6 Keys to Personal Effectiveness

Nathan A. Cunningham
4 min readJul 16, 2023
Photo by Andreas Weilguny on Unsplash

Robin Sharma’s writing captivated me with this quote some years ago.
I still think about this principle often.

Change is hard in the beginning, messy in the middle, and gorgeous at the end.

I find myself regularly at the beginning. A life motto I keep going back to is that to make progress you have to start over. To take on a beginners mindset. So if Sharma is right, and I think he is, lots of our pursuits in life, and for that matter our life itself, will be hard and messy.

So what do we do when its hard and messy? How do we remain effective and productive? Lately for me it’s been about reinforcing and rebuilding the routines and habits (the rails if you will) that have helped me get unstuck and stay unstuck.

Recently I came across these these 6 reminder-worthy keys to maintaining a cadence of success and thriving (to “sustain your A-game”) from Sharma which I’m regurgitating here in my own words and seeking to apply.

  1. mind your mindset — as someone even wiser once said “For as he thinks within himself, so he is” — Proverbs 23.7. “Thinking within oneself” here literally means — to reckon in your soul. To consider it so. Our view of how we’ll act and interact in the physical world outside ourselves begins on the inside. In our mindset.
  2. clear the clutter and barriers — we can’t move forward effectively when laden down with burdens and constraints. We have to get rid of the clutter — whether in our mind or perhaps even in our garage, basement, or workspace. We need to figure out how to get around or eliminate the blockers we have to moving ahead. Are there toxic people we need to distance ourselves from? Perhaps some nagging character issues, un-forgiveness, or unresolved conflict etc. that we need to deal with?
  3. walk with the wise — if we want to be successful, we should hang around wise people and learn from them. There is research to back up that we are influenced and become most like the people we spend the most time with. Look for people who have walked the path already and observe them. Intentionally. Ask questions. Imitate. Take notes. NOTE: this can also be the dead or distant people who’s books you read. Why do I use the term “wise” here? Wisdom is the effective or successful application of knowledge so I like the idea that to be successful is to be wise. This avoids the trap of thinking of success only in material terms.
  4. keep training for life — if we don’t, we get complacent and ease up on practicing, learning, stretching ourselves. It’s important to practice and train so that when called upon we can perform at the highest level. For me, as mentioned recently, this very output — writing and publishing is primarily for the purpose of training my mind and mindset. Incidentally, my first blog was called Keep Training for Life.
    Remember, “We don’t rise to the level of our expectations; we fall to the level of our training.” — Archilochus
  5. install the right routines and build the right habits — when we establish routines and habits much of the hard work of staying disciplined will be done in advance. It ties in to the mindset point above. I like the idea of creating small interchangeable routines and habits which can be stacked and rearranged as necessary vs. elaborate or complex routines that are difficult to follow. This is particularly helpful when we get off track. The process of getting back on track is through any of these routines and habits which can be like on-ramps back to better cadence instead of staying stuck.
  6. beware the paradox of success — this happens when we rest on your laurels. When we succeed we have a tendency to stop doing the things that got us there. This can lead to back sliding. When hitting a new peak we’re now equipped to take on the next one and the next. As some one once said, “as you get better you’d better get better”. Successful handling of responsibility often leads to more responsibility. And we’ll rarely travel exactly the same path in life. There is far too much variation involved.

So regardless of whether we find ourselves in the messy middle of life or at the start of a new adventure, we can consider these reminders and apply some or all of them for our own growth and thriving.

This is like laying down tracks to help us stay pointed in the right direction.