When people write about personal development, there is usually a lot of talk about positive thinking, goal setting, efficiency, people skills, and specific plans of action and activity. The truth is that you need to build a foundation before you can build anything meaningful.
What are the keys to that foundation?
1) Be Responsible
Of course you should be responsible for your actions and take responsibility for the results of your actions, good or bad. It reveals “character”.
But how do you build up this “character”?
You build character by taking responsibility for who you are and what you believe in and taking responsibility for making adjustments as you grow, change, and learn more about yourself and others.
Success is like gardening and you are the gardener. Succeeding at life means being a good gardener. You have to learn how to grow your life. And what you grow is up to you. Being responsible means building your life into what you want instead of expecting others to do it for you. It also means working with others to build bigger, better things together and reaping the reward together.
Responsibility means learning who you really are, what you really want, and prioritizing those things, along with your continued growth, with wiggle room for change and adaptation to the unknown.
2) Be Proactive
To successfully be proactive means taking the initiative to do what needs to be done.
In modern society, we are taught to be re-active, waiting for others to do for — or to — us. Waiting for opportunity. Waiting for “timing”. Waiting for “momentum”. Waiting to be pushed into tasks we resent and shirk in order to survive with the least amount of frustration.
It’s easier to blame other people for not helping you than it is to help yourself or, better, to help other people.
Being proactive means setting your most important priorities as the primary things you spend your time and effort on.
The most important things are rarely urgent. To know what your priorities are, think of three things you’re not doing that, if you did them regularly, would dramatically improve your life. You’re not doing those things because you are reacting to more urgent and less important things.
The accomplishments you want aren’t going to make you achieve them. You will have to take the initiative and do them yourself. At first, it will mean spending more time in the act of doing than you are now. But the result is that, once the seeds are sown, the work will get easier — you only have to tend the crops, at least until harvest time.
If you feel that you are working hard and your life is a mess, it’s because your priorities aren’t straight. Take the time to write them out — in detail. Make sure that the things you believe in (leading people into their success, building community, being a good spouse, being a good parent, being a good teacher, being a truly exceptional artist, etc) are at the center of your process.
3) Accept Things You Cannot Control
Sometimes — though less often than you think — there will be major events and situations in your life that are completely outside of your control. Some of these things are the results of your choices and some are “Acts of God”, like being imprisoned for a crime you didn’t commit.
When people are faced with these situations, they usually either spend a lot of time and anguish fretting over the details of their situation, or they take responsibility for themselves and proactively do whatever they can within this limitation, focusing on doing things that they have some control over.
If you are in prison for a crime you didn’t commit, there is nothing stopping you from exercising, meditating, reading, and attempting to appeal your case, for example. This kind of break from normal society might afford you an opportunity to reevaluate your priorities or even discover new dreams and formulate new goals and plans for your life. Nelson Mandela was wrongly imprisoned. So was Gandhi. So are millions of people around the world right now.
People like platitudes like “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” But the truth is, life rarely gives you lemons. It usually gives you seeds, dirt, water, and time. What you do with it is up to you.
What could you be doing that would make your personal life dramatically better? Your business? Your family relationships?
I would ask what’s stopping you, but you already know the answer.