Preparing For 2012: 8 Step Plan For Growth

Prepare For 2012

2012 is on it’s way whether you prepare or NOT! Why not prepare and get on the path for a successful year? I will be sharing some things that I’m doing to prepare for a great 2012!

Part 1 of my plan is: Developing a plan for personal growth! I want to get better in my time management, communication & poise. To accomplish these goals, I have to have a plan! My plan for growth is adopting John C. Maxwell’s “8 Step Plan For Personal Growth.” I am committing myself to the process…read it & join me? I hope so…

Remember, this plan DOESN’T work if YOU don’t!

8 Steps Plan For Growth by John C. Maxwell

  1. Choose a Life of Growth
  • It’s said that when Spanish composer-cellist Pablo Casals was in the final years of his life, a young reporter asked him, “Mr. Casals, you are ninety-five years old and the greatest cellist that ever lived. Why do you still practice six hours a day?” What was Casals answer? “Because I think I’m making progress.” That’s the kind of dedication to continual growth that you should have.
  • You need to have an attitude like that of General George Patton. It’s said that he told his troops, “There is one thing I want you to remember. I don’t want to get any messages saying we are holding our position. We are advancing constantly.” Patton’s motto was, “Always take the offensive. Never dig in.”

2.  Start Growing Today

  • Napoleon Hill said, “It’s not what you are going to do, but it’s what you are doing now that counts.”
  • Why do you need to determine to start growing today? There are several reasons:

i.     Growth is not automatic.

ii.     Growth today will provide a better tomorrow.

iii.     Growth is your responsibility!

3.  Focus on Self-Development, not Self-Fulfillment

  • Rabbi Samuel M. Silver taught that “the greatest of all miracles is that we need not be tomorrow what we are today, but we can improve if we make use of the potential implanted in us by God.”

4.  Never Stay Satisfied with Current Accomplishments

  • My friend Rick Warren says, “The greatest enemy of tomorrow’s success is today’s success.”
  • It’s another characteristic of destination disease. But successful people don’t sit back and rest on their laurels.
  • Sydney Harris insisted that “a winner knows how much he still had to learn, even when he is considered an expert by others; a loser wants to be considered an expert by others before he has learned enough to know how little he knows.”

5.  Be a Continual Learner

  • The best way to keep from becoming satisfied with your current achievements is to make yourself a continual learner. That kind of commitment may be rarer than you realize. For example, a study performed by the University of Michigan several years ago found that one-third of all physicians in the United States are so busy working that they’re two years behind the breakthroughs in their own fields.
  • Henry Ford said, “It’s been my observation that most successful people get ahead during the time other people waste.”
  • Frank A. Clark stated, “Most of us must learn a great deal every day in order to keep ahead of what we forget.”

6.  Develop a Plan for Growth

  • The key to a life of continual learning and improvement lies in developing a specific plan for growth and following through with it.
  • Earl Nightingale, which says, “If a person will spend one hour a day on the same subject for five years, that person will be an expert on that subject.

7.  Pay the Price

  • President Theodore Roosevelt boldly stated, “There has not yet been a person in our history who led a life of ease whose name is worth remembering.”

8.  Find a Way to Apply What You Learn

  • Jim Rohn urged, “Don’t let your learning lead to knowledge. Let your learning lead to action.”
  • Successful people develop positive daily habits that help them to grow and learn.
  • “Something in human nature tempts us to stay where we’re comfortable. We try to find a plateau, a resting place, where we have comfortable associations with people, without the intimidation of meeting new people and entering strange situations.” (author and leadership expert Fred Smith)

5 Tips on How To Stay Focused

FOCUS!

 

 

 

Note from Coach O: I am using this summer to work on areas of my leadership that need improving. “I am on a relentless drive for progress!”

One of the areas I need to work hard on is the ability to stay focused. I believe this ability is crucial to accomplishing my goals. During this week, I will be posting articles and quotes to help US learn to stay focused!  The following is the 1st article I came across @ lifeoptimizer.org, during my research… ENJOY!

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How to Stay Focused – 5 Tips

Note: This is a guest post from Sean Burrows of What Is Personal Growth

Often times, we find ourselves going back and forth in terms of working on our goals and our growth as human beings. We’ll go through periods where we work hard consistently everyday without ever feeling burned out, then sometimes we shift and go through periods where we stagnate and put them off for a time. Let’s be clear however, that there is a big difference between taking small breaks such as a vacation, and stagnation.

Here are 5 tips that have helped me stay focused in times when the procrastination bug starts to bite.

1. Clear All Unnecessary Distractions

A big source of stagnation is what we do in our daily lives which serve no true purpose except to distract us. If you want to stay focused on achieving your dreams, you need to find everything in your life that is distracting you from that.

Some of the big ones for me were:

Television
Video games
Poor relationships
Unhealthy food
Other people’s drama
There were many more which I had to remove from my life, and there still is, but these were the ones that were having the biggest impact. All of these were taking my focus off of my goals when I participated in them.

Now of course some distractions are extremely difficult to give up, a lot of them are very addicting. Video games and television are extremely addicting, at least they were for me. But giving them up has been a true blessing in my life. No matter how difficult it is, know that it will be worth it in the end.

2. Keep a Journal

Writing in a journal has been a profound benefit for me. What helps best is writing down my goals and also my progress. Knowing that you’re progressing is a great way to stay motivated. Who wants to keep doing something when they think all their efforts are for nothing? Often times, our growth and important steps towards our goals are overlooked or ignored. Writing down every single positive step you’ve taken towards your goals, no matter how small it may seem, will always serve as a reminder that you ARE progressing, and that reaching your goals happens one step at a time.

Write down some areas in your life and go through them. Note how you’ve improved in those areas, and what you think you could do to improve even more. Here are a few examples that I use:

Physical
Mental
Financial
Relationships
Family
Emotional
Spiritual
3. Create New Habits

When you want to move from a habit that you know is stagnating you, to one that is beneficial and empowering, the best way is to stick with it for at least 21 days. Doing this will engrave it into your personality, and you will eventually start doing it without even thinking about it. After about 21-30 days you’ll start noticing the positive changes it’s having on your life.

For example, if you want to start going to the gym, mark down in a calendar when you want to go and what time. This way you will always have something to remind you of your goal. After 21 days of not giving up, you won’t need a calendar anymore because it is now a habit.

4. Surround Yourself With People That Have Similar Goals

If you’re trying to improve your life and remove things which are preventing you from doing that, it doesn’t make much sense to hang around people who are still stuck in the things which you are trying to move on from. This one can be difficult for a lot of people. Some of us are in relationships, and have friends that we’ve known for a long time, but they may not be interested in the same goals you are. There’s nothing wrong with knowing that you’ve outgrown someone and moving on, especially if they have no interest in improving themselves.

Moving on from people which are holding you back will be a great weight lifted on your shoulders. I’ve noticed that when I move on from specific aspects of my life that are preventing me from progressing, new ones start to come into my life which help accelerate my goals. It’s like being a receiver in football. You have this defender on you running everywhere you go, preventing you from catching the ball. But after a few plays you begin to realize what you need to do to get past him, and catch the pass for a touchdown.

5. Take Breaks

As I said earlier, there is a big difference in taking some time off, and pure stagnation. Taking some time off recharges and refreshes your mind. The absolute best thing for me is going camping or hiking. Being out in nature is very calming and balancing. All the answers to my questions just seem to be answered so much easier when I’m out in nature. And I always come back with new insights and a focused mind.

(Read the entire article here)

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Coach O’s “3 Pointers”: 3 Things to Think About

  1. What are the 5 biggest distractions in your life? How can you clear them out?
  2. Take a good look at the people that surround you (your inner circle). Do they have similar goals as yours re focus? If not, after reading this you KNOW it’s time to “move on” from some people in your life….no?
  3. Breaks. Do you take them? What do you do to give yourself a break? Me? I spend time sipping lattes in Starbucks or go to a movie by myself… Make sure you have this in place & vary what you do so it’s doesn’t become mundane.
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Sean Burrows loves to learn and discover new ways to improve the quality of peoples lives. He studies personal development and health rigorously, and shares his life’s lessons, creative ideas, and healthy recipes through his blog at http://www.what-is-personal-growth.com

You can also follow Sean on Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/36burrows

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Procrastination: A Big Reason We Don’t Accomplish Our Goals

 
 

Dr. AR Bernard, pastor, Christian Cultural Center (CCC)

On New Year’s Eve, my post came from Brian Tracy’s blog that laid out a 7-Step process for setting goals for our year. I have been studying this process as I also apply it to my life and still had a questionEven with all this great advice from Brian Tracy and others; why is it that I (we) don’t always accomplish my (our) goals?

Well, I don’t know about YOU, but a big reason for me is the dreaded word: PROCRASTINATION!!  (Dum dee dum dum music :)) Just typing the word makes me “shudder” because it is a big obstacle for me.

So, my family and I go to New Year’s Eve service at our church, Christian Cultural Center (CCC), in Brooklyn, NY, and guess what my pastor, Dr. AR Bernard, is speaking about? You guessed it: procrastination! We are blessed to have a pastor that gives us tools to live successful lives and make a difference in our culture & society!

So, I am going to share an excerpt from my notes on his teaching (he teaches more than he preaches) on “Why People Procrasinate.” He was also encouraging us to set goals and objectives for 2010 (I will blog more on that later), but also acknowledged this huge potential hurdle and how to handle it. I hope it helps you as you pursue your dreams, goals, and objectives:

Reasons People Procrastinate:

1. Fear.

  • People put things off because of fear of change.
  • To do it you have to change: your attitude or self awareness and to avoid that they will put it off.
  • Fear of criticism. Afraid of disappointing people and they put off confrontation or having to deal with their own character flaws. Or what they have presented themselves to be and people will not see that what they are is really different.
  • Fear of failure so they would rather not do it.
  • Fear of inadequacy. Feeling that they don’t measure up to the task. Someone will notice that they are inadequate to handle this task..
  • Fear of making mistakes. Rejection, or starting something else you know you won’t finish. The task may be something new and take you out of comfort zone

2. Feeling overwhelmed.

  • When you are buried underneath things you fall under the “spell” of putting things off because you have so much to do!

3. Indecisiveness.

  • Lacking the ability to make decisions quickly and effectively

4. Lack of a deadline.

  • Deadlines are important because they are guidelines and spur action.

5. Over commitment.

  • “Don’t let your mouth burden your back.” (Great quote)
  • Learn how to use “yes” and “no” effectively

6. Resentment.

  • Disappointed in what you have been given to do.
  • “I don’t wanna to do that!” (waaa waaa!)  
  • We resent that it is part of our job.
  • During this time, you even go through a whole mode where you think you are being treated unfairly

7. Unclear goals.

  • Goals are like magnets. The clearer the goals the stronger the pull to accomplish them.

8. Unpleasant or boring task.

  • You will find every excuse for doing it later
  • Many times we have to do what we have to do, before we can do what we want to do! – Zig Ziglar (para-phrased)

9. Distraction. (THIS IS HUGE!) 

  • Distractions allow you to do something more pleasurable to you instead of doing what you don’t like.
  • Distractions will also make this “diversion” seem more important that accomplishing your true goals & objectives.
  •  When you put off something and become distracted it reduces the anxiety for not doing the thing you are putting off.
  • But this is only temporary and you still have to come back and face the thing being put off.

BOTTOM LINE: 

  1. Procrastination is a symptom of some area of stress in your life.
  • You will not stop procrastinating until you know why you are putting it off. What the stress is…..?
  • It is time for us to change what we do to accomplish our goals and objectives
  • We have to put off all the excuses and confront whatever is giving you the stress.
  • Stop talking about the inadequacies and all other excuses, and face it straight on and deal with it so God can bless you and take where he wants to take you in life!!!!
  • In 2010 leave that thing or person (that is holding you back) tonight and walk away and don’t look back.
  • You have to deal with the area of stress and anxiety in your life that is robbing you of your future.
  •  Don’t be robbed
  • So many things have happened in our lives and we feel “beaten down and discouraged”
  • Don’t allow yourself to feel so beaten down that you forget what God has said that he would do for you in your life.
  • STOP PUTTING THINGS OFF!

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Wow, huh? I was inspired too! I am still digesting this teaching and intentionally implementing it in my life!

  • Do you know the definition of insanity? “Doing things the same way and expecting different result!”
  • There are things that did not work for me last year & I am ready to stop “acting insane!.”  I am going to change my methods in certain areas but staying committed to my goals.

I AM READY TO HAVE A SUCCESSFUL 2010 – HOW ABOUT YOU?? JOIN ME & visit “Mindset of A Leader” often!!

Planning Your Year – Setting Goals For A GREAT 2010!

 

The following is adapted from Brian Tracy’s blog. I receive an email everytime he has a new post. I suggest that if you haven’t already, SUBSCRIBE to a great leader, or leaders’ blog(s) and learn all you can!

Now for Brian’s post on Planning Your Year”:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    Planning Your Year by Brian Tracy

 Posted: 30 Dec 2009 12:01 PM PST

There has never been a better time in all of human history to be alive than today.

There are more opportunities for you to accomplish more things, in more different fields, engaging in more different activities, than have ever existed before.

Resolve today to make 2010 the very best year of your life.

Resolve today to draw a line under your past and to focus very clearly on your future.

Resolve today that you are going to set goals, make plans, take actions and achieve more in the coming year than perhaps you have ever accomplished in any one single year before.

One of the great rules for success is this: “It doesn’t matter where you’re coming from; all that really matters is where you’re going!”

No matter what you have done or accomplished in the past, “that was then and this is now.”

The very best days, weeks, months and years of your life lie ahead. The most exciting accomplishments and the greatest achievements are still to come. As Shakespeare said, “The past is merely a prelude.”

As it happens, everyone has goals. But some people seem to accomplish their goals far more systematically and with greater assurance than others. Why is this? The answer is simple. People who accomplish goals at a higher rate than the average are people who use a systematic, proven method of goal setting and goal attainment.

Focus and Concentration

Perhaps the two most important qualities of success are focus and concentration. Focus means knowing exactly what it is you want and concentration means having the discipline to concentrate single-mindedly on one thing, the most important thing, until it is complete.

If you have these qualities, and both of these qualities are learned through practice, you can accomplish virtually anything. There are no limits on your future if you can focus and concentrate every hour of every single day.

Back From the Future Thinking

The starting point of setting goals for the coming year is for you to project forward and think back. Practice what we call “Back from the Future” thinking. Project forward to the end of the next twelve months and ask yourself, “If everything happens perfectly, what will it look like?”

The one quality of men and women who become leaders in their own lives and societies, throughout all of history is the quality of vision. They have the ability to visualize. They can see the future well in advance of it becoming a reality. They can then see the steps that they will need to take to get from where they are to where they want to go.

So if your next twelve months were ideal, in every respect, what would happen or, what would have happened, at the end of that twelve month period?

You need to set goals that are multi-dimensional. You need to set goals for every part of your life so that you function like a well-oiled machine, like a balanced wheel that goes around smoothly in every respect. You need goals for your health, for your career, for your finances, for your relationships, for your personal and professional development, for your community and for your spiritual growth.

Nothing happens by accident. Everything happens for a reason. And you are the “primary creative force” in your own life. You are the reason. Things are happening in your life because you make them happen, not because you sit around and wait for them to happen.

7-Step Goal Setting Model

Here is the basic seven-step model of goal setting. You can use this like breathing in and breathing out on a regular basis to accelerate your attainment of any goal you can imagine for yourself.

Step One

Step number one is for you to decide exactly what you want. This immediately moves you into a separate category of people because most people have no idea of what they really want.

Clarity is the most important single quality of goal-setting and perhaps the most important single quality of success. Decide exactly what you want in each area of your life. Instead of fuzzy goals like more money, better health and happiness, be specific about exactly how much more money you want to earn in a specific period of time and combine that with exactly what level of health and fitness you desire.

Most people are unconsciously preoccupied with the fear of failure. It is the greatest single obstacle to success in adult life. And the fear of failure can work on you unconsciously by blocking you from setting clear specific goals.

Why? Well, if you don’t set clear, specific goals, then you can’t fail to achieve them. So your subconscious mind is actually protecting you by helping you to avoid failure.

You must resist and overcome this tendency by having the courage to be bold and specific about exactly what you want.

Step Two

Write your goal down on paper.

Only three percent of living Americans, or adults anywhere for that matter, have written goals. Everyone else that thinks about a written goal and plans to write them down, someday. But they never get around to it. Most people spend more time making a list of groceries before they go shopping or planning a vacation than they do in planning their lives. But again, this is not for you. Success begins with a pad of paper, a pen and a few minutes of your time. One of the most important keys to success is to “think on paper.”

All successful people “think on paper.” And here are two important points. If you cannot write it down clearly and specifically on a piece of paper, then it means that you are not really clear about it yourself. Perhaps you don’t even want it. What is worse, it may be that you are afraid that you may not attain it. Nonetheless, a goal that is written down is merely a fantasy or a wish. A goal that is clearly written and described on a piece of paper takes on a power of its own, it is now something concrete that you can touch and feel and work with.

The second principle of writing goals down is that something miraculous happens between the head and the hand. When you actually write a goal down, it is as if you are programming it into your subconscious mind and activating a whole series of mental powers that will enable you to accomplish more than you ever dreamed of. By writing it down you intensify your desire for the goal and you increase your belief that the goal is possible.

You begin to expect to achieve the goal and you start to attract people and circumstances into your life that are consistent with the attainment of the goal. Writing your goal down is one of the most amazing of all goal-setting skills and it is a key to your success.

Step Three

The third step is for you to set a deadline. If it is a large goal, set a series of sub-deadlines. A deadline acts as a “forcing system” on your subconscious mind and begins to move you toward your goal rapidly while it moves your goal toward you.

Sometimes people ask me, “What if I set a goal and I don’t achieve it by the deadline?” The answer is simple. Set another deadline.

Remember, a deadline is a guess-timate of when you will achieve it. Sometimes you will achieve your goal well in advance of your deadline. Sometimes goals will take much longer than you expect. But you must have a target time before you set off.

It is like making a reservation at a restaurant. You may be five minutes early or five minutes late, but you always have a specific time for which your dinner is reserved.

Step Four

The fourth step is for you to make a list of everything you could possibly think of that you will have to do to achieve your goal. The more comprehensive your list, the more motivated you will become, the more intense will be your desire and the more you will believe it possible.

One of the things that hold people back is even if they get to the point of a written goal; they do not take the time to lay out a list of all the little things they will have to do to get there. And with additional experience, you will add new items to your list until it finally becomes complete.

Step Five

The fifth step of goal setting is for you to take your list and organize it into a plan. A plan is really quite simple. It is a list organized by priority and importance. You decide what you will do first and what you will do later. You decide what is more important and what is less important. And most of all, you decide upon the one thing that is more important than anything else that you can do immediately to begin moving more rapidly towards your goal.

Step Six

Step number six is for you to “take action!” This is the big killer for most people. They are procrastinators. They have great ideas combined with great hopes and dreams. They may even get to the point of writing down their goals. But when it comes to taking action, they always have a reason or excuse to procrastinate to put it off until a later time. However, as the Bible says, “Faith without deeds is dead.”

It is when you launch toward your goal that you begin to feel the desire and power that goes along with goal setting. And once you have launched toward your goal, it is much easier for you to continue moving in that direction.

Step Seven

Step number seven is for you to do something every day to move you toward your major goal. Never let a day go by without you engaging in some action that helps you move another step in the direction of what you really, really want in life.

Remember, you can’t hit a target that you can’t see. And if you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.

The simple seven step act of deciding exactly what you want, writing it down, setting a deadline, making a list, organizing the list into a plan, taking action on the most important item on your list and then doing something every day towards your goal will change your life and your future in ways that you cannot even dream of today.

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For more on Brian Tracy: visit http://briantracy.com

Seek Positive Role Models

Coach O (L) & Coach K. I have studied his leadership for many years and had the honor to meet him and study up close during a weekend in 2003. Don't let anything stop you!

In his blog on December, 2008, Brian Tracy said, “When I began searching for the secrets of success many years ago, I discovered an interesting principle: success leaves tracks. A wise man who had studied success for more than 50 years concluded that the greatest success principle of all was, “learn from the experts.”

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I recently reviewed a book I read years ago, “Diamonds In The Rough”, by Barry J. Farber. I suggest that you do that, by the way–review a book that  you’ve read before because you will be in a different place in your leadership development (or you SHOULD be) and you will “see” new things that you missed before!

Anyway, one of my favorite chapters in Farber’s book is chapter 4: “Seeking Out Positive Role Models.” It motivated me to reach out to certain leaders I admired and their response has greatly enhanced my pursuit to know the “Mindset Of A Leader”! Here is a summary of the chapter:

SEEKING OUT POSITIVE ROLE MODELS:

  1. Make careful choices about who you wish to follow and who you are associated with.
  2. A role model is not always someone that you meet. You can have what I call “distance role models” that you study by reading books and articles about them, or speaking to people who work for them. (this one added by Coach O 🙂 )
  3. Surround yourself with positive models of success. Positive thinking leads you in the direction of your goals.
  4. Keep your eyes, ears, and heart open. Many people around us are willing to teach — if we are willing to learn. Listen to all advice and carefully evaluate it!
  5. Expose yourself to a variety of situations. Network constantly. You never know who you will meet that will help you reach your goals.
  6. Look within YOURSELF. Make things happen. Find your own inner strength!! Ultimately, YOU have to motivate YOURSELF—roles models can only inspire you. (Know the difference)

SIX MONTH PLAN FOR SEEKING OUT ROLE MODELS:

These are the benefits you will gain from completing this action plan:

  • You will learn from the credible people in the world—they’ve already done what you are trying to accomplish.
  • You’ll flatter them by asking for their help and their advice is free.
  • You’ll make valuable inroads and connections.

Select ten people you admire and emulate, whom you would like to connect with in the next six months. 

Design a letter, customized to each individual, asking for a time to speak. Be creative and add your own personal flair.

Here are some sample questions that you might want to ask during a mentor interview. Add your own, or course. Ask open ended questions (ones that require more than yes or no answers). Before the interview, ask yourself what you would most like to know.

  1. What motivates you every day?
  2. When did you discover that this is what you wanted to do for a living?
  3. How did you get started?
  4. How can I learn what I need to know about this profession?
  5. Do you have any practical advice about getting started in this field?
  6. Do you set goals? If so, how?
  7. What are the three key attributes to being successful in this field?
  8. If you were going to start all over again and you were in my shoes, what specific steps would you take?
  9. What is your definition of success?
  10. Do you know anyone in this profession, or any other, that you’d recommend that I should speak to?

Final tip: Listen, serve, or move on. Listen to those people around you that are positive and successful. Serve people that are less successful than you by helping them move up. Move on when those around you are negative and pulling you down!!

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Well, what are you waiting for? Got out there and take your success to the next level!!!

Poetic Motivation!

 
 

Ray Lewis, Baltimore Ravens LB, "Mr. Motivated"

Motivational Poem
By William Arthur Ward

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Believe while others are doubting.

Plan while others are playing.

Study while others are sleeping.

Decide while others are delaying.

Prepare while others are daydreaming.

Begin while others are procrastinating.

Work while others are wishing.

Save while others are wasting.

Listen while others are talking.

Smile while others are frowning.

Commend while others are criticizing.

Persist while others are quitting.

John Maxwell on “Finding Your Purpose”

Dr. John C. Maxwell

*** Note from Coach O: an interesting question was posted on the blog regarding “how do you find the “door” or path [to success]?” I love those kind of questions — that tells me someone is seeking to be great!! I searched through my saved articles and found this GREAT article, “Finding Your Purpose” by John C Maxwell, leadership guru! I believe that you cannot find your right path until you know what your purpose is. Once you know that – then you will know if you are on the right path or not! So, Fred, and all others trying to find their path, this is the beginning of our study on finding the right path:

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Finding Your Purpose – Identifying Your Strengths And Going For Growth

by John C. Maxwell,  August 5, 2009  (from SUCCESS Magazine)

Although I am known for my books on leadership, I have studied the subject of success for 30-plus years. I have asked many questions of successful people trying to discover, first, what made them successful, and second, what they think success is. And my hope is that in sharing my findings with you, they will help you along your journey toward reaching your full potential.

 
Over the years as I have watched and listened to successful people, I have discovered a common thread: They know why they’re here. Knowing their purpose in life gives them stability. And when others around them start abandoning their causes and jumping ship when life gets tough, these people use this assurance to steady the boat, to ride out the storm because they have a true North Star. It becomes an anchor in their life—a confidence based upon knowledge of purpose. Someone once said there are two great days in life—the day you are born and the day you discover why. I’m here to tell you, highly successful people have discovered why.

Knowing Your Purpose in Life

Passion, the Great Energizer
I think there are two paths we can take to discover our purpose. The first is passion. What are you passionate about? What do you really care about? What would you live for? What would you die for?

Passion is not 100 percent foolproof, but it will get you into what I call the location, the area, the neighborhood of what your purpose really is. Passion is a wonderful thing; it’s what I call the great energizer. It’s no secret that passionate people have a lot of energy. That’s why when you see successful people, they are loving what they’re doing and they’re doing what they love. They never run out of energy and they can’t wait to get going. If you find a person who has passion, you find a person who has energy. Conversely, if you find a person who lacks passion, normally they will lack energy.

People who are highly successful love the journey as much as the destination. And even though they haven’t arrived at their goal, that doesn’t mean they’re discouraged; it just means that they’re still encouraged because they still have fuel in their tank, because they have this incredible amount of passion.

It’s also possible to be very passionate about something you’re not good at, and that’s not a good thing. If you don’t believe me, just watch the singing tryouts at American Idol. Bless their hearts, these kids are extremely passionate about their singing but when the sound comes out of their mouths, it’s a train wreck. Everybody—the judges, the audience—is sitting there cringing, listening to this person who has great passion about what he or she is doing. Everybody knows it’s horrible. Everybody except the person singing.

Now when I see passionate people singing with all of the off-key gusto that they can muster, I always ask myself, where are their friends? Shouldn’t somebody step up and say, “ Excuse me, my friend, you don’t have what it takes.”

So passion can only get you so far. It will get you into the location but it’s only about 80 percent accurate. But the next path you take to discover your purpose is 100 percent accurate, I guarantee it.

Entering the Strength Zone
The second path is what I call your Strength Zone Path. That’s not my phrase; it’s from Marcus Buckingham’s book Now, Discover Your Strengths. In other words, what you’ve got to do is find the path that enables you to answer the question: What do I do well? What are my strengths? What is my giftedness? What is the talent, the uniqueness that sets me apart from everybody else?

Everyone has a uniqueness about them that, if they could discover it, fine-tune it, work hard and grow in it, would set them apart. The Strength Zone Path takes your giftedness and talent and begins to lift you above the crowd. No one has ever been successful doing something that they didn’t like and no one has ever been successful doing something they can’t do well. And yet I see millions of people every day doing something they don’t like doing and they wonder why they’re not a success.

People Don’t Pay for Average
Here is the best way I could explain it. People simply will not pay for average. They never have, they never will. In fact, what amazes me about America is we have fallen in love with being average. But what we need to wake up to is that being average has never caught anybody’s attention and made anybody go the extra mile. Being average has never helped anyone rise above the crowd. Average is average. But why are we so much in love with average? Think about it for a moment. After you come home from a hard day’s work, you don’t look at your signifi cant other and say, “Honey, we’ve worked hard today so let’s treat ourselves and go out to an average restaurant.”

“Being average has never caught anybody’s attention and made anybody go the extra mile.”

And when the hostess is about to seat you, you don’t say, “Oh, by the way we want an average table. Yes, the table overlooking the water is very beautiful but we’d really like a table where no one likes to sit. And last, could you send over an average waiter?”

And when the average waiter comes, you don’t say, “We don’t want to know what your specialties are. No, we don’t want to know what you’re good at. What’s average here? Do you have anything back in the kitchen nobody has ordered?”

You don’t go to an average restaurant, sit at an average table, have an average waiter, have an average meal, and walk out of that average place and say, “Sweetheart, what an experience. We must do this again next week!”

People don’t pay for average. So what makes one think they can have an average business or an average career or an average life and make a difference? Average doesn’t make a difference. Average is average.

Stop Working on Your Weaknesses
Next, I’m going to tell you something that goes against all of the rules you have ever been taught or have ever believed about weaknesses. I know there may be some emotional resistance, but consider buying into this because it will set you free. From this moment on, stop working on your weaknesses. Why? Well, it’s very simple. It’s because we are weak in our weaknesses. Unlike the friends of bad American Idol contestants, I’m going to tell you to quit doing something you’re not any good at.

Our education system has totally taught us to work on our weakness. If you got an A in math but a C in English, what did they tell you to work on? That’s right, English. They say, “Get that English grade up.”

I’m here to tell you, don’t work on your English. You say, “Why shouldn’t I work on my English?” It’s very simple. You have a math mind. It’s not that you’re dumb; it’s just that your math mind is better than your English mind. You’re better at numbers than you are at words. It’s not right or wrong; it’s just who you are. It’s your uniqueness. In fact, what you should do is thank God you got a C!

Tiger Woods Works on His Strengths
I was with a group of CEOs and presidents not too long ago and I was talking to them about this whole process, and one of the presidents raised his hand and said, “John, I’m not sure I agree with you when you say not to work on your weaknesses. Take Tiger Woods for example. When he has a bad round of golf, he heads directly to the practice range and may spend two or three hours working on his swing—a perfect example of working on your weaknesses.”

I told this gentleman he just gave a perfect example of the importance of working on your strengths. I think it’s safe to say that Tiger Woods is the greatest golfer in the world. So when the greatest golfer in the world is working on his swing because he’s got a little flaw in it, he’s not working on weaknesses. He’s working on strengths. He’s in his Strength Zone working to improve his strengths.

The difference is when I go to the practice range, I’m in my weak zone. For me practice makes permanent. If you’re in your Strength Zone like Tiger, practice makes perfect. When I work on my golf swing, I consistently hit a bad shot to the same place every time, which is a big help because then I know where to find it in the woods.

What’s Your Growth Plan?
Success is knowing your purpose in life. But there’s more to it than that; I know people who know their purpose in life but they’re not successful. You need a growth plan to help you reach your maximum potential. It’s not only knowing what you should do; it’s about growing in that area to maximize and highlight the things that you do well. That’s continual growth.

I had a life-changing experience back in 1973. Attending a seminar in Lancaster, Ohio, a man sitting next to me asked me one of the most important questions I’ve ever been asked. He said, “ John, what’s your plan for growth?” I was just a kid in my 20s, not knowing that I was even supposed to have a plan for growth. And so I decided to fake it and proceeded to tell him about my elaborate schedule and how hard I was working toward my goals. I was like a plane circling a field trying to come in for a landing, going around and around until I fi nally ran out of gas and shut up. As soon as I did he looked at me, smiled and said, “You don’t have a plan, do you?” With a smile I replied “Eh, no, no I don’t.”

Then he said words that changed my life. He said, “John, growth is not an automatic process. If you’re going to grow, you need to do so intentionally.” That afternoon I went home and sat down with my wife, Margaret, and said, “I don’t know what a growth plan looks like, but I heard a guy tell me today I needed to have one and I’m going to fi gure it out.” And I took that whole year to fi gure out how to do a growth plan, and I’m here to tell you, it changed my life.

That was in the early ’70s. For 30-plus years, I have been on a personal growth plan every year.

The speed of the leader determines the speed of the pack. And the only way that you and I will ever continue to be in front is to continue to learn, grow and make a commitment to it. Highly successful people have a continual thirst for knowledge and are always asking questions.

What You Do Today Determines Your Success
I don’t think success is a mystery. I think it’s tangible and achievable for everyone, but it’s going to start with this statement: The secret of your success is determined by your daily agenda, by what you and I do—today.

I believe this principle so much I wrote a book called Today Matters, and in the book I write about how we over-exaggerate yesterday, we overestimate tomorrow and we underestimate today.

You see, every day you are either repairing or preparing. Every day you’re either trying to fix yesterday— relationships, issues, priorities, lost opportunities—or you are living your life in such a way that you are preparing for tomorrow and setting up success almost as a given.

Highly successful people know their purpose in life, they grow to their maximum potential and they sow seeds that benefit others. They don’t live for themselves. They’re a river, not a reservoir. They understand what significance is. Significance is adding value to others.

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John C. Maxwell is a speaker, leadership expert and author. His best sellers include The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader: Becoming the Person Others Will Want to Follow and Developing the Leader Within You, each of which has sold over 1 million copies