Hyrum W. Smith is the co-founder and former CEO of Franklin Covey. His latest book The 3 Gaps: Are You Making a Difference?, shows how to lead a fulfilling life by closing these gaps. The book is filled with stories of people who overcome challenges to live a life of purpose.
“Governing values are simply a description of one’s highest priorities.” -Hyrum Smith
I recently asked him about his latest work on achieving a meaningful and impactful life, a life in balance.
3 Life Gaps
The Beliefs Gap. The gap between the behaviors that meet our needs and those that do not.
The Values Gap. The gap between what we value and where we actually spend our time.
The Time Gap. The gap between what we plan to do and what we actually do.
You share four steps for monitoring and changing your beliefs. Is there one that most people struggle with?
Typically, the hardest thing for any of us to do is to admit that “the only problem in my life is me.” This is why the very first step is to admit that the problem lies with us. It is perhaps a sign of our times that we tend to externalize more today than ever before. We don’t look first to ourselves but tend to blame circumstances or the actions of others for our challenges. Getting past that first hurdle is the key to closing this gap.
“Any belief that drives behavior that does not meet your basic needs over time is an incorrect belief.” -Hyrum Smith
How and why do people often get off track with their stated values?
One of the ways we miss the mark is by failing to realize the importance of identifying our key values. Life is filled with “have to do” events and “someone expects me to do” events and “once in a while I’d like to do something for myself” events. It takes a concerted effort to identify the values that should be our highest priorities and then to compare our activities to those values. We get off track because we don’t focus on these values. We assume that they will take care of themselves. They usually don’t.
Make the Magic 15 Minutes Work for You
What’s the “magic fifteen minutes” and how does this help close the time gap?
The “Magic Fifteen Minutes” is the time you take each day, usually in the morning before things really get going, to review your values, to check how you are doing on achieving goals related to those values, and to be sure that you set aside time in your schedule to focus on them. This is your compass check, each day, to bring your course back to true north. By being conscious each day of what you value and how your activities impact those values, you can avoid drifting far off course, often without even realizing it.
In 1983, you co-founded the Franklin Quest Company which became the Franklin Covey Company. You’ve presented to audiences around the world for decades. Many thousands of people have been impacted by your work. Looking back on your storied career, what are you most proud of?
During the course of my career, our efforts have taught millions of people how to connect their daily activities to their most deeply held values. When this is successfully accomplished, people are happier and experience inner peace. If I am “proud” of anything, it is that we were able to deliver that message to so many people. Their letters to me talking about how it changed their lives are great treasures.
“Character is the ability to carry out a worthy decision after the emotion of making that decision has passed.” -Hyrum Smith
I honestly don’t know the answer to that. My experience is that, unless there is some sort of pathology present, each of us can identify our governing values and move our activities more in harmony with them. Each of us can uncover the beliefs we hold that are driving behavior that causes pain in our lives. And most of us are capable of replacing those beliefs with ones that generate happiness rather than pain. It isn’t like taking a pill. It takes effort. It is more like training for an athletic event. Everyone can do it if they stick to the basics and don’t give up.
You lost a daughter and a granddaughter in a tragic accident and chose to respond, to be positive, to move forward in the midst of unthinkable grief. How did this experience help shape you afterward?
As I have often said, that was a seminal moment in my life. I realized that we don’t have control over many things and that tragedy and sorrow can enter a life at any time. However, it confirmed to me the importance of focusing on the things I can control, of pursuing the things I value most, and of making a difference in the world.
How do leaders best influence others toward the highest beliefs?
I have found that there are two basic activities that every great leader pursues. First, an effective leader is able to describe the values that the organization is based on. I don’t mean that there is a plaque on the wall somewhere with long-winded “values” but that the leader can concisely and clearly let people know what those values are. Second, the leader is able to model those values so that others in the organization believe that they really are key to the success of their team. If integrity is a key value, the leader needs to be sure to model it, or all the good that might be done will be lost. I have found that great leaders can do both of these things.
The 3 Gaps: Are You Making a Difference?