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by Nan Russell

Exhausted from a six day business trip and facing a five hour flight on a packed, late departing evening plane, my desire was to block out noise from twenty-two high school students seated nearby. Favorites off my play list, and a just purchased mystery by a favorite author, seemed the perfect remedy to soothe my weariness.

So, when the chime sounded to alert passengers we'd reached a cruising altitude where electronic devices could be used, I turned on my iPod. The pull to procrastinate flirted with my longing to relax, tempting me with its rewards. But that novel, tucked in the seat pocket, remain unopened as I reluctantly booted my computer to write the first draft of this column.

In this case, my long-term goal of book authoring trumped my short-term desire of book reading. With the manuscript for my new book, Hitting Your Stride, due to the publisher in weeks, my writing schedule is a self-imposed, non-negotiable discipline. Column writing happens on certain days, manuscript writing and client work on others.

It's true that it's easier to procrastinate, to move today's work to tomorrow's to-do list, and to focus on short-term impulses instead of long-term goals. But people who are winning at working understand that easier doesn't build the habits and self-discipline needed to reach objectives, actualize dreams and live their life's potential.

This concept is crystallized in the words of a Chinese proverb: "If you want to know your past, look into your present conditions. If you want to know your future, look into your present actions."

Still, we rarely pause to consider that it's present day actions that may be hijacking our dreams. For example, credit card splurges on feel-good, non-essential items might give immediate pleasure. Yet those mounting financial obligations can preclude reaching the financial security, freedom, or work flexibility we desire.

Today's actions impact tomorrow's results at work, too. Procrastination and mediocre self-discipline keep people languishing with less than stellar results year after year. Turning on the TV before preparing for tomorrow's presentation may seem a good choice at the time, but it depends on whether you want to indulge yourself now, or increase your chances of winning that assignment later.

Are you content with your work results? Are you happy with your responsibilities, income, or goal achievement? Do you desire something different, or envy people with greater influence or success? If so, perhaps you're trading your short-term gratification for your long-term dream attainment.

Harry Truman summarized the bottom line when he said, "In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves. Self-discipline with all of them came first."

Olympic athletes dreaming of gold make it to practice even when they're tired, overworked or not in the mood, because their bigger passion drives their behavior. People who are winning at working understand the power in their every day actions, too. They manage themselves to do the work, acquire the skill, or obtain the knowledge. Understanding that the tomorrow they get is contained in their actions today, they select those actions wisely.

(c) 2007 Nan S. Russell. All rights reserved.

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