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Be Bold Enough To Stretch Yourself: Living By Design Part Eight

Do you believe in yourself enough to reach for what you want?

In Living By Design, Part 8 of the Phil in the Blanks podcast, Dr. Phil explains how you can master the system and make it work for you!

Living By Design Playbook 2023

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#10: You must “stretch” and behave your way to success, even if it feels like “fake it until you make it.”

Let me be clear right up front, I am not advocating that you go through life as a fraud. What I am telling you is that if you get an opportunity to move to the next level in your job, for example, do not—repeat do not—listen to self-doubt and take yourself out because you don’t think you know everything you need to know in order to do what you think you’re going to be asked to do.

You need to have confidence and be bold enough to stretch yourself, scramble to close the gap if one exists, and grow into new opportunities.

Give yourself a chance to succeed, whether it is in your love life or professional life or whatever. Take your shot. A risk-free life can be really boring, and the clock is ticking. Don’t let life pass you by because you’re playing it safe and sitting on the sidelines. The world is moving at a faster and faster rate, and it’s becoming easier and easier to fall behind in your own life. The new “Life Code” calls for playing big and playing bold. I promise that at the end of your life, it will not be the times you said “no” along the way that you will look back on fondly and with pride. Taking reasonable risks is not reckless, and if it is the potential of failure or embarrassment that frightens you, remember that you now know how to play the “what if?” game all the way to the end.

#11: You must always keep your options open

I do not believe in management by ultimatums, and I don’t believe in embracing rigid positions that take away your ability to move and adapt. For example, I don’t believe in going “nuclear” with kids, saying things like, “If I catch you drinking, you are grounded for life and will never get your driver’s license!” Now, I might agree with that sentiment, but my problems are with “life” and “never.” It leaves you nowhere to go; you have closed off your options. What do you do once you have grounded your child for life and told them that they will never drive an automobile? What are you going to do next, chain them in a dungeon?

Once you declare your position, your leverage is gone, and winners never give up their leverage.

Always leave yourself a face-saving way out. As we say in Texas, when you “throw down the hoe handle,” there’s nothing left to do but fight. Threats and ultimatums—particularly involving extreme consequences—paint you into a corner and leave you nowhere to go. Plus, particularly at work or in a relationship, you would be disclosing too much about what you think and feel.

So, keep your options open, and don’t tell people everything you’re thinking. Once you declare your position, your leverage is gone, and winners never give up their leverage.

#12: You must always master the system and figure a way to make it work for you

Whatever situation or circumstance you find yourself in will have rules, parameters, and almost always subtle nuances. And I’m not just talking about formal structures; there is always a dynamic that defines the give-and-take of life. You can gain a distinct advantage if you know, and I mean really know, the game better than anybody else.

If you know the system, the game, and you really know how it’s played, you have a distinct advantage over your competition.

And make no mistake about it, you’re in a game, whether you like it or not. It’s up to you how well you play it—or whether you get played.

Know the rules, know your options, and know how to use the system to your advantage. Like so much of the new “Life Code,” what I’m advocating here takes effort, but it will pay off in spades.

#13: You must create a passionate nucleus of supporters

Winners are not lone rangers. You should strive to surround yourself with a nucleus of people who share your passion, share your vision, and support the pursuit of your goals. It is important to understand that people do not bond head-to-head; they bond heart-to-heart. Your goal is to get your nucleus of supporters to buy into your agenda not just intellectually but emotionally. This is a hugely important piece of information. Also, recognize the reality that everyone approaches every situation at least in part asking the question, “What is in this for me?” If you can answer that question for your potential supporters, they are much more likely to truly get behind you.

Let them see you taking action on their behalf, and they will support you at every turn.

You can create this emotional buy-in by empathetically putting yourself in the position of your potential supporters and seeing things through their eyes. You will need to figure out how to make it clear to those people how your success is in their best interest and that of the team. You cannot be at all places all the time; you cannot cover every demand or contingency by yourself. You need a team, and you need that team to be emotionally motivated toward a common goal. The team must see that you are “their guy.” They must see that you will lead them, protect them, and advocate for them. When they see this, they will do amazing things to ensure your success.


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