorities

    There are three basic approaches to setting priorities, each of which probably suits different kinds of personalities. The first is for procrastinators, people who put off unpleasant tasks. The second is for people who thrive on accomplishment, who need a stream of small victories to get through the day. And the third is for the more analytic types, who need to know that they’re working on the objectively most important thing possible at this moment. In order, then, they are:

    1. Eat a Frog

    There’s an old saying to the effect that if you wake up in the morning and eat a live frog, you can go through the day knowing that the worst thing that can possibly happen to you that day has already passed. In other words, the day can only get better!

    Popularized in Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog!, the idea here is that you tackle the biggest, hardest, and least appealing task first thing every day, so you can move through the rest of the day knowing that the worst has already passed.

    When you’ve got a fat old frog on your plate, you’ve really got to knuckle down. Another old saying says that when you’ve got to eat a frog, don’t spend too much time looking at it! It pays to keep this in mind if you’re the kind of person that procrastinates by “planning your attack” and “psyching yourself up” for half the day. Just open wide and chomp that frog, buddy! Otherwise, you’ll almost surely talk yourself out of doing anything at all.

    2. Move Big Rocks

    Maybe you’re not a procrastinator so much as a fiddler, someone who fills her or his time fussing over little tasks. You’re busy busy busy all the time, but somehow, nothing important ever seems to get done.

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    You need the wisdom of the pickle jar. Take a pickle jar and fill it up with sand. Now try to put a handful of rocks in there. You can’t, right? There’s no room.

    If it’s important to put the rocks in the jar, you’ve got to put the rocks in first. Fill the jar with rocks, now try pouring in some pebbles. See how they roll in and fill up the available space? Now throw in a couple handfuls of gravel. Again, it slides right into the cracks. Finally, pour in some sand.

    For the metaphorically impaired, the pickle jar is all the time you have in a day. You can fill it up with meaningless little busy-work tasks, leaving no room for the big stuff, or you can do the big stuff first, then the smaller stuff, and finally fill in the spare moments with the useless stuff.

    To put it into practice, sit down tonight before you go to bed and write down the three most important tasks you have to get done tomorrow. Don’t try to fit everything you need, or think you need, to do, just the three most important ones.

    In the morning, take out your list and attack the first “Big Rock”. Work on it until it’s done or you can’t make any further progress. Then move on to the second, and then the third. Once you’ve finished them all, you can start in with the little stuff, knowing you’ve made good progress on all the big stuff. And if you don’t get to the little stuff? You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you accomplished three big things. At the end of the day, nobody’s ever wished they’d spent more time arranging their pencil drawer instead of writing their novel, or printing mailing labels instead of landing a big client.

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    3. Covey Quadrants

    If you just can’t relax unless you absolutely know you’re working on the most important thing you could be working on at every instant, Stephen Covey’s quadrant system as written in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change might be for you.

    Covey suggests you divide a piece of paper into four sections, drawing a line across and a line from top to bottom. Into each of those quadrants, you put your tasks according to whether they are:

    1. Important and Urgent
    2. Important and Not Urgent
    3. Not Important but Urgent
    4. Not Important and Not Urgent

      The quadrant III and IV stuff is where we get bogged down in the trivial: phone calls, interruptions, meetings (QIII) and busy work, shooting the breeze, and other time wasters (QIV). Although some of this stuff might have some social value, if it interferes with your ability to do the things that are important to you, they need to go.

      Quadrant I and II are the tasks that are important to us. QI are crises, impending deadlines, and other work that needs to be done right now or terrible things will happen. If you’re really on top of your time management, you can minimize Q1 tasks, but you can never eliminate them – a car accident, someone getting ill, a natural disaster, these things all demand immediate action and are rarely planned for.

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      You’d like to spend as much time as possible in Quadrant II, plugging away at tasks that are important with plenty of time to really get into them and do the best possible job. This is the stuff that the QIII and QIV stuff takes time away from, so after you’ve plotted out your tasks on the Covey quadrant grid, according to your own sense of what’s important and what isn’t, work as much as possible on items in Quadrant II (and Quadrant I tasks when they arise).

      Getting to Know You

      Spend some time trying each of these approaches on for size. It’s hard to say what might work best for any given person – what fits one like a glove will be too binding and restrictive for another, and too loose and unstructured for a third. You’ll find you also need to spend some time figuring out what makes something important to you – what goals are your actions intended to move you towards.

      In the end, setting priorities is an exercise in self-knowledge. You need to know what tasks you’ll treat as a pleasure and which ones like torture, what tasks lead to your objectives and which ones lead you astray or, at best, have you spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

      These three are the best-known and most time-tested strategies out there, but maybe you’ve got a different idea you’d like to share? Tell us how you set your priorities in the comments.

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      Featured photo credit: Mille Sanders via unsplash.com

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