If you offered me a chance to go back in time and change the path that led me to where I'm at today, I would politely decline. While far from a picturesque journey, I believe I am stronger for enduring the missteps and scrapes of my youth.
I value the education I received (even if I was just a C student), and I value the professional experiences and mentors who helped me along the way. However, if asked to narrow down the one singular driver of any success that came my way, I'd attribute it to my dedication to personal growth. For roughly the past two decades, I've read just about anything I can get my hands on in terms of professional and personal growth. I've leaned on the knowledge accumulated over 20 years to help me make both everyday and long-range decisions.
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Here are my three personal growth mantras that can work for anyone:
1. Understand the power of the Pareto Principle.
Most commonly referred to as the 80/20 rule, it is the principle that you see 80 percent of the results from just 20 percent of the effort put forth, and vice-versa. The most valuable commodity known to man is time. It's the great equalizer across nations, races or anything else implying differences in people. We all start the day with the same amount of time -- some just pack more in productivity.
I believe everyone can carve out 60 minutes a day of "free" time, a period not tied to work, family, sleep, errands or the typical demands of life. Now, I'm not suggesting you spend all of this time devoted to the pursuit of personal growth. We need time for recreation or just plain catching-up. All I ask of myself, or anyone, is to take just 20 percent of your seven personal "free" hours -- roughly 90 minutes -- and invest it in yourself.
Read that book that you heard a great speaker recommend; take a class; or listen to a podcast. Do something that increases your knowledge in the area of personal growth. Consistently get in this habit for several weeks in a row, and you'll likely find this 20 percent of your time probably yielding results in your life far greater than the 80 percent impact that the Pareto Principle suggests. The key is consistency! No one gets ahead in the personal growth game by cramming.
2. Test your excuses.
Brian Tracy, in his book Crunch Point, says "There is a way that you can test your excuses to see if they are valid. It is simply to ask yourself, 'Is there anyone else who has my same excuse but who is moving ahead and succeeding nonetheless?'"
For any given excuse you can produce, it's likely that someone else is hurdling over the same obstacle without hesitation. It's a brilliant question. For most obstacles, hundreds, thousands or even millions of others faced more daunting barriers and overcame them. When you start looking for evidence of why you can, versus making excuses for why you can't, opportunities and willpower present themselves. So much of life, I've found, is simply choosing to focus on the right things.
3. Choose good over great (sometimes).
Every business leader should read Good to Great by Jim Collins. It's a powerful study of what separates truly great enduring companies from the rest. Good, the author states, often is the enemy of great. I couldn't agree more -- most of the time. Choosing good over great can sometimes be just what the doctor ordered.
When it comes to personal growth, the biggest challenge usually is just getting started. How many of us, especially around this time of year, say "I'll wait until the New Year to start _____." Or, "I'm working on my plan. Once it's finished, then it's go-time.” Doing and repetition move personal growth forward. It is the perfect example of how a good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow. Don't wait for the perfect book to present itself; just read a book.
True personal growth rarely strikes like lighting. It's usually the byproduct of accumulated knowledge over years. Much like investing financially, the earlier you start, the more you allow the power of compounding interest to take effect. Get started today, and leave your excuses behind!