If You Want to Be a Courageous Leader, Do These Three Things

Team NLC Tips

From an early age, we’re told that if we work hard, we’ll be successful, and if we’re successful, we’ll be happy. But according to positive psychology researcher and bestselling author Neil Pasricha, that model is backwards. Neil says that being happy is what leads people to do great work, and great work creates success.

Be Happy > Great Work > Big Success // Neil Pasricha at NLC's 2020 Leadership Conference

Neil believes this so much that he’s dedicated his life to studying happiness, writing books about how to be awesome and helping leaders be more courageous.

At the Nonprofit Leadership Center’s 2020 Leadership Conference, Neil shared three tools to help everyone lead courageously. You can implement these practical and tactical tips immediately into your everyday life to become a better leader now.

1. Start your day with a two-minute morning.

Raise your hand if you sleep within 10 feet of your phone. Ten inches is probably more like it. The majority of people sleep beside their phone, compelling most of us to start our day by immediately turning on our screen and looking at information on our phones rather than being truly intentional about the day ahead.

Neil suggests moving your phone out of your bedroom (use your watch or a real clock for your alarm) and replace it with a notebook to start your day with two minutes of intention.

What is a two-minute morning?

Every morning when you wake up, write down these three things:

  • I will let go of ______________.
  • I am grateful for __________________.  (Make sure this is specific. For example, not just “I’m grateful for my family,” but “I’m grateful for eating breakfast together as a family today.”)
  • I will focus on ____________________. (Research from the University of Florida shows that the average person makes 200 decisions per day. The cognitive load on our brains is too much. Carve out one thing from your endless to-do list to complete first, and bonus points for doing the annoying things that we often put off, first.)
Neil Pasricha shares his two-minute morning routine at NLC's 2020 Leadership Conference

We’re awake for 1,000 minutes per day. Take two minutes to be intentional about the other 998 minutes you’re awake.

2. Have a weird hobby.

As human beings get really good at one thing, it is harder for us to do other things better. When you do the same thing over and over again, it can be hard to see other ways to do things. That’s why Neil suggests taking up an unusual, weird or strange hobby. Bird watching? Knitting? Badminton anyone?

Research shows that Nobel Prize winners are 23 times more likely to have a strange, unsual or weird hobby outside their scientific discipline. Now is the time to do something you’ve never done before that you’re not good at yet. If you’re getting good at what you’re doing, add something you aren’t good at to increase your learning rate.

3. Go untouchable.

Disappear from all digital devices and anything that plugs into the wall or has a screen for a minimum of one hour before bedtime. Instead, read 20 pages of a book (yes, a real one) that takes you away (books on leadership or your area of expertise don’t count). Reading literary fiction opens up empathy, compassion and understanding, while not looking at a screen will help you sleep better.

“The goal is not to be perfect; it’s just to be a little better than before.”

Neil Pasricha
Neil Pasricha at NLC's 2020 Leadership Conference

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