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Book By Dr. Jim
Discovering The MIN Secret
6. Life Aligning Question One: The Purpose Question
7. How to Clarify Your Life Purpose
8. Living the Answer to the Purpose Question
9. How to Be Free In Every Action
10. Life Aligning Question Two: The Focus Question
11. Living the Freedom Attitude and the Focus Question
12. Life Aligning Question Three: The Now Question
13. Discovering the MIN Secret
Implementing the MIN Secret in Your Life
14. The Cost of Aligned Thinking—Three Gifts of Time
15. Get Rid of Interruptions Forever!
16. Why It’s Dangerous to Teach Aligned Thinking to Kids
17. Overcoming Stress in a Huge Crisis
18. How to Create More Motivated Satisfied Employees
19. How to Help Salespeople Sell More
20. Are You Living Your Ideal Professional and Personal Life?
21. A Brilliant Future
22. A Life Better Than a Dream Come True
I’ve always believed that life is a very special occasion … and special occasions are meant to be celebrated! Yet the pressures of life often leave us feeling too stressed to enjoy each day—let alone celebrate each moment. This book can change that.
Over twenty years ago I had the good fortune to take one of Jim Steffen’s Aligned Thinking seminars. The One Minute Manager had just been published and I was riding the wave of early success. It was an exciting time—but stressful, too. It seemed I always had too much to do, too many interruptions, too little control over my life, and that I wasn’t getting enough accomplished. Taking Jim’s seminar was a turning point for me. Shortly afterward, I sent him a copy of my book with the following inscription:
Thanks for sharing your wonderful time management system. If The One Minute Manager gets to be #1, the Aligned Thinking process will have played a major role. It already has made a difference in my life!
Ken Blanchard, August 1982
Although I don’t take personal credit for the phenomenal success of The One Minute Manager (to date the book has sold over 12 million copies in 27 languages), Jim’s teaching certainly helped me to stayed focused and appreciate each day.
In this profound book, Jim reveals the secrets of Aligned Thinking. As you walk in the shoes of Ray and Carol Walters, you will be shown how to define and live your ideal professional and personal life. You’ll also learn how to overcome the frustration of too much to do, increase accomplishment and satisfaction, reduce stress, get rid of interruptions, and feel more freedom, meaning, and serenity in your life. If you have a significant other, Aligned Thinking will help you have fun and grow closer. For your organization, it will increase productivity, motivation and morale. For your clients, it will empower you to deliver better service and increase satisfaction and loyalty.
Many people believe that they could never align every action to what they really want. The story of Ray and Carol Walters will show you why this is a myth. Aligned Thinking has made a tremendous difference in my life. I invite you to open this book and learn the answers to the three Life Aligning Questions that lead to the discovery of the MIN Secret that will help you to live your dreams. Your life is a special occasion, and it’s time to start celebrating!
San Diego, California
As I was writing this book, people asked me three questions. Here are the questions and their answers.
What can I expect from Aligned Thinking? Aligned Thinking will help you do what most believe impossible: Align every action to what you REALLY want. Because of this, if your experience is similar to thousands who discovered and use Aligned Thinking, you can expect the following:
1. Overcome the frustration of too much to do
2. Increase accomplishment and satisfaction
3. Reduce stress and interruptions
In addition, there are at least three bonus benefits for the people important to you. For your organization, Aligned Thinking will help you increase productivity, motivation and morale. For your clients, you will be able to deliver better service and establish a higher level of satisfaction/loyalty. Finally, for you and your significant other, Aligned Thinking will give you a process to have fun growing closer together.
Where did Aligned Thinking – the process – come from? I interviewed over 3,000 managers related to maximizing their leadership effectiveness. Before they came to the meeting they had a profile completed and a plan for their own professional improvement. In the interview, I learned what they really wanted from both life and work and how the successful ones got what they really wanted. A summary of the best tools became the Aligned Thinking™ process.
Over time, I had the opportunity to share these insights with 140 Fortune 500 Companies (for the list, go to SSAinternatinal.com). I have to thank those people for their help in making the process quicker, easier, simpler and all-inclusive:
Quicker to learn
► Simpler to use – just a nine-word MIN Secret
► All-inclusive – it applies 24/7 both professionally and personally
What’s the story behind – Aligned Thinking – the book? Ken Blanchard helped me get my doctorate at the University of Massachusetts in 1972. Ten years later, just after The One Minute Manager was published, he attended the Aligned Thinking seminar. This helped Ken focus on making his book the best seller it became and still is, cf. Foreword. Shortly thereafter, he suggested writing this book.
Over the next twenty years, I tried three times with over fifteen drafts to write this book by myself. My success was zero. Frustrated and out of options, I turned to My Higher Spirit.
Immediately, but oh so slowly things changed. The changes all seemed so natural; but after the change, things began to happen! Literary agent Carol Mann said the first proposal for the book was terrible. After listening to the sad twenty-year history of the book, she insightfully insisted: “Ken Blanchard helped you; you helped him. Now together you need to help others.”
Ken agreed to help. At exactly the right time, he discovered Martha Lawrence, editor par excellence who did marvelous things with the manuscript. At just the right time, Steve Piersanti appeared to bring out the simple elegance of Aligned Thinking. There were so many coincidences that just seemed to happen at the right time. However, as Martha has said many times, “Jim, there are no coincidences.”
Your reading this book is no coincidence. When you understand and answer the three life aligned questions and discover the MIN Secret, you will have a tool set you can use for the rest of your life. When you do, judging from my thirty years of experience, it will be a tool set that will help you successfully Make Every Moment Count, so you can daily, even moment-to-moment move closer on your journey to what you REALLY want.
I’m honored and delighted with the privilege of being able to share with you what I have been so generously given.
Jim Steffen, May 15, 2005, Feast of Pentecost
the MIN Secret
The Black Tunnel
Too much to do! Not enough accomplished!
Too many interruptions!
Not enough time with the family!
I have so little control over my life!
Life doesn’t seem to have much meaning anymore.
These were Ray’s thoughts as the train from Lower Manhattan tunneled to New Jersey under the Hudson River. As Ray looked out the window into the blackness, an occasional light flashed by to show him how dark the tunnel truly was.
How fitting, he thought. This is like my life. I feel like I’m in a dark tunnel. My life is under water. The infrequent flashes of light reminded him of the few lights in his life—his wife Carol and the two children. Unfortunately, like the lights flashing by, he saw them for all too short a time.
What have I really accomplished today? Ray took out his organizer and reviewed the day. He’d skipped lunch and stayed late. He added two things he’d forgotten to put on his to-do list. This made the list longer than it had been at the beginning of the day. He felt miserable.
In frustrating times like these, his wife was his beacon of hope. When he talked over problems with Carol, she always helped him come up with solutions. What a great partner he had! He resolved that he’d discuss his dark, underwater life with her tonight.
Ray looked at his watch. Nine o’clock already. Dinner would be over and the kids would be in their rooms working on their homework. The thought angered him. He pounded the time organizer as if it were the cause.
Life is too long on work and too short on real meaning, Ray thought. The muscles in his neck felt so tight they hurt. He couldn’t wait for Carol to help.
“I need things to change!” he declared.
An Unwelcome Surprise
As Ray walked to his car from the train, he called Carol on his cell phone to let her know he was on his way home. She sounded a bit distracted, but told him she would be very glad to see him.
Once home and settled in, Ray reviewed his frustrations and anger with Carol. He fully expected that she would listen sympathetically. With her experienced help, he would create a specific plan to solve the problems.
Ray just started his list of frustrations when Carol interrupted.
“Too much to do? Tell me about it!” she firmed. He wasn’t prepared for this. Instead of a supportive ear, he got an earful.
“I was up with you at six,” she said. “As soon as the kids were off to school, I was off to work. You know I hate to have them come home before me. Even though they’re older now, it’s still not okay. When I got home today, they were both doing their homework, which is great. But I had to take Tammy to her music lesson, do shopping, spend time on my own paperwork, and then go back to pick her up. As if that weren’t enough, I needed to interrupt this to get Jamie to and from baseball.”
Carol was on a roll. It was obvious that she also needed support.
“Work was full of interruptions, interrupted by interruptions,” she continued. “Our lives are empty! There’s too little family time, too little control, not enough getting accomplished, and too little real meaning!”
With the flood of anxiety Carol was dumping out, Ray couldn’t get a word in.
“Ray, what’s happened to our dreams? We wanted to have daily family time, and family weekends a few times a year. And what about alone time for us? This isn’t our dream! It’s a nightmare!”
Carol was close to tears. Finally, Ray saw an opening and said quickly
“You’re right! We have to change if we want to take control and live our dreams. I wish my dad were still alive. He was usually busy with business but when he was home, he’d help me think through problems. When he retired at sixty-two, he planned to spend more time with Mom and us kids. But he died just a year later.”
“Let’s not let that happen to us,” Carol said.
Ray paused a moment and just looked at his wife. “Tonight, when I was in that black tunnel under the Hudson, I tried to figure out when all this started. What happened to the dreams we had before we were married?
Carol shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“I think—” Ray hesitated, struggling for words. “The trouble started as early as our honeymoon. Remember how I had a hard time relaxing on that glorious beach? I couldn’t just enjoy the sun and sand…or even you. I had to check the stock market almost every hour. There were three of us on our honeymoon, you, me and my work!”
“Four of us!” Carol sighed. “I wasn’t exactly the blissful bride. I had just landed my first managerial position. I couldn’t let go either. I called the office at least ten times during that week when I didn’t have to.”
“How can we get rid of all this meaningless stress?” said Ray. “Who do we know who really seems to have their life together?”
The question hung in the air.
The silence thundered!
He restated the question. “Who do we know who has great meaning in their life?”
Carol’s eyes lit up. “That sounds like Ed and Alanna! They have five kids, and one of their sons is mentally handicapped. Yet they act like they’re privileged to have him. On top of everything, Alanna finds time to distribute goods to the poor.”
“You’re right,” said Ray. “Ed seems so centered, and yet he’s got his hands full with a very successful company. He hasn’t exactly had it easy, either. One of his key employees started a business behind his back. The guy used Ed’s salespeople to sell to Ed’s own clients. He charged Ed’s clients and put the fees in his own pocket, the whole time drawing a salary from Ed. He even used Ed’s copier to copy his invoices. That’s how Ed caught him.”
“Talk about stress,” said Carol.
Ray nodded. “Yeah, it messed up Ed’s business for a while. But no matter what’s going on, Ed always seems to find great meaning in his life. He and Alanna have a glow about them, like they’re connected to some tremendous, hidden power. I want to know what that is.”
“I’m sure they’d be willing to share some ideas with us,” said Carol.
“Would you call them tomorrow?” Ray held up a hand. “No, wait. You’re busy enough. I’ll make the arrangements.”
That night in bed, Carol laid her head on Ray’s shoulder, the way she slept many a night. It was reassuring. It seemed to Ray she was a beacon of hope in the dark tunnel. He got the feeling that the train was starting to slow down. Ray, not a religious man, let a little ‘Thank God” slip out.
Aligned Thinking Offers Hope
That Saturday evening, Ray and Carol met Ed and Alanna for dinner at their favorite restaurant. As soon as they ordered their meal, Carol—being the action-oriented person she was—related the entire situation: the frustration from too much to do, too many interruptions, and too little meaning in their lives.
Ray added, “Carol astounded me. In some areas, her situation was worse than mine. We asked ourselves, ‘Who among our friends seem to have their lives together, and how do they do it?’ We thought of the two of you. You seem to have some secret power we’d like to know about.”
Ed smiled. “Thanks, guys. It wasn’t always this easy. Alanna and I used to have the same feelings and problems that you do, like too much to do and too little meaning in life. Then we attended a workshop by Coach Eric. He was our soccer coach in school, Ray. Remember?”
Ray nodded. “Sure. Never had a coach who was more positive and encouraging. We won a lot of championships with Coach Eric, didn’t we?”
“Yep,” said Ed. “Turns out Coach’s business is giving productivity seminars to Fortune 500 companies. He helps people get what they really want from life and work by guiding them to become Aligned Thinkers. He’s highly successful at it. Thanks to Coach, Alanna and I learned how to become and live as Aligned Thinkers.”
“Aligned Thinker?” Carol looked dubious. “What’s an Aligned Thinker? I’ve never heard that term before. Is it complicated?”
“No. Its easy to learn and even easier to use,” Ed added quickly. “Becoming an Aligned Thinker depends on a set of tools that will help you discover the MIN Secret.”
“What’s the MIN Secret?” Ray Asked.
“MIN stands for Most Important Now,” Ed replied. It’s an amazing concept that can be used by anyone: homemakers, students, retirees and business people. It will help you make every moment count. When that happens you are well on your way to getting what you really want. The wonderful thing about Coach’s Aligned Thinking tools is they provide a powerful proven solution to all the frustrations you and Carol are experiencing.”
“Hate to be a skeptic,” Carol said, “but I find this hard to believe.”
“It’s true,” Alanna responded calmly. “Your situation sounds like us fifteen years ago. At first I didn’t believe I could live as an Aligned Thinker, not with five kids! But once I applied Coach’s simple tools, I went from a nightmare existence—with all the frustrations you’re expressing—to being an Aligned Thinker, living my dreams.”
Carol shook her head. “If something seems too good to be true, it usually is. Alanna, if I didn’t know you better, I’d think you were putting us on. Make every moment count? With a job, husband, and two kids – I wish!”
Alanna replied, “Coach has a way of making difficult things simple. When he described what an Aligned Thinker was, we questioned whether it was remotely possible to live that way. But Coach Eric made believers out of us by showing us step by step how to become Aligned Thinkers. We proved to ourselves that we could really have the life we wanted, even with five kids plus.” She turned to her husband. “Ed, you can draw. Show them the Aligned Thinking circle.”
Ed drew on a napkin and said: “You are an Aligned Thinker when …
“What you really want from life and work drives every action, and…
. . . . every action takes you step by step to what you really want.”
Ray and Carol studied the drawing. The more they studied, the more skeptical they looked., “Every Action? Do you really mean every single action?” Carol asked.
Alanna smiled confidently. “I said the definition will cause doubts. That ‘every’ is both the beauty and the simplicity of it.”
“At first, I was also very skeptical,” Ed answered. “Once Coach shared the three life aligning questions that impact everyone’s life every day and showed us how to answer them, we discovered the MIN Secret. We found we could align every action to what we really want.”
Alanna added before Ray or Carol could respond, “I was amazed that with five kids, I could be aligned with every action. The Aligned Thinking tools, especially the MIN Secret make it simpler than I could imagine.”
This was too much for Carol. “MIN Secret? Three life-aligning questions to answer? What is this MIN Secret? What are the three questions that can help you align every action to what you really want?”
Ed smiled at Alanna. Alanna smiled back. Then Ed said very politely, “Would you mind if Coach Eric answered your questions? With his years of experience he found the MIN Secret is more valuable to people if they discover it themselves as they experience the answers to three questions. He asked us not to share the MIN Secret so people could discover it themselves. Would you mind if we respect his wish?”
There was a short pause. Then Ed added, “I can say that the secret power you mentioned Alanna and I have is partly due to the fact that all our actions are aligned to what we really want.”
This stopped Ray and Carol. They were very curious about the last statement. They wanted to ask more. However, Ed had so politely requested they honor Coach Eric’s request, how could they do otherwise?
Driving home that night, Ray said, “I’m going to call Coach Eric in the morning. Even before we met tonight, I knew Ed and Alanna had something special. They sure do have their lives together and now I’m really curious how they do it. Although I have my doubts about this Aligned Thinking stuff, I trust Coach Eric. I see some light at the end of this black tunnel we’re in – and it’s not just another train coming.”
The next morning Ray made a life-changing phone call.
“Hi, Coach Eric, it’s Ray Walters. Remember me?”
“Of course I do!” said Coach warmly. “You and Stew had a great soccer give and go. It was always a pleasure watching you two.” Ray told Coach about his and Carol’s frustrations, their talk with Alanna and Ed, their desire for the benefits of living as Aligned Thinkers and their deep doubts that they could live that way. He finally asked Coach if he would guide them.
“Sure,” said Coach. “Let’s meet this weekend. All I ask is that you and Carol make a list of four or five things that you’d like to accomplish by living as Aligned Thinkers, and bring it with you. This list should be so complete that when you and Carol get all the things on it, you’ll be living your ideal professional and personal life.”
This was much more than Ray had expected. With disbelief he said, “Could you repeat that? I’m not sure I heard you correctly.”
“You heard me right,” said Coach. “See you this weekend.”
Defining Your Ideal Professional and Personal Life
On a beautiful day in early June—unusually warm after a bitter cold spring in the New York-New Jersey area—Ray and Carol drove to Coach Eric’s. Ray thought maybe their ideal professional and personal list was too much to ask. Even so, he had high hopes. He heard the tune “June Is Busting Out All Over” playing in his head and felt the warm sun of hope shining in his heart.
Coach Eric greeted Ray and Carol warmly upon their arrival. He invited them in for refreshments and listened as they gave him an overview of the frustrations they’d shared with Ed and Alanna.
“Ed and Alanna are two of my favorite people,” Coach said with a twinkle in his eye. “How much did they tell you about Aligned Thinking?”
Ray shared all that Ed and Alanna had told with them. Then Carol added, “We are very curious about this Aligned Thinking that Ed and Alanna say is key to their happiness. And we are both skeptical that we can align every action to what we really want.”
Coach smiled and said, “Great! That’s a great place to be in. Let me ask you not to worry about aligning every action. Years ago, before my clients helped me discover Aligned Thinking, I never dreamed I could align every action. At the time I was not clear about what I really wanted.”
Carol and Ray found this reassuring. Coach continued. “Let me see your list of what you want in your ideal professional and personal life.”
Ray handed him their list and said rather apologetically, “I hope we are not asking for too much.”
Coach nodded approvingly. “There’s nothing here that becoming an Aligned Thinker can’t give you. I do have one request though. Would you add ‘make every moment count so life becomes a celebration’ to the list?”
Ray added the line and Coach continued, “When you understand the Three Questions that impact everyone daily and discover the MIN Secret, it will help you live your ideal professional and personal life or better. You’ll also be able to do some things most people find hard to believe like achieve everything you plan each day and get rid of all interruptions.” With this, Ray and Carol were even more skeptical. However, their hope mounted with their skepticism.
With confidence, Coach continued, “But one step at a time. Let’s agree that if you feel you can’t do a step, you will immediately tell the person you’re working with. You’ll only go on when you’re comfortable with the present step.”
“Hard to believe, but agreed,” Ray said. Carol nodded with disbelief.
“Then let’s get started!” Coach said with a smile.
The Aligned Thinking Pyramid
Coach invited Ray and Carol to sit with him around a big oak table. When they were settled, he said:
“Over the years, thousands of business people I coached helped me identify three life aligning questions. The interesting thing is, these three questions impact everyone’s life, whether they know it or not. Our goal has been to make it quicker, easier and simpler. Quicker to understand the Aligned Thinking tools that help answer there three questions; easier to remember the tools, and simpler to get what you really want from life.”
“As we agreed, it is important that you just focus on one of the questions at a time. Answering the first of these critical life-impacting questions will lead you to the next one.
“Here is an illustration that shows how the three questions build, leading to the MIN Secret. The MIN Secret is the key to your living as an Aligned Thinker, 24/7.”
Coach pulled out an eye-catching illustration and handed it to Ray and Carol.
Aligned Thinking Pyramid
Ray spoke with some concern, “It looks simple enough. But is it?”
Coach answered with calm confidence, “When you understand how to answer the three questions and live the answers, you’ll discover the MIN Secret. At this point my clients say, ‘Why this is just common sense.’
“The thing is,” Coach continued, “you don’t get any benefits from mere common sense. The only time you get benefits is when you make common sense common practice.
“To make it easy, I will arrange for you to visit two couples and a single mother. An important part of Aligned Thinking is what you discover when you implement it yourself. Each will share the insight they have personally gained. If you agree, you will make one visit a week. Between visits I would like you to practice the insights they share with you.
“When you take one question at a time, you will learn the insights that make answering and living the answer easy. It will be like riding a bike.”
Carol’s face had a huge question on it. “Like riding a bike?”
“Yes,” Coach assured her. “When you learn to ride a bike, you master three things – guiding, peddling and balancing. When you begin, if you try all three at once, you will probably fall more often than necessary. However, if you just guide first and let someone else balance and move you, it’s easier. Then you add the peddling yourself. Finally, your helper or coach lets you balance also. Once you get all three, you never forget how to ride a bike. You might be rusty, but you can pick it up quickly.
“The three questions of Aligned Thinking and using the MIN Secret are the same. Once you get it, you never forget it. I have clients who have used it daily, even moment-to-moment for more than twenty-five years.”
Ray and Carol were intrigued by the bike example, but more intrigued by someone using the MIN Secret daily for twenty-five years.
About the Author
Dr. R. James (Jim) Steffen, President and Founder of Steffen, Steffen & Associates, Inc. (SSA International), is an internationally known author, speaker and consultant/trainer. He is recognized as an expert in Aligned Thinking/Time Mastery, leadership, productivity and Successful Partnering, which focuses on creating very satisfied/loyal customers and employees. Because of his record of accomplishment, he has had opportunities to work with more than 140 Fortune 500 companies. (List available on website)
Dr. Steffen has four degrees. An undergraduate degree in philosophy from Quincy University, and one in Theology from St. Joseph Seminary. A masters in math from the University of Notre Dame and a doctorate in education from the University of Massachusetts, where he led the Leadership Lab.
He created Aligned Thinking and ten other seminars. They are built on a triple set of skills:
- Research to discover root cause or growth opportunities.
- Creativity to solve the problem or use the opportunity.
- Speaking/coaching to teach or teach others to deliver the solutions and create measurable repeatable results.
People love stories. Jim is a storyteller from beginning to end. And he has more than thirty years of success stories to share. He is an award-winning presenter. Sample comments:
- Best presentation I attended; Thanks.
- Outstanding presentation skills. I liked the use of stories and case studies.
- Excellent!! I’m going to use it!
- Thanks. Please come back!
Dr. Steffen is available for keynote presentations. Several of his more requested presentations are:
Ř The Simple Elegance of Aligned Thinking
Ř I Never Get Everything
Ř How to Take Your Culture and Profitability up a Level or Two
For a complete list see “Presentations” on the website below.
He has delivered Aligned Thinking and Successful Partnering seminars and webinars to 140 Fortune 500 Companies. (The list is one the website.) If you would like the guidance of Coach Eric immediately in your life, and but cannot travel, Dr. Steffen has a weekly course delivered conveniently to your computer entitled: Eight Simple Coaching Session to Implement Aligned Thinking.
He is also available for coaching of individual and groups. SSA International offers a certification program to teachers and coaches who want to offer the seminar and coaching Aligned Thinking and Successful Partnering with their own clients or company.
To receive an Information Kit or to contact us
Ř Call 203-740-8400
Dr. Raymond James (Jim) Steffen, a.k.a. The Time Myth Buster
Steffen, Steffen and Associates, Inc. 2000-2010
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